But don’t we all feel like that? Statistics say 151,600 people die each day and I’m never one of them. The news, it seems to break at times when I am most comfortable, on the sofa, to remind me that some poor souls have submitted to their mortality and tomorrow I may be next.
As a child, I never questioned my mortality. It wasn’t that I thought I was never going to die, but I did think I was invincible. There was something about seeing the world through the periphery of my own vision, and having my thoughts narrate my life that made life such an intimate process that I struggled to believe that this world wasn’t made for me. At the age of 6, I drew stick figures in class with the protagonist standing proudly on a poorly drawn lawn gestating towards a rather large house, which was also poorly drawn, with a wide grin that I wasn’t too unfamiliar with. My teacher, bless her, must have seen exact replicas of this drawing a thousand times. I can’t help but contemplate the true thoughts behind the smile she gave me. One can guess. “You’re in for a surprise” is one possibility, “life is going to chew you up and spit you out” is another. Hmm… maybe we both animated the same drawing at that age.
Being invincible was great. I only brushed my teeth when the mood fell upon me, “I’ll just buy new ones when I’m rich” I assured myself confidently. Of course, higher education quickly changed my perception on that matter. I seldom moisturised my skin, the kids in my school didn’t mind the fact that my skin was ashy and my lips would crack. Again, higher education quickly turned that into an insecurity that I would have to check of my list. You see, as children we were free to do pretty much whatever we like and it didn’t matter because there was always the security of being a kid. No one wants to offend a kid.
I thought I was invincible for at least 15 years. I ate as much junk food as I could afford every day because I never had the symptoms that Fat Albert with the diabetes on the telly seemed to have. Sure, my parents would tell me that if I kept going I would eventually get it but that only cemented, for me, the idea that I was invincible as of this moment. Some of you may be thinking, “didn’t you consider that you may be murdered?” Yeah, kinda. Everyday on the way back from school I’d walk down a flight of stairs that led into the alleyway, the alleyway itself was split into two adjacent paths; one longer and darker than the other. My mother instilled upon me at any early age that the longer one was the ‘death alley’ (I called it that, not her) and I should never walk through there at night. So I didn’t. So that precaution, along with the (ignorant) notion that no one is gonna hurt a kid, enabled me to conclude on that matter as irrelevant. If it may interest you, I read about the Moors Murders somewhere between my 15th and 16th year and, for want of a better word, that killed it.
I realise that every generation bares witness and participates in what I can only describe as an umbra mortis meaning ‘death shadow’. A time where the floodlights are temporarily turned off and the world is left in darkness; scattering to find shelter until the lights are turned back on. Whether it be war, terrorism or a worldwide epidemic; these are all triggers that remind us that we may die today, or tomorrow, or the day after, and the day after that and the…
I can’t say that I have found shelter. I may survive, but I am not safe. We are not safe. But we should be relieved that we are not alone and for whatever reason, 151,600 people died today and you weren’t one of them. You have another day, to tell your loved ones how much they have impacted your life, to do something crazy, to finally start working towards the goal that may change your life. Let’s not waste our time drawing blame to plaster a scar.
And who knows, maybe one day we’ll be able to keep the floodlights on forever.
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