|Watching Alice Die|
by Julian X  /  fiction  /  11 Jul 2008
Iím sitting and smoking and watching Alice pop these huge blue pills into her mouth. She just scoops them up in her hand and pops them in like itís nothing, and Iím sitting there watching this and Iím petrified. I donít know how the hell sheís doing it, just scooping them up like that, knowing. I canít stand to watch it but I know I have to, so I just fucking stare at her doing it and smoke more.
I just keep feeling shocked how she just scoops them up in her hand and pops them in.
Sheís been through the chemotherapy. Sheís seenÖ I donít even know how to write about this.
I was lying in bed, working on my laptop, and I turned it off to go to sleep. I do this Ė not that you care what the fuck I do because I certainly wouldnít if I were you Ė I do this until I get sleepy and then just turn it off and go to sleep. And no sooner have I done this than I think about having a heart attack. I think about Ė Iím there with the lights off, and I suddenly think about having a heart attack. I imagine this pain in my chest and how Iíd think that I was dying and how everything would change in that instant. And this wave of horror Ė just plain horror sweeps over me. Like this chemical wave of total fear, of being trapped in this body thatís having a heart attack and having no way out. The heart, the chest in pain, so close to the head. So close to me. And I know that I canít sleep. Because Iím thinkingÖ I know that there will be no sleep tonight.
I calm down in my soft bed, soft blankets, and itís then that I think of Alice and remember those blue pills going into her one and only mouth like itís nothing, like itís aspirin or something like that, and the look on her face as she takes my hand.
Thereís still time to pump her stomach, I think. But I know thereís not and sheís not going to.
Instead, she takes my hand. Sheís less horrified than I am. Iím staring at her bald head and her mouth where the pills went in with those lips and all their singleness and at that bald head and those lines under her eyes that have never seemed beautiful to me before and I canít imagine how I couldnít see them before, how I couldnít hear their beauty, and I think how selfish I am, how Iím only thinking of my death, how I only agreed to be here because I thought I had to, because I couldnít say no, how I even thought how itíd be educational to prepare me for my own death when itís doing nothing but. Nothing but the opposite. But making me realize how unprepared I am and how terrified I am and how I never will be prepared.
The pills are in her blood and Iím just sitting there, smoking, letting my stupid ash fall on the stupid floor and thinking, alive, how I canít believe how calmly she put those pills into her mouth and just swallowed, like it was nothing.
Iím a liar. I lie for a living. I am a selfish, superficial person. I use women for sex. I use women for comfort. I use my friends for conversation. I do good things and help people not because itís good but because itís the only way I can fucking sleep at night. I donít pretend I have a morality any more complex than that. I envy people without any morality at all. I donít believe in God. I know itís irrational to fear my own death. I want to write great and true things but know even that doesnít matter. Weíre all insects on the face of a planet we donít understand. I want us to get off-world. I dream of better things for us. For myself too. But no sooner do I dream than I know itís bullshit, that it doesnít matter too. That no one really cares if the last human eye stops moving and you stop feeling a pulse in Aliceís wrist. I want to die. Iíve wanted to kill myself for twenty years now. Never had the courage. Always felt that rush of fear when it came time. Always known not to, that it doesnít matter anyway, that I might as well live and take some small pleasures if only because they let us forget that we fucking disappear and everyone who knew us will disappear and our names and our beings will vanish from this earth and none of it will matter nor ever has mattered. I want a hot dog. To enjoy the relish. To let it be that.
Alice feels the pain in her stomach, and itís then that she puts the plastic bag over her head.
I canít believe sheís doing this, and Iím crying for her and know Iím only crying for myself.
Her nose sucks the bag in and out, tight and loose, against her mouth and those lips. Sheís looking through this claustrophobic little bag and she looks happy. Or at least not petrified. And then she rolls her eyes back and leans back against the bed. I canít imagine. I just keep crying and holding her hand and condemning myself and feeling an animal fear without any predator you can run away from.
She shits and pisses and it stinks like death. Like the shit we are. Thereís condensation on the inside of the bag, but no in and out anymore. She did this to herself because God cursed her with cancer.
What we call God is all the chance and luck and shit we canít control in the universe and canít even imagine understanding some day. We take all this uncertainty and we roll it into a ball and call it God. Because if you can build a church to it and kneel to it and call its name, it canít be a fucking void anymore. So we can just go on with our lives, not seeing Alice dying, until it comes time for us to lie in bed with chest pains or to put the pills in our lips and somehow find the courage to swallow death.
Alice didnít pass away. Alice didnít euphemism anything. She fucking died. Donít you ever call it anything else.
Iím the selfish bastard who turned it into a story. Who packaged all her pain and all he saw of it. Who took those tears and tied all this bullshit fucking existential angst in a bow and made a fucking trinket out of it that others could enjoy in their own masochism.
I know itís selfish to turn this into something about me, but I want to say that I was there. That I smelled the shit Alice became. She didnít expel it. She became it.
Alice was my friend. She had cancer. I know it doesnít matter for shit, but Iíd just like to stop lying to myself. Sheís gone and she left nothing for the world. All the beautiful stories of her life, all the observational power, all the creativity, all the times she made me or someone else feel better, all those little precious idiosyncratic wonderful memories are full in me but always twists and already fading.
Tomorrow, I will brush my teeth and pretend it matters. And pretend I should. And get on with the forgetting we call life.
I know three things. I am a selfish prick. Oh, yes, I know youíve seen the good in me, but trust me, yes, I am really a selfish fucking prick. In my thoughts and wishes and all my secret desires. Two, I am a fundamentally superficial person. If I stay with you when youíre fat, itís only because I think I should, and Iíll hate myself and pride myself for it, all at the same time. Three, I am going to die. And Iím not looking forward to it. And I know Iíll lie to myself again and say, logically, ďWhatís the big deal?Ē But I am fucking horrified of it.
I donít presume to tell you that youíre the same, but all my suspicions point to yes. All the evidence says yes, though I may be wrong. I make no claim to truth but to those three statements.
Alice just scooped up those blue pills and swallowed them without any nervousness, like her body was letting go of its anxiety because it knew she was no longer viable to herself or her kin group.
But thatís bullshit intellectualizing, and fuck me for doing it. No, Alice died with a plastic baggie over her head, and all that she was is extinguished, and thatís why we cry no matter what we claim we believe and profess to ourselves we believe.
My teeth need cleaning, the bills need paying, those novels need writing, the bullshit needs tending to. I wish I could wake up.
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