I count my deaths. The times when I fell down and hit my head or hit it on the top of a door frame (a hazard of being six foot six and a half inches). The time when I ran a red light and nobody hit me. The time I put on the brakes in a heavy rain and spun around and around in a circle. The time when I was rear-ended. The time — I was four — when I stuck some wire in an electrical plug and felt the juice starting to flow into my hand. The time when a dog should have mauled me. The times I was knocked about by family or other kids so hard that I heard the scream of my brain. The time when I ate raw elderberries and needed to have my stomach pumped. The times I was bitten by wild animals and should have gotten rabies. The times I ate dodgy foods from the refrigerator. The two times when I was hit by a car — one as a boy and one as an adult. I should be, by these counts, in the grave and forgotten — a presence beneath a tombstone becoming diffuse in the dirt. But I don’t even have a scratch.
What to call this existence that I am in? Heaven? Certainly not. Hell? It seems so at times. Purgatory? More likely because there are lengths when life is not excruciating. What it all shares is an unyielding guilt for having survived to do so little, to be of such little impact. I mark that I have been an embarrassment and a mistake in other people’s lives. I’m sorry, so very sorry. But I can’t help being around. This thing will end when it ends. It is not for me to decide.