One good thing that’s come from you breaking up with me is that I’ve stopped thinking so much about death.
I don’t believe in a higher being. It seems illogical that such a God exists. And as hard as I’ve tried, belief isn’t something I can manufacture. So the idea that we only have this one corporal life freaks me out. I get claustrophobic seeing the scope of my life narrowing each day. And I get minor panic attacks and have trouble sleeping. Usually three or four nights a week.
For some reason, I’ve always believed that my life is going to end tragically and at a super young age. Call it a macabre paranoia.
When I was in high school, I was convinced that I was going to get testicular cancer and die before I was twenty. I used to feel my balls in the morning to make sure I didn’t have any lumps. At sixteen that’s psycho to do, I know. But I’m the worst kind of hypochondriac. I worry that I have everything but never go to the doctor to get anything checked. So I had to administer the check-ups myself. The whole turning your head and coughing that they make you do when you get your physical. (Though I’m not even sure what they’re testing for when you do that. Probably not testicular cancer. Those were the days before Web MD, so I just did what I saw and didn’t ask questions.)
Then when I came out, testicular cancer was the least of my worries. Now I had HIV on the brain. And boy did I freak out about getting that. I was convinced that because I slept with men, I was going to contract it. Never mind that I always used protection. (Okay, all but once with the first guy I ever had sex with. I know, it’s bad. But I trusted him and I didn’t end up getting anything. Let’s just say I paid for it with a couple months of panic attacks that only ended when I finally got up the courage to get tested at a free clinic. I didn’t have anything, thank God. And I haven’t had risky sex since. Lesson learned.) But that didn’t stop me from freaking out.
What if I have an aneurysm? (Those are sneaky killers.) What if I’m on a runaway subway train that crashes, killing everyone on board? (I can’t very well avoid those in the City.) What if I get hit by a car or a bus or a bike? (Crossing the street is always a trial.) What if, God forbid, I get caught up in a terrorist attack? (Remember when we went to watch the fireworks on the Fourth? Just a few months after the Boston Marathon bombings? I couldn’t stand still I was so nervous. Big crowd, celebrating our nation’s birthday in the biggest city in the country…You tried to calm me down, and I pretended to be cool as best I could. But hearing those firework bangs echoing off the buildings behind us for twenty minutes, I kept thinking there was a bomb going off.)
I know that I’m crazy. And that I can’t predict the future. That I can’t live under a rock my whole life, either. But that’s so hard for me to do. I can’t compartmentalize my fear of death. My fear of absolute nothingness. (How boring would that be?) But you always helped me forget it.
You were the only thing that kept me from worrying about my death. Whenever I’d sleep alone in my bed, it took me a whole hour to escape my dreary thoughts, my anxieties about becoming nothing. I’d wake up panicked in the middle of the night or I’d listen to my pulse beating wildly in my ears, wondering if after I went to sleep I’d wake up the next morning.
This all went away when I slept at your place. The weekends and the one or two nights a week I spent with you were grace periods. I guess having you there comforted me. Made me feel unalone. Or maybe with you I felt like my life had a purpose, a driving direction. We’d eventually get married and have a family. A meaningful life, unwasted.
I guess that’s really my fear about death – that I could pass on without making an impact.
When I was with you, I at least knew that you loved me. That I’d made a lasting impression in someone’s life.
Funny that your presence warded off my fears before and now it’s your absence that’s gotten me to stop thinking about my mortality. I guess this break-up has given me more relevant things to worry about. I just hope my old fears don’t creep back in when I get over you. Who’s going to be there to cuddle with me and help me feel safe then?