Nothing left to lose

Creedy: Why won’t you die?
V: Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea Mr Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.

I don’t think any of us are equipped to deal with it; it’s one of the taboo topics, y’know, like politics and religion. But it happens to all of us eventually. It’s just unfortunate that it’s going to happen to me sooner than to most.

I know we all think it’s too soon, but 30 is really too soon. Kinda like Logan’s Run, but no red light is going to flash in my hand to let me know it’s time. No, for me the end will come when my lymphatic system finally collapses under the relentless attacks of hundreds of thousands of rogue cells. The end.

I reacted the way pretty much most people would. The words “inoperable” and “incurable” managed to filter through the numbness, but I didn’t cry until I had to break the news to my parents. I was ready for mum to be a mess, but when dad broke down, I couldn’t keep it together, for them or for me. That was the night I crawled into the bottle. That’s my biggest regret. I had a year left to me, at best two years, and I lost three months of that to cheap whiskey and solitude.

It was one of the few days I didn’t wake up drunk that saved me. I wasn’t worth shit that morning, and rolled out of bed and into a dirty bathrobe, because there was nothing left to wear. Like I was fit to do laundry! I collapsed onto the couch, and settled into the routine of daytime television. First up was a talk show, can’t remember which one, but it was “Remarkable cancer survivors” or something. Normally I’d turn it off, find something else, but the remote was out of reach and I thought I was going to be sick if I moved. So I lay there and watched athletes, businessmen, schoolkids, even regular joes like me. No, not like me. See, none of them were survivors – they were all terminal, like me, but unlike me they refused to let it define them. They continued to live, work to do. For the first time I felt ashamed. Little kids, who had it worse than me, doing their best, and here I was wasting my life, drinking away the scant time I had.

I must have cried for two hours straight, until I had nothing left inside me. Then I took a shower and shaved, and I mean properly, for the first time since god knows when. I looked in the mirror and saw myself, scrubbed and clean and human. Not a drunk, not a victim, but a repentant son of a bitch who wanted a second chance.

I spent the next few days cleaning up – myself, my home, my life. Reorganising, reconnecting, repairing. By the end of the week I looked like a real person again, living in a real home, not a drunk squatting in some gin den. Then I found every bottle fo alcohol in the house and poured them down the sink. Seems trite, like they do in the movies, but there is a symbolic power to it. As the last bottle gave up its contents, that’s when it all changed. That was Day Zero.

The question now was what to do with my life? “Live it” seemed an obvious answer, so I started out with looking at my city like a tourist, and doing all the things I always said I would when I first moved here, but never found the time. That lasted a month before I had exhausted it. When you’ve got the time, you can burn through a lot of tourist attractions. What to do now? I was lost.

I wound up just walking the streets of the city, thinking, watching, seeing the same scenes played out every day in different locations. Cold, hard faces. Heads bowed, eyes down, earphones in. Nobody looking at anybody else. Ignoring, failing to see, failing to act. I saw an old man stumble in the street, and people just walking out the way so that he didn’t fall onto them. I saw a young girl begging in a doorway, her arms and face bruised, and nodoby else saw the abuse. Why was I the only one seeing all this?

Because I wasn’t afraid to see it. I wasn’t preoccupied with thoughts of “what will other people think?” – I’m dying, I don’t have the time to care what other people think. All the little social rules that say you can’t say that and you can’t do that – yes this is terrible, but it’s not our place. These mean nothing to me. So I do get to see what everyone else is too scared to see.

Fear keeps us all trapped. Fear of offending others. Fear of being held up to ridicule. Fear of financial ruin. Fear of loss. Fear of death. But you see, I don’t have long enough to fear these things. And death is so near, I am reconciled to it – I do not fear it. I have nothing that can be taken away from me, because everything is already gone. All I have left is my life, and even that is merely on loan to me for a few months. I am free, free to speak, free to act.

That’s when I knew what to do with myself. I would do what others were too scared to do, say what others were too scared to say. For all those who had too much to lose, because I…

…I had nothing left to lose.

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