I’ve been on a lot of planes this week, and I will be on more planes before this week is over. This guy I knew once told me that the best place to sit on a plane is in the back, the very back, by the bathrooms. It’s inconvenient, sure, and you have to wait forever to deplane, but if the damn thing goes down, the back is the safest place. The nose of the plane is obviously the first to go. Bye bye first and business class suckers! You’re dead. The middle of the plane is scary because it’s the weakest point, what with the weight of the wings and general architecture. If the plane is going to snap in half, the end. And so, the back. It makes sense. When the plane dives nose first, the back will be the last to impact. Chances are you won’t survive, but at least you’ll have a few extra seconds and maybe a little luck on your side.
Yesterday, during a class visit, a grad student asked if I am a hypochondriac. They’d read this story I wrote a lifetime ago. I barely remembered the story. And so I just answered: yes, I am a hypochondriac. It’s true and it’s not. If I’m not feeling well, sure, ok, maybe I weed through the Internet, trying to find a match for my symptoms. Usually, it’s just allergies, but in the moment, I am sure I have some level IV retrovirus that has never existed except in a lab. Usually, I’m able to calm myself down enough to understand that I am over-reacting. Either that, or I will be dead momentarily, and since I am still alive enough to type this, I probably didn’t have – don’t have – some obscure disease.
I am also a semi-hypochondriac about my head. For a while, I walked around convinced that I had DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, which back in the day was called Multiple Identity Disorder). For a while, I was convinced I had a lot of things. Sometimes, when I am bored or lonely, both of which are regular occurrences for me, I still wander here and there, trying to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with me. Chances are: Ennui. Privilege. Lack of sleep.
What’s the point? I’m not really a hypochondriac. I didn’t lie to the student yesterday, because I am at times fairly neurotic about both my body and head, but what I am is a fatalist. Or, I am a realist. We are all going to die, whether it’s in a plane crash or Ebola. Fine, most of us won’t demise in such memorable or romantic ways. We’ll die of something shitty like old age or cancer. Regardless, I have a pre-occupation with death.
I imagine car crashes a lot. I am short. If a car rear-ended me and my airbag deployed, I’d be screwed. I am as close to the steering wheel as is physically possible.
I often imagine accidentally driving into stationary bodies of water, which would be so embarrassing that I’d just keep on going. Screw it.
I often imagine driving off a bridge. If I wasn’t quick enough to roll down the windows and the engine breaks the plane of water, there’s no way I’d be able to get those windows down enough to swim out. Thank god I live in the desert now. Whew.
I think about this stuff all the time.
But I’m not weird or unique about death.
And I’m not really scared of it. It’s just something I think about. A lot.