Ever since I started this blog, I have been alluding to the concept of the troika dreamt up by my former college roomate, David G. I have danced around the fact that I know the members of his troika because of something he sent me.
The time has come for me to finally hop off the mental fence I have been on and decide that I will publish – for good or ill – the contents of what David sent me.
In November of last year, I received a package from him that contained a letter that asked me to do with the enclosed material whatever I deemed appropriate. Along with the letter were several notebooks that comprised an unfinished manuscript and several diary entries that appear to cover his years in high school, college, and afterwards. Needless to say (but, hey, I’ll say it anyway), I attempted to contact him but to no avail. After reading the first chapter (Chapter Zero, which is below), I should not have been surprised.
First, a quick note about David’s style. He wrote in a somewhat rambling style and often left parts of the manuscript incomplete or with notes to himself on how to possibly improve his choice of words. I will try to recreate this mode of his by using brackets and the bold font [Like this]. I have also attempted to correct some of his spelling errors, but not all (I’m a software tester – not a copy editor, dangit!).
Second, a quick note about me. I had resisted printing any of his work because there are several concepts of his that I do not agree with. There are even a few out-and-out fibs. However, from our time in college, I said I owed him one (trust me – it’s a dull story) and he has called in his marker.
So, David, wherever you are, here goes. If I am able to pull this off for you, I will consider my debt paid.
Form Your Troika – Chapter Zero
THE OLD ENEMY
At the age of twenty-seven, I decided to plot my own death.
I grant you that the preceding opening line lacks the brevity of Howard Roark laughed, the dark atmosphere of The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel, the mystery of Muchos anos despues, frente al peloton de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendia habia de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevo a conocer el hielo, or the relevance of Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, but it most certainly beats the pants, shirt, and socks off of I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.
[Other opening line possibilities include “…the oddity of It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen” and “…but it certainly beats the knickers off of I drove up to the restaurant and parked, then leaned back in my seat to think for a moment“…but only if I reference those works later.]
In no way was I contemplating a quick suicide. I had no real options to take my own life swiftly. I have only fired a gun once in my life and I was so bad at aiming it that I had doubts I could dispatch myself effectively. I can’t even watch someone jab a needle into my arm to take blood so the thought of taking a knife to my own wrists was simply out of the question.
The option of flinging myself off San Diego’s Coronado Bay Bridge was open to me but there were two aspects I could not get around. The first was the extremely unpleasant feeling that would accompany such a leap. It wasn’t the actual impact of my body hitting the water. That feeling would only last a second and then, if all went well (which is an iffy assumption), I wouldn’t feel anything after that. I was more concerned with the sensation of falling. I have been in a free-fall situation once – as a publicity stunt in Utah – and that experience taught my body to avoid putting myself [itself?] in such a predicament ever again.
The second nagging aspect was what I would do with my car. To jump off the bridge, I obviously had to arrive there first. I couldn’t walk onto the bridge and taking a taxi was not feasible as no driver would drop me off at the span’s midpoint. The only other option was to drive there myself, stop at the halfway point, get out [disembark?] of the car, and then proceed to do my best (or worst) impression of a newly-hatched bird. Polite lad that I am, I simply couldn’t abandon my car in the traffic lanes. That would be extremely rude to all the other drivers. I know I would be upset if some yahoo [schmuck?] tied up traffic because of his own selfish act and I didn’t want to be that schmuck [ or yahoo?]. It’s bad enough to kill yourself, but that’s no reason to inconvenience others.
Taking pills was never an option as that was how Sara Teasdale ended her life. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is a path to be avoided by those of us who pay homage to the deity named Originality.
No, the plan for my end could not be handled in one of the typical, predictable, and clichéd short-term ways [methods?] of self-slaughter. I desired a long-range approach which would require neither weeks nor months to come to fruition, but years.
I could have taken up smoking, but where’s the originality in that?
To make things more interesting, my plan, as hatched in August of 1996, required that I strike a bargain with myself. In exchange for the opportunity to breathe my last, I would first have to perform ten tasks. Much like the labors of Hercules, I would need to accomplish half a score of goals before obtaining my ultimate reward. While I would not be doing something on the order of capturing the Erymanthian boar or fetching the oxen of the three-bodied monster Geryon, I would be doing [need a better synonym for “doing”] deeds of a personal nature.
(Please note that I did not reference the over-used Herculean labors of cleaning the Augean stables or slaying the Nemean Lion. One must strive to appease Originality at all times for She is a jealous mistress.)
When I first took pen to paper for this project, I already had four things on my mental To Do List. The difficulty arose in drawing up six more tasks. I endeavored to avoid the trite items such as visiting the Great Wall of China or watching the sun rise during the vernal equinox from the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Oh, who wouldn’t want to do that, but my bargain demanded something above and deeper than the well-worn path.
The desire to add six to my established quartet was also more of a cop-out because, at heart, I am a lazy person. It was far easier to put off for a later date what my complete Ten would be than to actually ponder my Thanatotic desires and write them up on the spot. This was my excuse to stretch my moment of reckoning out a wee bit. That August day when I crafted my plan was a beautiful, sunny California weekend and instead of staring at a blank piece of paper, I decided to go out and experience the life I was planning to snuff out.
As I walked across the sands of Laguna Beach, I further gave myself a higher purpose to my extinction. For my bargain to have a real and true meaning, it had to go beyond my selfish desire to cross off my personal Ten. I felt as if I needed to pass something on to others. I did not have any children who could be heir to my wisdom, so I placed it upon myself to find another way to hand off the lessons I had learned.
I wanted to live Sara Hickman’s lyrics from her song “Room of One’s Own” and “leave / More than my name in stone.”
I wanted to live Mrs. Wakefield’s words about learning to “throw away the experience, but keep the lesson.”
I wanted to avoid Gail Wynand’s definition of “the official bromide of our century” and not create yet another “drooling self-confession”, but I will leave that for others to decide.
Thus was Step Five placed on my To Do List, which was now rechristened my To Death List.
So let’s begin so I may end.