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  • majoki

Being Dead

I wasn’t so much haunting my old neighborhood as loitering. You know, hanging out where you aren’t really wanted—or needed. I was trying not to make a pest of myself, but I’m not entirely sure how being dead works.

I don’t have any physical sensations, just a vague sense of presence, that I’m around. Dogs and cats get it. Though dogs are more skittish of me, especially golden retrievers. It’s like they know there is something nearby they should be able to find but can’t. Cats are just as pissy to me as they were when I was sucking air. They either hiss or ignore me. I don’t think there’s much difference to cats about this world and the next. I blame the Egyptians for that.

I’m not sure who or what to blame for my being dead. Especially being dead in this way. I seem to be alone on my side of the great divide. No other souls to flock with. Which doesn’t seem right, at least, according to what thousands of years of speculation on the subject might lead one to believe.

The living are around. They are hard to miss. It’s a lot like watching TV, but no one to watch it with. I guess I’m stuck binge watching the ultimate reality show alone, and a reality show with only one locale.

I’m stuck in the neighborhood I grew up in as a kid. To be sure, it’s a great neighborhood and I don’t get tired of wandering it, but I don’t understand why I’m glued to it. Granted, I don’t have a great urge to go anywhere else, though something tells me I couldn’t if I wanted to. Maybe that’s why I don’t see any other dead folks like me. Maybe we all have a designated place to haunt/loiter. Though that sounds a bit complicated. And being dead should not be complicated.

It’s probably just me overthinking it. A lot like I did in life. Too much dwelling on what could go wrong. It’s not bad to be realistic and prepared, but it’s also not very healthy to try to control every variable or fret about statistically remote possibilities.

Reflecting on it now, I think Roy, the replicant in the sci-fi flick Bladerunner, said it best: “Terrible to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”

A slave to fear. That’s a terrible way to live, so I’m making a vow to myself that I won’t do that in death. I mean, what’s to fear?

Actually, I’m not sure yet, so I might as well be hopeful. Death is at least better than the ghost I was becoming with Alzheimer’s. Those years are hazy, and I don’t know what finally killed me. All I have of that time is a crushing recollection of losing control. Of everything being slowly taken from me. My memories, my words, my mobility, my sense of self and family, my dignity. It smothered me. I guess I ultimately suffocated.

It was no one’s fault. Just damned bad luck or bad DNA. As I aged, Alzheimer’s was something I’d feared and tried to ward off by staying healthy, mentally active, engaged with family and friends. And it still happened. I was slowly suffocated by the disease. So, I guess I’ve been dead before. It just wasn’t socially or legally recognized.

That’s okay. It’s one of the things I’ve realized being dead dead. Death takes many forms. And so does life. Most of it amazingly good.

As I wander my old neighborhood watching and listening, I see how positive things generally are. Folks living close together making it work day-to-day. Figuring out how to connect with each other and enjoy big and little things, even in the face of problems that afflict almost every neighborhood: poverty, sickness, drugs, crime, homelessness, intolerance, injustice. Generally, humans stick together and make it work.

So, you don’t have to die to figure out being dead. Or being alive. Just look closely at your neighborhood. Really closely. Like fine art. And don’t overthink it.

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