One of my favorite fourth of July playthings has to be that bitty hockey-puck-looking firework which, when you put flame to it, twists and writhes into a long, convoluted black snake. Then when you try to touch said snake, it crumbles into nothing, leaving only smooth, faintly greasy ash on your fingertips.
One of my friends must have set one of those off in my brain when he mentioned the Pandora myth in an e-mail. My response was probably not what he expected:
Do you remember what was left cringing in the bottom of the box once all the world’s evils had come screeching and roaring out of it? Hope, I believe it was. Once upon a time, I used to think it was the last thing in that box because it was the most evil of all. Every morning I’d wake up from a horrid dream life into a waking nightmare, and wish I had it in me to put myself to sleep for good. All I would have had to do is grind up my morphine pills to break the time-release coating and eat them all at once. But it was fucking hope that kept me from doing that, the ridiculous hope that one day it would get better. Back then I was fifty pounds lighter than I am now (which, contrary to what they show you in beauty magazines, does not look good on my frame). One day I may tell you the story if you want, or I can let the tidy surgeon cuts on my body tell you if you prefer.
Death is not so bad at all. Death was actually a rather soothing presence. When I would wake up in the morning soaked in the sweat of my narcotic nightmares, it would be sitting right there at the foot of my bed reading a magazine. Waiting. It would look up at me ever so calmly and ask, “Today?”
“No, not today.”
“Well, if you need me, you know where I am.”
“I know. Maybe tomorrow.”
I grew to like Death so well that I actually still have a bunch of decade-old morphine in the recesses of my medicine cabinet. I like having that exit there should I need it–should I need it in case the thing I am really afraid of chooses to come back. That thing is extreme, sustained, physical suffering. You can be as clever and as strong as you want, suffering will collapse you in ways that you cannot anticipate.
Well, I’m here now; I guess hope was right after all. That one time.