Lying About Dying
Remainder of a Life
by Mahmoud Darwish
If I were told:
By evening you will die,
so what will you do until then?
I would look at my wristwatch,
I’d drink a glass of juice,
bite an apple,
contemplate at length an ant that has found its food,
then look at my wristwatch.
There’d be time left to shave my beard
and dive in a bath, obsess:
“There must be an adornment for writing,
so let it be a blue garment.”
I’d sit until noon alive at my desk
but wouldn’t see the trace of color in the words,
white, white, white . . .
I’d prepare my last lunch,
pour wine in two glasses: one for me
and one for the one who will come without appointment,
then I’d take a nap between two dreams.
But my snoring would wake me . . .
so I’d look at my wristwatch:
and there’d be time left for reading.
I’d read a chapter in Dante and half of a mu’allaqah
and see how my life goes from me
to the others, but I wouldn’t ask who
would fill what’s missing in it.
That’s it, then?
That’s it, that’s it.
Then I’d comb my hair and throw away the poem . . .
this poem, in the trash,
and put on the latest fashion in Italian shirts,
parade myself in an entourage of Spanish violins,
and walk to the grave!
(Translated, from the Arabic, by Fady Joudah.)
The above is a poem I read in The New Yorker recently. It does not particularly have anything to do with what I am writing about other than the topic of dying. However, since poets normally lack exposure I thought I would extend the courtesy to this bloke. There seems to be a breezy yet ominous feeling of resignation to his words worth noting.
I have (or perhaps I should say had even though there has not been an official notification of the past tense to make this an accurate declaration) a friend who sent me an email saying that he was dying. I just rolled my eyes, well I did, just now, and when I read the email. Actually, first he sent an email saying something along the lines of “I hope you forgive me for anything I may have done to you in the past…..blah blah blah.” Then, instead of appeasing him because I have been down that road before, I responded with “what brought this about.” Next, is when I received the one line email “I’m dying.” It has been a month since and I have yet to respond, and I doubt that I will. For one reason, I do not believe him. We have been friends since we were fourteen years old and there have been several of these incidents throughout our lifetime. Granted, he has never used the exact words “I’m dying.” This is a first. However, I suspect each time my reaction is less dramatic he must then up the ante. The dysfunction is dizzying; it reminds me of Professor Zero’s Da Whiteman series.
My gut instinct says he is lying, my mind questions my confidence. I called two old school friends and asked for their opinion. One said, “He probably is dying.” Then she laughed a little. She has always been very direct and blunt. In 1985, I gave her refuge from a cheating husband. She just had her oldest child, really, when they came to live with us the baby was only one week old. After delivery in the hospital the philistinism of an ignorant upstart arrogant intern (he may have even been a fourth year medical student) at the free county hospital told her she had Herpes because of some symptom going on with her newborn’s eyes. No test though because it would cost the hospital money. Supposedly, if the mother has genital Herpes, a c-section is recommended in order to avoid passing it to the infant. Even though her husband was a cheat and a scoundrel, I did not believe it to be true. Of course, I am not a doctor, however, at the time I did do medical paper work and read a lot. I did not believe that she had the symptoms of Herpes. She accepted it as fact and that was that. I refused to, so I had my doctor-boyfriend test her and the baby. He diagnosed that the intern who told her this was in fact an idiot. I will never forget how she was so use to surviving that she simply accepted the diagnosis and instead of fretting resigned to deal with her circumstances. Yes, that is best and healthy but we were only 22 years old and even as graduates from the school of hard knocks, I still thought one should retreat to lick their wounds periodically, or at least when the wound is significantly profound, and I most certainly considered this a case that warranted some woe.
Therefore, I have one friend who thinks he may be dying and one who does not, along with me, who thinks he may be telling the truth, but feels as if he is lying.
Time will be the judge.