The clock in the kitchen screams at me through the quiet. Tick.
I sort my emails because categories seem to make sense. I re-arrange the salt, bananas, and paper towels because I propagate structure. I compose paragraphs in my head because I make the things I need. Tick. I alphabetize my thoughts and count supraventricular tachycardias and bradycardic episodes like they’re equations that can be worked forward and backward to arrive at exactly the correct answer. Tick.
My to do list devours my home screen. I have to schedule our winter extermination service so Dianne will stop emailing me. I have to renew our waste removal service and decide if we really want to haul recycling bins down our ¼ mile driveway. I have to research what kind of pine trees will keep the neighbor’s lights from shining directly in our great room windows. I make sure my Dashlane password is written where everyone will find it. Tick.
I’m not finished with my kids yet. Tick. My heart. Tick.
My husband. Tick. My heart. Tick.
I create symmetry where there is none and I shave my big toes because I’m not dying with hairy toes. Tick.
Aunt Nellie once told my mom that she had a premonition that I would be the child to worry about. The story is always told with a vague sense of certainty. My brother, Dane, who bravely climbed out of his crib and then back in again like a baby MacGyver, who courageously breached locked doors, and who strode with certainty to all places hidden and off limits, was not the one to worry over she insisted. I was. Tick.
I wonder what about the three-year old me made Aunt Nellie think that I would be the victim of sudden, radical, and irrational change. Everything that comes together ultimately falls apart, not just me. Its unavoidable. I wonder why entropy would be after me specifically. Why would my particles be any different than anyone else’s? Tick.
Aunt Nellie told my mom that I would need to be prepared. Was I going to come apart at an unprecedented rate or in some way that seemed worthy of special warning? Would I violate the laws of physics? Did she know some way I could be inoculated against random agony? Did she think there would come a night when I would be only what I created and the rest would just be moonshine off the cosmos? Did she think I was just a tenderness swollen with injury? I wonder what she knew. Tick.
Thanks to my early Catholic training I used to be prepared to do futile things rather than useful things during coming apart times. It’s a human failing it seems, to not realize the power we have over our own lives. Tick.
I occupy a finite space in this infinitely temporary world in which I’ve spent decades undoing the effects of other people’s obsession with inventing some way to transcend this place and reach some better version of it, as if I should live for the day my life ends and something else begins. Nothing is more tedious than looking for meaning where there is none. Tick.
I used to be lulled to sleep at night by my grandma’s obsession with a god and the monotonous prattle of evangelical radio endlessly forecasting the end and spouting their supposedly true world theories meant to dull the pain of existence. This kind of pain is meant to be felt, not dulled with theistic morphine. She was a woman who wanted assurances, more and more assurances, but every time she thought she had found a new one, the old ideas collapsed around her. Then she turned into them. Mortality was a means to an end to her, some simply conceived of stepping stone to a kingdom of higher existence. The mark of the beast lost its hold on me sometime around the third failed apocalypse. I’m still pondering how someone could predict my damnation. She placed far too much of her childish hope on me not realizing she was unprepared and undone. She pressed herself into my skin. She wove herself into my hair. I swallowed her and held her deep within, until she came up in one huge satisfying regurgitation. She made me want to scream. I wonder why I didn’t. Tick.
A sudden nervy energy quivers my heart. I think of the decade of narcotics I took for the stage 4 endometriosis and that makes me feel weak, even though I know I had no other medical choice. I puke up that entire decade along with the mark of the beast, but I’m a civilized human so I keep my quivering mostly on paper. I live between all things, in the spaces left open and unattended where etiological myths die because mundane solutions suffice. I breathe out through my mouth and exhale a bony sigh. I am being trusted with my breakable things. I have to focus. I chart my events. I check boxes. Palpitations. Shortness of breath. Dizziness. Nausea. Chest discomfort. Tick.
Several days ago, my blood flowed blue and red on the echocardiogram, through the chambers of my heart, leaving trails like meteors streaming through the night sky. Even if the constituent parts of me, the cells that line the chambers of my heart, the DNA that sang me into existence, and the strength that once coursed through my veins could reconstitute themselves, my heart wouldn’t even notice and my heart would still offer up extra, off time beats in its electrical confusion. Even if my blood could flow backwards, fluttering my parchment paper valves that endlessly lift my life, pumping it, and sheltering me from ends, I will not come back together again resembling any of my previous states. Tick. My sinus node would remain unbothered and unbossed. For every fully ordered state of molecules there are so very many more possible disordered states. Disorder is not a mistake or a punishment or something to pray over. Order is just temporary and hard to maintain. Tick.
I take in free energy, use it to do my most important work, and then return it to the world in a more disordered form. I burn down the past and sort the piles of relationship ash behind me, and I know its relationship ash because relationship ash is entirely different than regular ash. It’s full of the remnants of my wildfire anger, my monstrous sighing, other people’s ulcerous battles, the unintentional and intentional impacts of other people neuroses, and all of the times people didn’t know how to put themselves out when they were on fire. We burn for a short time, bright and hot, which feels both outrageous and perfectly logical. Tick.
I can’t tell if this is a moment or rather a state, right just before equilibrium sets in. I cannot discern if I’m a sudden flicker or a pile of dying coals. Tick.
Clausius was right; nature extracts payment. The arrow of time points to the past. Tick.
Maybe my heart has always been breaking. Tick.
I don’t know why I thought that all death could be properly mourned with generous time and space. Tick.
The clock in the kitchen screams at me through the quiet.
*Clausius reference- I’m referring to Clausius Rudolf who was one of the central founders of the science of thermodynamics. I am loosely referring to cosmic entropy and to the arrow of time.