I’m just leaving the Co-op Shop and I’ve got a bag of “All Original Starburst Chews, Bursting With Real Fruit Juiciness”, a Grab-Bag of Walkers Salt and Vinegar Crisps, the last manky copy of today’s Guardian newspaper and one Silk Cut cigarette. I’ve got more cigarettes at home, of course, loads of them. Thing is, I’m not going to get home. I’m going to die before I get home. I’m going to die; I know I am.
Somewhere in the fifteen minute walk home, I’m going to die, I don’t know when exactly, but I know I’m going to die. Thing is, what am I going to do with the last half-mile, or less, of my life? It’s a difficult question. Perhaps if I run as fast as Flash, I can cheat death, slip past on its blind side maybe? Get home before it gets me.
Or perhaps I should amble home as slowly as possible, to extend my life as much as possible? All that’s crap of course, you can’t cheat death. But, maybe, if I just turned around and walked casually in the other direction – away from home, never to go there again, I wonder?
But that would mean leaving my cigarettes behind and perhaps more importantly, my wife, Annie. But, I could phone her, on my mobile, I’ve got it with me, always have. I’ll wait ‘til I get halfway down the hill; that way I’ll be less tempted to walk back up again. And she’ll have to come and meet me, in her silver car.
Thing is, I know you can’t avoid your fate, so if I phoned her and she came, she’d probably bundle me up in the boot or something, then when she got home and opened the boot to let me out, I wouldn’t be there anymore, well my body would, but I wouldn’t be, I’d be dead. But at least I’d see her before I died.
So, what’s the solution? I don’t think there is one. Whatever I do to avoid that walk home, she’ll come in her metaphorical car and drive me back to my destiny of death.
I can’t dawdle, I can’t rush, I’ve just got to appear to be doing everything normally, even though, inside, I’ll know I’m walking to my death. Right, so what’ll I do? Oh my god, I’ve passed the garage, that’s a good one hundred yards from the Co-op entrance, there’s not much time left, I’ve got to make that last seven-hundred and eighty yards worthwhile – leave my footprints in the sand while I’ve still got feet.
I could smoke that cigarette, which would be nice, no worries about cancer or heart disease, it wouldn’t matter a jot, just one last guilt-free cigarette.
I could always read the Guardian, well the front page perhaps, don’t think I want the hassle of wrestling with a broadsheet right now.
The Walkers Crisps are tempting, but they’re not really for me, I don’t like Salt and Vinegar, give me ready-salted with a dash of malt any day. They’re for Annie, she likes something sharp with her sandwiches at work.
And the Starburst? I admit they’re a bit sharp too – sharp, sweet and fruity – sounds like an advert, doesn’t it? “Starburst Original – Sharp, Sweet and Fruity.” I wonder if it’s too late to start a career as an advertising copywriter?
No, I don’t really fancy a Starburst either. So what’ll it be? Chuck all the crap away and breathe as deeply as I can all the way home, savouring the dying moments of my conscious life, in this beautiful, aromatic Spring evening.
I’m a quarter of the way home now; I’d better act fast. Let’s make a meal of it – Salt and Vinegar for the main course and Starburst for dessert, followed by a sneaky peek at the Guardian while enjoying my last Silk Cut.
These crisps are sharp, never knew that such a commonplace snack could excite the tongue so much. There I go again, creating superb advertising copy – “Excite Your Tongue, Grab a Bag of Walkers.”
It doesn’t half pass the time, eating crisps. I must be nearly half way home already. Still, the crisps are gone, now the Starburst dessert.
Mmm! – They really do burst with real fruit juiciness, but I can’t eat them all, I’ll leave some at the side of the road for the magpies.
The headlines, too depressing, too revealing, too close to the truth: corrupt politicians, tragedy in the Third World, I can’t take it in. Well written though, I mean if you’ve got to get the bad news from somewhere, It Might As Well Be The Guardian, It’s Got Class. This is getting silly now; I’m even hyping a newspaper.
I shouldn’t have tried to read the inside pages, that gust of wind messed it up a bit. Now this is what I really want, the Silk Cut: long, cool . . . oops! I can’t let myself get carried away, there’s no future in cigarette advertising, except perhaps in the Third World.
I can see the house now, I’m not dead yet. It’s a shame, but I’ll probably die on my own doorstep, distressing for Annie, but there you go, I won’t know anything about it, because I’ll be dead. It doesn’t matter anyway because my life, whether it’s four years long, or forty years, or a hundred, is just a smidgeon on the vast foreverness of the universe, less even than a squashed gnat on the windscreen of an Eddie Stobart lorry.
That sort of helps, puts things in perspective. We’ve all got to go, and knowing when, isn’t all that bad really. I imagine the last few seconds of a suicide jumper must seem just as long as this endless walk home seems to me. Longer even, who knows how time expands when you face death. It’s all relative, isn’t it?
I read once, in a book, of course, that you can think about all matter as being made of atoms, and each atom is made of particles. The distance between the particles, in relative terms is greater than the distance between the earth and the sun. So most of everything is nothing – the material world is all an illusion.
That sort of helps too. Funny, but it does, knowing you’re nothing, your life is nothing, you’re made of nothing. That means there’s nothing to lose, so there you go.
I’m at the doorstep now, still not dead. Better go through the ritual of putting the key in the lock. Wonder if I’ll get as far as turning it? Before I drop dead.
I’m in the kitchen, in the doghouse in fact. I had to tell Annie I dropped the shopping in some cow shit when I took a short cut across the field. All I’ve got for her is a rather crumpled copy of the Guardian.