I actually dictated it, but that’s not the point
It was staring at me — big, black, and ugly. For years, it was just there, attached, clinging to me like a parasite that lasted long after an international trip. I did what I could to put it out of my mind, but nothing helped. So, I killed it.
“That’s it? Seven dollars? That’s all you’re giving me! No, change it! Before you die, change it!”
“Sandy! Sandy!” That’s what I called my mother when I was four. Her name was my first word and it stuck.
She came running into my room to find me lying in bed surrounded by tissues and paper towels soiled with blood.
“Jay! What happened?” Her excitement and confusion seemed to sound the alarm in my mind.
What have I done? Is this really it? I stared at the blood, the tissues, and into my mother’s eyes. Her baby boy, gone too soon. I didn’t even get to deliver my promise of giving her grandchildren when I turned twenty.
“Jay, talk to me. Are you okay?” she asked again, now wiping the tears from my eyes. “You’re scaring me.”
“I’m bleeding to death!” I belted out. “I picked the mole on my leg and it won’t stop bleeding. I didn’t even get to go to high school!”
“Jay, I think it’s going to be alri-”
“I’m sorry. Can you ask everyone to come? I’m too weak to move.”
Sensing the seriousness in my tone, she reluctantly gathered the rest of the family. Thankfully, I had my mom with me to break the news.”
2022. I started this year with renewed energy and I’m honestly not sure why. Maybe it’s the build-up to turning 33, an odd year but one that I’ve looked forward to. “Yup, 33. It’s my Jesus year,” I’d tell my friends, before wondering aloud if I’d finally get powers like turning water into wine or smiting someone with the wrath of the heavens. In either case, I’d be a hit at happy hours. Or, perhaps I’m finally tapping into the wisdom that’s guaranteed with age. As my body declines, my mental acuity seems to be heightened. I once thought that I’d age like Lebron James, defying the odds of father time, while keeping my crossword puzzles skills at their height. But, it hurts when I get out of bed. I’m not aging like LeBron James.
That being said, I am tired. I’m tired of being beaten down by this panorama, panini, and every substitute word used to describe the state of the world. I’m tired of spending more time in a virtual world than living how best I can in the one in front of me. And, I’m tired of putting everything off for “a better time.” I’m not disillusioned by all that we’ve lost in the past two years, nor have I lost my mind like the wild conspiracy theorists and everyone from Florida. I’m just finally getting up after getting knocked down.
When my time comes, I’d rather reminisce about all that I’ve accomplished.
“What’s going on, Jay?” my uncle asked upon entering the room. Apparently, he hadn’t been briefed.
“Chris, I’m dying. It’s all over.” The tears were gone as the reality of the situation had finally sunken in.
“Is that so?” he asked, looking at my mom for confirmation. She looked down and began shaking uncontrollably.
It was hitting her harder than me. Of course, it was. Wise beyond my years, I had no time to be paralyzed by shock. I owed it to my family to say goodbye.
“Yes, and I want you to have some of my toys. Maybe, one day you can give them to your kids.”
“Thanks, but Jay-”
“No, it’s okay. I want you to have them.”
I needed to get it all out while I could. Each member of my family filed in, as I handed out item after item. My uncles, aunt, and grandmother were all entitled to my prized possessions, with my mother getting the majority.
Finally, Gabby. My cousin, but raised in the same household, was more like my sister. We spent every waking moment together and although she only has two years on me, she was always quick to let me know that she was there first. When my mother was pregnant, Gabby often spent the night with her, while my mother had nightmares that she was falling. Every night, for weeks, she had the same dream. She’s on a ledge and slowly being pushed off. One night, she woke up to find Gabby’s little feet braced against her stomach and pushing as hard as she could. When my mother asked Gabby what she was doing, her answer was simple. She was kicking the baby off the bed so that she’d have my mother to herself, as she always did.
“Gabby, I’m dying,” I professed.
“I know, I heard everyone talking. What do I get?”
“I want to give you seven dollars from my piggy ba-”
“That’s it? Seven dollars? That’s all you’re giving me! No, change it! Before you die, change it! You have to change it. I’m your favorite cousin. I’m your first cousin!
“Well, you’re not very nice to me, Gabby!”
My mother was shaking again and it sounded like she was crying, but there were no tears. I turned over and faced the wall, anticipating that it would all be over soon. No matter what, she wasn’t getting more than seven dollars.
My last conversation with Gabby came at the start of the year. We’ve made up since my near-death experience and we’re more focused on the future. We talked about my birthday, our careers, and our goals for the upcoming year. It had been two years since we spent some time together and we’re committed to not letting that happen again. We ended the conversation by sharing what we’d lost and missed out on in the past year and using those experiences as motivation moving forward.
When I was four years old, I honestly thought that removing a mole would be my cause of death and all I could think about was what I had yet to experience. I don’t know what the future holds, nor do I know if I’m any less of a hypochondriac, but when my time comes, I’d rather reminisce about all that I’ve accomplished.
We owe ourselves that much.
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