November 10, 2018

Winter came quickly this year. It’s not yet three p.m., not yet December, and already, the light is leaking out of the sky. Somewhere, someone is dying. Someone is always dying now, and you’ve reached a point where you wonder how you have, thus far, been spared. But of course, you haven’t been—death has come close, stolen into your home, and made off with your father, your grandmothers. It’s circled like a vulture around countless friends and relatives. Maybe it’s even circled around you. And there it is: survivor’s guilt. Why should you be spared? Why should you be allowed to wake up and breathe and move through the world unhindered by decay or disease? Of what use are you, really? These questions that seep in on long winter nights, these questions no one can answer. “I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing,” Agatha Christie once said. You try to believe her. You go on a walk before the sun sinks behind the hills. You thank God you can still feel its warmth on your face, though the cold snaps through your coat. At night, you crawl beneath a thousand blankets and intone a line from Gina Ochsner’s “Unfinished Business”: “We are here, we are here, we know that we know.” You slip a hand under your shirt, shut your eyes, and feel your heart—beating, beating. Alive, alive.

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