Driving home from work tonight, I fell into a game of What If. That thing you do when you imagine that something catastrophic happens in your world that destroys everything, grinds your life right into the ground, and you have to restart entirely. Have to—it’s not your fault, because there was the Terrible Thing. It alleviates the guilt of that occasional wish you experience, that you could just duck out of your life. Just throw your hands up and slip on a pair of sunglasses and kind of slip out of your life. New place, new name, new accent, if you want. Though I’ve always been really kind of awful at accents.
I decided that I wanted to go someplace warm, and probably that has a lot to do with the wind-chill factor and the single-digit temperatures that are whittling me down to a shivering little nub. And I’m going to leave everything I own. Even the books? Even the books. Even the pictures? You love your art. Even my art. Even the cat? Maybe the cat. Okay, not the cat. Anything else? No, nothing else. I don’t need anything else.
And I would leave my cell phone on the dining room table and get in my car (Your car counts. Okay, I don’t need anything but my car. GOD.) and I would turn the key and slowly lower my foot and probably tear off the bumper along the driveway curb again and then I would pull out and get on the highway and I would reach over and turn off the radio and in the silence of my car (except for my yowling cat, who has no sense of poetry) I would drive and drive and drive until no one could find me.
Florida, maybe. It has a west coast that no one ever remembers. Somewhere in Virginia, which is for lovers who will always be looking in each other’s eyes or at each other’s bits, and not me. Southern California, some college town full of unobservant kids? All the way to Mexico, and then deeper in, stopping only for ceviche until I hit ocean or impenetrable jungle. Fang will love the beach and or the swinging vines and mysterious pyramids and vibrant parrots. I will be dying to check my email but eventually you detox and I will support myself with alligator hunting and beach combing and cloud spotting and sunscreen neglect and I will forget how to type and my voice box will shrivel up and one day I will simply cough up its little dessicated corpse and eventually I will die in a sandpit and leave behind a burnt-leather corpse.
But that sounds like a lot of work. And the What If game is a lot of pathos. What If nothing catastrophic happened? What if my life continued on its current path, which is sometimes difficult and exhausting and frustrating–but mostly, pretty happy, and full of pleasure and goodness, luck and loveliness, things that are good and things that I am grateful for. That would be crazy! I could try, maybe, playing the game What If You Didn’t Always Expect the Worst.