October 9, 2009
Her Life List
She was nearing the end of her Life List. She'd only started it a few months before, when she realized that many of the things she'd always wanted to do she had already done. (One thing -- "learn English grammar more perfectly" -- she realized that she would never do. For example, she probably should have written the second sentence [see above] "... she realized that many of the things she'd always wanted to do she had done already" or maybe it was "... she realized that many of the things she'd always wanted to do she already had done". But all she could hear was her mother's querulous voice saying blah blah blah already blah blah. It was too late for all that, already.)
She had jumped on a trampoline; she had played a bass guitar; she had peed in the desert; she had had wild pigs brush against her as they ran through a forest; she had kissed a skeleton; she had climbed a sycamore tree 30 feet in the air and gotten back down by herself. With her cat. She had gone up in the basket of a cherry picker and surveyed her own street this way and that and peeked over the cornice of her own house, without ever looking directly at the ground or her own feet. She had jumped in quarry water that was too deep for her and thrashed back to shore, alive.
She had pasted on a mustache, worn men's shoes and jacket, and passed for a man at a bar. (Someone, she thought maybe it was another man, had flirted with her.)
She had written letters to the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker, and eventually one of her letters had appeared in each.
She had crossed "Jump out of an airplane" off her Life List, realizing that that was more honestly what she wanted. She had stood at the foot of a ladder, at the top of which a Mexican man leaned against a fourth floor windowsill while he painted the minions and pinions, or was that mullions and millions, or pillions, or muntans? Ah yes, muntins! She had stood there, looking up, and seeing the curvature of the ladder, so tall it was mimicking the curvature of the earth she thought, and had decided against adding that to her life list.
She had written a novel and she had it. Printed out. Somewhere.
She had fallen in love once more, driven a tractor, picked up a spider and let it jump off her hand onto her shirt before it climbed into her hair.
She had bid on, and won, the opportunity to walk slowly into a (large) cage with a (very old) tiger and stay for five minutes. $510 went to the Zoo. For free she had held a baby orangutan. (That had been near the top of her Life List. Oh, the sheer physical joy of that, the trust in those round beautiful brown eyes, the tickle of those darling fingers!)
She had posed nude for a drawing class at the senior center, and afterward had chased a mugger and hit him with her umbrella. (If she hadn't had an umbrella, she would have hit him with her fist, but thank god she had an umbrella.) And not only that, she had stood on him until the police came.
She had slept one night -- a sort of fund-raising pajama party -- at a homeless shelter; and been locked up one night in jail, for refusing to disperse with the rest of a crowd.
She had called up the man who had broken her heart 40 years before and said, calmly, "I never liked you either." There!
And now she faced the last two items. The last one was simply, "Die." The second to last was "Drive 120 miles per hour without endangering anyone else. Fly perhaps?" The time had come. She had kept her mother's old Ford Galaxy in a garage, taking it out every week for 30 years to blow out the ... well, now she couldn't remember what she was blowing out; something to do with tubes or pipes. Sort of like a colon cleanse for cars. This was a car from 1971, and it was long and lean and still a shiny dark green. It would look like a flying leaf, a glistening magnolia leaf, as it sped along, with her at the wheel, dressed in a cream-colored magnolia-petal satin dress with a nice hat on her head.
She went to sleep that night, the night before she planned to fly the Ford. She dreamed that she drove to the grocery store, and saw her neighbor there picking out another dog. She went inside, and it was an antique show, and another friend bought a green enameled brooch in the shape of the pi symbol: (π). Then a truck came up behind her and the driver complained that there were puppies running under her car, and so she threw a piece of paper out the cracked window. She could see tire tracks in the muddy hill next to her. The grass was ruined, ground into the ground. And then she pressed her foot to the metal, or was that pedal to the metal?, and in other words she floored the Ford, and took off at what surely was 120 mph.
Her mother might have liked this! It was a glorious sensation. The Ford Galaxy flew straight off the top of a high building, passing through cumulus clouds and cirrus clouds (accumulations and seriousness) and slowly it began to descend.
She could still steer! It was amazing! She wasn't frightened! Slowly the Ford descended toward a narrow one-way street downtown. She could see that there were cars moving along the street, and she could see the gaps between cars in the left lane and cars in the right lane, and places where cars were parked. She guided the Ford down, and it landed with a slight bump right between two cars, and she kept on driving, and then she woke up. At least she thought she woke up. Now she wasn't at all sure.