I used to think about dying all the time.
It wasn’t always this way. I mean, just a decade ago the thought never crossed my mind. Actually, lots of thoughts didn’t cross my mind. I was carefree, immortal, and had no qualms about what I looked like in a bikini.
Somewhere in my early thirties, this overwhelming fear took over. It was subtle at first. Funny things, like I could choke on a piece of chicken and die – only the chicken was boneless, skinless, and shredded. That turned into not being able to finish a screenplay or any of my projects because as soon as I finished it, I would undoubtedly croak, leaving it as my legacy. And it would probably be a shitty legacy full of typos.
This fear got somewhat out of control. Somewhat. It was on really bad days that I didn’t want to leave the house for fear of some Final Destination scene playing out on the Palmetto Expressway. Luckily, those bad days were few and far between. What was prevalent was an acute awareness of my actions – in how every action had a potential consequence of death. Like running down the stairs. Or swimming in the ocean. Or yelling at a driver. I became consumed with these thoughts. And, at the same time, I became increasingly concerned with being seen in my bathing suit.
Somehow death and beach became the two most important things to avoid.
The thought of being among a multitude of strangers in clothes that could double as underwear freaked me out. I couldn’t understand how after a lifetime of beach-going I had never noticed that I was basically taking a communal bath with hundreds of people. Where the heck were my parents in all of this? Oh, that’s right, they were right there, in their “underwear” too. I mean, my mother didn’t wear sleeveless shirts in public, but on the beach, she was near-naked. Sometimes fully exposed by a rogue wave. And she’d laugh and laugh.
I don’t think she’d laugh if that happened to her at the grocery store.
Maybe I would.
This past weekend I went to the beach. In a bathing suit. I even mustered the courage to remove my cover-up and actually lay out in nothing but my bathing suit for all Fort Lauderdale to see. But, I sat up every two and a half minutes to make sure no one was staring. It’s not like I had a plan of action if I caught a gawker. And, as you can guess, no one looked. I was practically invisible. But, every 120 seconds I’d shoot up from my towel to scan the perimeter.
After an hour of this madness, I started to feel light-headed. I chugged water like a desert-dweller, but that just made me nauseous. The sound of the ocean faded. The sun became covered with black, sparkly spots. My labored breathing became loud enough to hurt my head. And, just when I was about to close my eyes and accept my fate, my inner voice screamed, “Holy fuck, you’re going to die in a bikini!”
In my thought-to-be-last-act on Earth, I grabbed my shorts and struggled to pull them up my legs. In my weakened state, I rolled around like a clumsy seal, kicking up sand and causing a bit of commotion. With the shorts around my thighs, I used the last bit of energy I had to stand up and finish pulling those insanely tight shorts over my bathing suit bottoms. There I was, upright, for all the beach to see, but I couldn’t see anything or anyone. I couldn’t hear anything either. I had died and the only thing separating my vagina from the masses was spandex. Without a complete screen play. Without a finished book. Without having told the Librarian where I hid her favorite pajamas that I hate so much.
The impact of my chest hitting the sand woke me up, like a defibrillator. And, as I slowly turned my head to open my eyes, I realized that I was alive. That the Librarian was still reading her book. And that the entire beach hadn’t even noticed.
And that day, all was right in the world.