Name: Who Are You
Artist: Tom Waits
Tom Waits // Who Are You?
We would talk about death like it was something you could feel. We imagined you would be lucid throughout, like it was kind of the sensation of trying fruitlessly to fight your way back, and finally realizing you were unable to. The death, we decided, was that last second you were able to feel, when you realized that you never would again. From my perspective, which he never quite realized, this meant people died hundreds of times every lifetime and quietly, stoically recovered. I could imagine this mad clamoring inside, trying so hard to reverse events that were out of your control, silently bartering with an unknowable force – maybe if you took back a cigarette here, went for a longer jog there – an eternal wondering if, with a simple touch of moisturizer, you could have lengthened your life. “The answer’s probably no,” he would always say heartlessly, pinching out the end of another cigarette and shaking his head at me, because his response was typical of my reaction to unnecessary displays of optimism. He couldn’t understand this because he didn’t know what it felt like to think about it. He had only the thought of how an uncertain death might make him feel. He didn’t know that this thought produced in me a similar feeling to the thought of unexpectedly losing him, eventually. He didn’t know I ritualistically prepared for death every day.
In these days when the opportunity to fancy oneself a casual writer is available to any fantastic narcissist with an internet connection and a workable knowledge of the hunt and peck typing method, it is possible for me to know more about casual acquaintances who could barely give me the time of day than I know about people whom I’ve known my entire life. Now, with a better view of your back than I know I’ll ever have of your face, it terrifies me. It terrifies me to realize that the intimacy I now share with complete strangers makes my casual knowledge of your life inconsequential.