This essay was published in the 2012 Spring/Summer Edition of The Shangri-La Shack Literary Arts Journal.
The piano notes of Franz Schubert, playing on Syracuse’s Classic FM station, seep through the car radio and wash over me, invading the space of my inner mind. I sit alone in a metal-aluminum box built in Detroit a decade ago and equipped with a rattling engine that announces it age.
It is mid-December in Syracuse, New York, and this afternoon, unlike most days in the last month of the year, it is sunny and bright, above 35 degrees and not a speck of snow covers the grass or this semi-empty mall parking lot. I delight in the sunlight creating sharp delineations between the sky, the ground, the large office building in the distance and the surrounding countryside dotted with fir trees and spindly, auburn-brown trees with branches devoid of leaves.
As I sit in my car, I listen to the music, watch a seagull circling some lampposts and let my mind go in meditation of my place in this city, this zip code, this world, this time in history.
And without being invited, a dark thought comes to me. I think how easy it would be to let myself slip away, to strap a wide-mouthed plastic hose to the tailpipe and tuck it inside the driver’s side window. I could let the small car fill with carbon monoxide and drift off without being noticed by the shoppers heading to the stores or to lunch.
No one would find me for several hours. And later tonight, my car would be the last one left in the parking lot. I would be discovered by a lone security guard doing a sweep of the mall before punching out. Or maybe I wouldn’t be spotted until the next morning, when an old lady goes out to walk her white poodle.
Listening to Schubert always awakens in me a sense of spiritual discovery, as if the composer’s chords penetrate my ear canals and tickle receptors in the brain open to pondering the mystery of human existence.
Today I discover just how easy it would be to discard the life I have been given, to sever my earthly ties, to choke my breath intentionally.
And I realize, those prone to questioning our place in the world, those people whom sadness often infects, and I count myself among this group, need ironclad discipline to provoke a desire to fight to stay alive, to not give up, to not submit to the easy way out. They require a survival instinct, a force to help them accept each day regardless of circumstances. This may not be easy but the alternative is far worse.
We need this will to live even when our lives find us no richer, no happier and no less lonely. We have to let the fragile bubble moments—when this world and the next seem closer in proximity—to glide over and wash away without us being sucked into the maze of self–absorption that can lead to self-destruction.
So today when the announcer’s voice comes on the radio at the end of Schubert’s piano piece, I turn off the car engine, saunter across the parking lot, enter the mall and buy a movie ticket to see Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. And the Monday afternoon passes without my resistance, and the matinee kills two hours of my life, instead of me killing the man in the driver’s seat.