They knocked at the door quite politely this morning and then they asked me, “it’s a simple question friend — do you want to live forever, or do you want us to kill you, right now?”
“What are the other options,” I asked.
“That’s them,” they said. “Life, or death. The right-now kind of death. The forever kind of life.”
“I don’t know.” I fingered an ingrown hair on the swoop of my jawline. I wasn’t lying.
“Do you need us to come back tomorrow?”
“Hold on,” I said, “I’ve got a mac and cheese on the stove. And I only just began the powder. Would you like to come in? I’ll fix the powder and then you can ask me again.”
“Alright,” they said.
They were legion, which meant they didn’t all fit in the house, and when they did they had to duck a bit under the doorway, but I guess they reached a comfortable enough balance to linger properly.
“Did it take you long to get here?” I asked, as I resumed the powder.
“Ages,” they said.
“And was it far?” I asked.
“Not at all.”
I wasn’t really listening. Frankly, I didn’t give a shit about the commute. An offer had been made, which carried on its underbelly, like one of those sharksuckers — a threat. How novel. I stirred the question around, and around, and then again, dissolving only the faintest yellow chunk of it.
“Have you been a good man?” they asked.
“Oh I like my Elvis,” I said, “Presley and Costello, the both. I sipped a teacup of cherry liquor or two. And don’t tell me you’ve never tangoed at the Cavo Club, my god. What a whirl.”
A thousand downturned eyes in the house and millions, billions more out front.
In truth, I was still having trouble with the powder mix. I didn’t fear being dead as much as I feared being alive for the end of all matter in a blinding rush of entropy, but I didn’t much like the sound of dying. That whole process. Especially on a day that began with mac and cheese; what a waste.
“The milk!” I cried. I slapped my forehead — how could I forget? I’d dumped dry powder on dry macaroni. Of course there was no resolution.
“Did you know CBGB stands for country bluegrass blues?” they asked.
“I thought it was a name,” I said, “Seebie Jeebie’s. Don’t get all fancy on me now.”
“Seebie Jeebie was just the man who started it,” they said. “He wanted to call it the Bowery. But look what happens to men who wait.”
“Listen — I don’t know what you’re after here.”
“Your life.” They were getting a little angry. What do the British call it? Chuffed? I don’t think that’s right.
“Well,” I said, “the powder isn’t fixed yet. I don’t know what to tell you. These were the terms, you knew that when you came in.”
They knew that when they came in.
I’d poured too much milk, which meant I’d have to boil it down a spell, and so I regaled them with tales of my life at sea. Which are too numerous and too filthy to tell here; suffice to say I had seen many corners and tied many knots.
I don’t think they enjoyed the tales much. But you can’t really teach manners in this economy.
“Okay,” I relented. The powder was fixed evenly, and deliciously. “The thing I’m worried about is entropy. You know, the heat death of the universe, and all that. Forever is a long time, isn’t it?”
“That’s just a hoax,” they said. “Nobody believes in that anymore.”
“The universe. They figured it out a while ago; everything is actually a sort of jello.”
“Oh,” I said. I do prefer jello. “What flavor?”
“Let us ask you again,” they said, adjusting a number of cuff links too large to pen down. “Are you ready to die, right now? Or are you ready to stop dying, now, and always?”
I poured the mac and cheese into an old fiestaware of the same cheddary hue.
“When did Seebie Jeebie’s close?” I asked.
“I think it’s highly relevant,” I said, “I was given a gummy bear of terrible acid in the bathroom there and there’s no guarantee I’ve ever come down.”
“CBGB closed in 2006. It’s a Tim Horton’s now.”
“The hockey player?”
They were getting impatient. I, too, was getting impatient. I ask questions when I’m nervous, like Who Shot JFK or What Happened to Men Wearing Hats. Classics.
“We can make this decision for you,” they offered.
“Nobody can make this decision for me.”
Smiles end to end, enough to reach the moon and wrap it twice.
“You’ve been paying attention.”
I ate a spoonful of mac and cheese. Fuck. Overdone; spectacularly overcooked.
“Alright,” I said finally.