01 July 2008

Life Ends Badly. So?

“It seems so unfair,” Bernard said.

I looked up from my breakfast burrito and was surprised by what I saw. Bernard looked disheveled, his wispy hair smudged up one side of his head and literally waving in the breeze on the other. His eyes were bleary.


“This,” he gestured expansively. “All of this.”

I looked around. We were at one of our favorite spots; the patio at Kono’s in Pacific Beach is alongside the Crystal Pier, overlooking the beach dotted with brown bodies and the surf dotted with black wetsuits. We had only brought Maddie there once; after she expressed her surprise at how many “negroes” were surfing (her weak eye sight confusing the wetsuits for bare skin), Bernard insisted that we would never come here again with her. Sitting perched over the beach like this always left me feeling exquisitely alive. I thought it did the same for Bernard and expressed my surprise that he was feeling so down.

“This,” I gestured, “makes you feel like that?” I pointed at him.

“Not always,” he said. “But today it just seems like too much.”

I waited. He rubbed the back of his hand across his nose like a small child who had been crying. I looked again. He was crying.


“You finally get how amazing this all is, how precious this all is, and then …”

“Then …?”

“It’s like you’re halfway through the most amazing ride at the park before someone tells you that at the end of the ride your life is over. This life – it ends so abruptly. And it is not until you are well into it that you realize there is no other exit, no other alternative.”

We watched a wave pick up a couple of surfers. A seagull landed on the railing and eyed Bernard’s bagel. A gorgeous woman laid out her towel in preparation for sunning herself.

“You would have chosen to skip this ride if you knew how it ended? Really?”

Bernard began to laugh. He actually snorted. And then he shook his head. “No,” he laughed. “No I would not.” His laughter made him begin to wheeze and actually seemed to worry people at nearby tables. “I don’t know what got into me.”

“You had trouble sleeping again,” I asked.

He waved off my question. “Do you think that I’m too old to learn that surface boarding?” he pointed.

“I think that even with a surf board leashed to your leg, you’d sink like Jimmy Hoffa,” I told him. I didn’t think that I could feel any better that morning yet Bernard’s guffaw reminded me that good can always get better – even if the ride eventually ends badly.


cce said...

I think I might be too old to learn "that surface boarding" and I'm only thirty-four! And I think I agree with Bernard, I'm sure I'll truly begin to appreciate this life just when it's about to be over and, like Bernard, I hope that I will think it worth all the heartache, seeing it from the backside as something precious, something not to have been missed.

Lifehiker said...

The saddest thing might be to recognize that life will soon be over and realize that you wasted it.

The average American has almost unlimited opportunities for taking on the intellectual and physical challenges that make life interesting. But look at the average American's life...maybe it's a blessing that they often don't have Bernard's perceptiveness.

jen said...

this was lovely.

i've found i'm trying to pay more attention lately, at least. i see it as a start.