“If I had to die tomorrow”
I had this English professor that always acted like he knew every little thing about everything. If you had a question it would be best for it to go unasked than to sit through hours of rambling on about things that were in no way related to your topic. He opened every class with a ten minute free-write. He would put a topic on the board and for ten minutes you would have to write whatever came into your mind, you weren’t allowed to put your pencil down until time was up. When I walked into class one day I got out my journal and pen and turned to the board.
“If you knew that you were to die tomorrow and you had access to all the money in the world, what would you do?”
I understood what he was getting at, although the rest of the class chuckled to themselves and began writing believing that they got off easy for the day because clearly they could take up a whole ten minutes writing about what size rims they would throw on their shiny new escalades. It took me a while before I picked up my pen. If you had all the money in the world it wouldn’t matter because no matter what you bought, you could only enjoy it for the rest of the day. I thought about every possible way to spend that day and that money and this is what I would do if I knew I was going to die tomorrow.
I would put on my favorite pair of jeans even if they had holes all over them, because mom wouldn’t make me change my pants if it was known that I would be dying the next day….. I mean how could she? Mom, Dad, Drew, and Derek and I would all get in Dad’s truck and we would drive all the way to Charlotte so that we could eat at a nice restaurant, like one we thought was nice, not one that people around here would consider nice (you know… I mean people around here go to fucking Outback and pour ketchup on their steaks for God’s sake). We would all walk in and they would already have our booth waiting for us. Me and Dad and Mom and Derek would drink beer; Mom would have Coors, Dad would have Rolling Rock (they would have Yenling, but since it’s my night I would have him drink Polling Rock because the painted bottles make me remember the past), Derek would have what Dad has and I would stick to my cheap beer. Mom would glance over at me and do that face even though everyone else was ordering beer too, but she just feels it necessary to do that because she’s my mom.
We would all ask what each other is getting before we are positive about what we want, Dad and I would have picked out the same thing because that’s how it always happens. Drew would piss around and say he wants something lame like a cheeseburger or something and when I bust his balls about not having to be such a cheap ass since I was buying anyways he finally agrees to get the steak. We all have steak. Good steaks… Mom and Derek get the filet mignon.
Our waitress will take forever to bring our salads and our food and we wouldn’t mind because we’ll have our whole lifetimes to discuss so as to be sure that I can take everything in before it all ends following day. Derek and I will start in on some random joke that quickly spirals out of control and somehow ends with Drew burping and Mom opening her mouth and rolling her eyes. There wouldn’t be a single quiet moment. We would pick on Drew until he gets upset and doesn’t talk for a couple minutes but then can’t help but to start laughing when we try to get him to speak. We would do everything we always do. Everything.
We would all order different desserts and we would share them. After the food was gone we would just sit there drinking beers and laughing for hours. Derek would start to feel a little drunk and the voices he used to do and things he used to say would begin coming out and the whole restaurant would roar with laughter. Drew would turn bright red and Mom would have to take off her glasses to wipe away her tears from laughing so hard. Once we all realized that our meal was finished and that we couldn’t freeze time and sit there together forever we would begin to remember that there was a world going on around us… this would be a sad realization.
I’d look around us five sitting that and I think I would finally say what everyone has been thinking. Not just what what we had been thinking that night, but what’s been on all of our minds for some years now and that is…. “How is it that we all could have ended up so lucky… to have a family the way we have ours just seems unfair to the rest of the world…. how did we manage to get such a sweet deal…. each one individually bonded to each one with memories stronger than any glue… all our personalities fitting together perfectly like the cow cards we used to have in the junk drawer…. it’s like our family turned into this secret club that no one else would ever be able to join because they would never be able to learn all the inside jokes and secrets that had taken us years to collect… how did we manage to all love each other this much.”
I think the class felt pretty bad when I finished reading my paper aloud. It hardly compared to their wild tales of buying every DVD in Best Buy and buying a whole new wardrobe, but it didn’t have to. It’s funny too because I’ve thought over and over about that question since then, but never once has any other possibility ran through my mind… just us… sitting together at a table…. laughing until Drew’s face turns red.