That Inevitable Snap

It eventually came in over the Arabian Peninsula and crashed near the Maldives, but I failed to take Marina Koren’s advice not to “fall to pieces just because China’s rocket is”—notwithstanding Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomer Jonathan McDowell telling Koren that “the chance of someone being hurt is maybe a percent or so [and] the chance of you being hurt is 8 billion times smaller than that”.

Somehow lately I’ve entered another period of being unreasonably afraid of dying. Yes, another; it happens regularly, if not frequently. (The afraid, not the dying.)

It’s not clear what set off this latest bout of death anxiety (or, thanatophobia). Possibly this year already having yielded three different urinary tract infections, an unexplained recurring nosebleed, and the continuing stress of a global pandemic. In the past, it’s just sort of…happened. Kind of like death.

I don’t remember such anxiety thirteen years ago when my father died, something you’d think would be a natural trigger. The anniversary came and went unnoticed last month (why isn’t it in my calendar), but it could have been waiting to sneak up on me.

I’ve had many nights in the past where the idea of dying, or the idea of the actual process of dying, has kept me up at night. This happens, too, if I’ve been reading something astrophysical; it gets my mind racing to the incomprehensible fact that anything even exists at all in the first place. (What does Jonathan McDowell have to say about that, I wonder.)

I fear not existing, even though I won’t exist to feel anything about the fact of non-existence. It’s not about what will happen to my stuff, or what about the people I leave behind (although, while we’re here, what would happen to my cats) or there’s so much I didn’t get to do (although, there’s so much I will never get to do, because neoliberal capitalism). It’s just about the dying.

(It certainly hasn’t helped that Sunday’s episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist featured a heart attack; I’ve a mortal fear, specifically, of having a heart attack or stroke. Blame the second of those on Frank Pembleton.)

Did I mention that the fact that anything even exists at all is incomprehensible and impossible and what does “exist” even mean and nothing about the universe being here makes any sense and just where is here anyway. It’s as if I fear existing and not alike.

It didn’t last long: at the outside I spent maybe twenty minutes convinced there was a realistic chance of being killed by a Chinese rocket. They always say you won’t win the lottery but wasn’t everyone who ever won the lottery told the same thing.

I am going to die.

It might not happen because a Chinese rocket (or, to be fair, a Space X one) falls out of the sky, but it’s going to happen. It might come with some sort of foresight that it is, or it might happen as suddenly as a rocket from above.

Isn’t it always as sudden as a rocket from above?