The book that I picked up has a lot of inspirational questions that I’m not answering. I will though, use each prompt to try and create something.
List ten things on your bucket list.
Mitch coughed blood into a tissue. He couldn’t help but examine them when the coughs wracked his body so hard that he found some of his insides coming out. They were these horrible Kleenex Rorschach tests that he would look at and try and quickly imagine what the first thing he saw was. This one had an unsymmetrical gob of dark red that looked like nothing more than a reminder that Mitch was dying.
He balled it up and methodically took a plastic baggie filled with a rainbow of these tissues, placing it inside. “Why, Mitch. That shit is disgusting.” Vick made a gagging gesture, and Mitch wasn’t entirely sure if it was real or mocking, but he still continued stuffing the kleenex in the bag, rezipping it up and then placing it back into his shoulder bag.
“I’m not leaving my cancer rags on the top of this mountain. We’re already up here crunching in the snow, fucking with the wildlife. I’m not letting some poor mountain goat eat my cancer. It’s gross.” Mitch had given this a lot of thought. He saw his cancer as this living and breathing entity. It was a monster that he wasn’t going to defeat. It was a force of will greater than his own. The best he could do was try and do good things while living in its shadow, but there would come a time when that shadow completely enveloped him and all that was left would be the tales of his adventures.
Adventures like this.
The bucket list was Vick’s idea. She had read it in some ‘dealing with loved ones dying’ kind of book, of which there were a surprising amount of. Mitch also got that too. He hated how much of these things he now understood, like cancer opened up some sort of amazing door to the inner workings of man, yet depleted your time to use it well. People all mourn differently, so when their loved one dies, some people write a book about how they think they should get over it. After that works for them, it must work for someone else, so they sell it. It guarantees that even if the life didn’t mean something, the mourning did. Mitch was trying to leave an imprint on this world, the hypothetical book writer was trying to leave an imprint about their grief on the world. It was just an ego trip all the way down.
Mitch took in a deep breath, testing his lungs against the thinner air after a vicious coughing fit. It felt strained and tight, but he was able to take in the whole of it, and it felt amazing. The air here was untouched. His breath, with particles of the city, and the plant he worked in for most of his life, his car, and a hundred other places were dirtier than the air he was taking in. Even if there were particles of other places of the world, they were filtered through hundreds of miles of mountainous expanse. Mitch felt like if he stood here and breathed that air forever, perhaps it would be enough to clean out whatever darkness was clinging to his lungs. Similarly, Mitch was aware that that thought process was how snake oil is born.
“Ok, I’m set up.” Vick said, breaking the incredible silence. Mitch turned from the view of the mountain ranges in all directions, and towards Vick and her tripod. On top was a state of the art video camera on a small, but powerful, stabilizing rig. Both machines clicked and then began to whurr softly, telling Mitch that they were ready too. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Mitch had been asking himself that same question for the last twelve hours. This was nuts. This whole premise was batshit, as his mother would say. It was the last one on his list though, so it had to be the biggest. It had to be the one he might not come back from. He started his journey with no regrets, and now that he was at the first idea he had written down, he would end it with no regrets. Up to the point a few months ago, when he realized he was living on borrowed time, he had never lived like that. He held back ideas. He made safe choices. He planned.
Now he was on the top of a mountain, ready to do the craziest thing he had ever considered. He had done the simplest stuff first. He met a relative from a distant part of his family. He wanted to know if there were similarities between himself and them, and was surprised to find out that there were subtle ones like the small patch of grey both he and his distant cousin had on the left side of their head. Mitch’s father had it, and apparently so did his relative’s. He did a day of roller coasters, which he had previously avoided because of an incident from his childhood where he threw up at the peak of one, raining down his sick on the people behind him.
He didn’t vomit, but he was still certain he didn’t like them.
When he walked into restaurants, he asked to talk to the cook. He was surprised how many places let him do that. He would ask them to make him their favorite dish on or off the menu. Sometimes he got whatever was on special, but other times he received this amazing concoction of meats and sauces that he never might have known about.
Each one of these would cross a line off his list of things he wanted to try, and even though it was completely in his head, he felt lighter with each passing one. Like he had unburdened his soul and was closer to heaven-bound. When he told Vick about that, she just held his hand and told him how much she loved him.
Today though was the biggest challenge yet. When Mitch had been 8, his family had taken him skiing and they all had a fantastic time, but Mitch stood at the top of the mountain, frozen solid. He felt like his feet were locked in the skis and the skis were locked into the earth, and this would be where he remained forever. He couldn’t imagine surviving the experience of throwing himself down a mountainside. He saw no enjoyment in the concept, only blood curdling fear. When he relayed the story to Vick, he had told her the one fact about the story that nobody had ever known, not even his parents. Standing on this very mountain, near to this very spot, staring down this same wide open field of snow. He had pissed himself as a kid. It scared him so much that he just stood frozen while warmth just traveled down his leg, which somehow made the fear even more real.
That’s why this was the first one on his list, and the last one to be completed. It was his greatest fear, and now that his body was giving up on him, he was going to defeat the last self-made demon he could.
He turned to the camera, and smiled at Vick. She looked amazing in the cold. Her pale cheeks were more flushed, and the frost that clung to her hat and wisps of hair framed her face beautifully. “Hi. I’m Mitch. I’m your dad… I’m sorry I don’t get to meet you, but, well, this world sucks sometimes. I just wanted to tell you a story before I do something completely nuts…”
He told his tale into the camera. The ski trip. The fear. The pee. All of it. He spoke to his unborn child in a way he didn’t think he would have been able to the day before he had gone into the doctor’s office with a chest cold he couldn’t seem to get ahead of. He spoke more earnestly than he could have when he was picking pieces of mirror out of his fist, the day the results had come back as completely, mortally, positive. Every word was built around accepting who you are and doing what you need to, but also not being afraid to take risks. He did his best to explain to his future child who he was and who he had become, and how much he loved their mom.
At the end of it all. He told both Vick and the camera that he loved them. He gave Vick one meaningful look, her face encrusted with salt and tears from listening to him pour his heart out in a way he had never really done all at once like that. Mitch simply smiled, put on his goggles, turned, and pushed off, throwing himself both down the mountain, and the trail’s inevitable end.