Today is a damp day. The August heat broke a few days ago; we turned the air conditioner off and opened the windows. We reveled in the breeze that fluttered our curtains and the fresh air that filled our lungs. But last night, it rained, and the damp air creeped through the windows, leaving our furniture and clothes and skin feeling sticky. I’m reminded of the summers I spent at camp, sleeping in a cabin and waking to find myself wrapped tightly in a sleeping bag that had dampened overnight. Those thick and dewy mornings always burned into hot sunny days, but I can already tell that the clouds are here to stay today.
It is fitting that today is a damp day, heavy with moisture, because I have set myself to a task equally dreary and unpleasant.
I know that I am dying; there is no way around or out of it. I have told precious few people, because with each telling it feels more real, even as they deny me. It’s exhausting having to defend your own impending death. They challenge me, as if I want to die, and am speaking it into truth just by saying the words. So I have stopped speaking about it, and on this damp day I am hidden away in the office, making a list of my possessions and unfinished business, and doling them out to the same people who do not believe me when I say I am dying.
My will-writing must be completed in secret, because if I were to tell anyone, it would go about as well as saying the words, I’m dying. They would accuse me again of giving in, giving up, welcoming death with open arms. These same people are generally very practical, and encourage one another to invest in life insurance, buy cemetery plots, and yes, write wills. They call it planning for the future; they treat their eventual demise as something abstract and far-off, but when I bring up the very real, very immediate fact of my own death, they shake their heads and tell me I am a fool.
If it weren’t for that blatant hypocrisy, I would write a very different will than the one I’m currently drafting. A more reverent one. But as it stands, I will get my revenge by bequeathing each of them the most ridiculous items possible, so that when I die in a month or so, they’ll wish they had believed me.
To my mother and father, who never quite believed in me, and for good reason, I leave my comparatively small collection of paintings from my failed stint as an artist in my early twenties.
To my sister, who finds it sad that I never married and refuses to acknowledge my long-term partner as anyone other than a roommate, I leave my two cats, who require excessive veterinary care, and who never learned how to properly use a litter box. (Note: cats were adopted from rescue organization that does not accept returns.)
To my brother-in-law, who had the misfortune to marry my sister, I leave two boxes filled with all the cards I have ever received from family, friends, and family friends. One card still holds $300 in cash. I do not know which one.
To my brother, who thinks he is God’s gift to humankind, I leave my vast collection of books from my college days spent majoring in gender studies. Also, a burned CD of Carole King’s Tapestry album.
To my future sister-in-law, who I assume will be a beautiful blonde my brother meets on a beach, I leave my closet full of drab house dresses.
To my boss, who hasn’t given me a raise in ten years, I leave ten cover letters for different companies, ten unfinished letters of resignation, and ten form rejection letters. Also, my favorite pen.
To my coworker Marco, who visits the gym every day and still has dreadfully stick-thin legs, I leave the travel coffee mug and lunch containers he envied. Also, a jar of protein powder I bought in a moment of weakness.
To my coworker Sharon, who never admitted her ill-advised crush on Marco, I leave all the emails currently in my inbox, and the lunchbox that matches the containers given to Marco.
To my college friends, who rarely invite me on their reunion weekends simply because they live in New England and I live in the Pacific Northwest, I leave my many young adult fantasy novels, my high school yearbooks, and a single wineglass each. All future emails sent to my college address will be forwarded to them. There is no button to unsubscribe.
To the love of my life, whose only flaw was falling in love with me, I leave everything else, of real and sentimental value:
The house we share.
The third cat (the good, litter-trained one).
The spices in the cabinet that we bought on a whim.
The cheerful house dresses in my closet.
The original Carole King Tapestry album.
The patchwork quilt we made from our old t-shirts.
The couch with its perfect view of a sunset through the bay windows.
A gust of cold air pushes through the vent under my desk, and I look up from my keyboard to see a familiar face peeking in through the slightly ajar door. “I turned on the air,” she says. “Do you want me to shut your windows?”
I save the document and, with some effort, stand up. “No,” I say. “I can do it. Thanks. It was getting humid.”
“I know. Everything was damp.”
I slowly cross the room and close both windows. She waits patiently by the door and doesn’t ask what I’ve been writing. Unlike the others, she doesn’t try to talk me out of my own death. Strange, how the person who will be most devastated is the most accepting. I only asked her about it once, and she looked at me sternly and said, “I always knew I couldn’t keep you for long. Why waste what time we have left by arguing about how we can prolong it?”
We close the remaining windows in the house, shutting out the hum of a busy neighborhood, and sit together in the sudden quiet. Outside, there is noise and humidity and conflict and tragedy, and soon all of that will return for me, but for now I am content to sit here, with her, and cherish the time we have left.