Death scenes hit me hard. Fictional or real, it doesn’t matter—I just don’t do well when the eternal footman gets around to calling.
In high school, on a date, Maybelline Great Lash made it all the way to my chin when Blade Runner’s Roy Batty, his replicant body spotted with the chalky marks of decay, crouches down under the acid rain of a dystopian Los Angeles. When he releases the dove and says to Deckard—in cinematic slow-motion and framed by Vangelis—“Time to die,” I was buried in Kleenex.
At the end of The Notebook, undone by the pitch of the film’s denouement, I stood sobbing in the lobby of a Lowe’s Cineplex theater. Kind movie strangers came up to ask, Are you okay, honey? Do you need a doctor? I wanted to tell them that a doctor can’t help me. My problem’s with death.
And then there are the novels. Oh, the dying and dying in the pages of great books. It can take me weeks to recover.
The other day I found a wasp on a trail through the woods. He was the size of .50 caliber bullet. He opened and closed his wings, but was unable to move. It’s the staging of death that you feel in your throat.
I stayed with him and watched him die. Then I picked him up and took him home. I kept him on my desk for a week, this being of great size and great beauty. It is the magnificence of it all that really gets me in the end.