I’m going to begin at the end. I’m here to tell you that I’m going to die today.
I’m not scared. If anything, I’d say today is a good day. I’m typing this while sitting on a comfortable couch in a cozy apartment in Tokyo. I made myself a cup of tea, and a cute, chubby cat is sleeping peacefully next to me, completely oblivious to the fact that his owner is going to die soon. Or is he? I’ve seen animals display surprising foresight.
It’s a good day. I’m not in pain, and I’m a woman. I’ve always been a female, but I’ve happened to be male, too. That’s uncomfortable, no matter how many times it happens. But then again, it was being a woman that caused it all, it was existing as a female in this world.
I was young when it happened. I can’t remember how young, or what I looked like. I know I wasn’t a woman by then, my body never experienced the bloody transition into womanhood. I was female enough to attract him, and that’s all that mattered. It’s always all that matters. We fool ourselves into thinking we have free will. Bigger fools even believe they care about us and love us. They don’t, and no matter what, the only thing that matters is what they want. Their own pleasure, their own pride, their own power. Everything they’re hungry for, we end up paying for it.
He was beautiful, the way they always are. I’ve been warned, like all young people were back then, but I was foolish, like all young people still are now.
It was when people still knew about them, before they made up lies to cover up their existence, before they started making people believe there was only one of them, and that people should fight to prove it.
Yes, I knew about them. I knew about him, the one who ruled them all, the most charming, dangerous, perverse of them all.
But I was young, and impressionable, and when he kissed me, it felt like every atom of my being was dissolving into a heavenly light. Everything was warm, everything was soft, everything was perfect.
I almost didn’t notice when he slid his sword under my belt, ready to slice right through the leather. I should have just let him do it. They always do what they want anyway, and I was no exception. He still took me right there, under the tree, the weight of his adult body crushing me into the soil, his delicious scent now intoxicating, his fingers pulling my hair with a blazing rage.
I should have just caved in. Pretended to be proud of being chosen by him, like I knew I was supposed to. Instead I begged and I cried and I sobbed, and that, despite my young age, was enough affront to justify my punishment.
Zeus cursed me with immortality, and I died on the spot.
That’s another thing you’re all getting wrong, and part of the reason why I chose to speak up today is that you’re closer to achieving it than ever before. Immortality isn’t a blessing. It isn’t something we should pursue.
My immortality most likely isn’t going to sound appealing to you, but before you start fooling yourself into thinking yours could be fun, let me tell you: I’ve met plenty of immortals. None of them wishes immortality on anyone.
Maybe you’ll find out for yourself. I hope you don’t.
After my first death, I woke immediately in another body. I can’t remember who I was then. Looking back, I’m sure the brain fog was PTSD, but I certainly didn’t know anything about that then. I was alive, then I wasn’t, then I was: that was my reality, and everything beyond that was a blur and would continue to be for a while.
Every day, I wake in another body, and within the next 24 hours, that body would be dead.
This has been my life, for millennia's now. It doesn’t deserve to be called a life, yet here I am, breathing, drinking tea, eating. Having feelings, despite it all.
You would think the hardest part of it would be dying. And some days, you’re not wrong. Some days, I lie in bed in a body so sick it hurts to breathe. Some days I awake in basements, prey to predators who do things you couldn’t imagine to me, and who leave the basement to go back to being your father, your mother, your friend, your colleague. Some days everything seems fine, until I see a truck driving through a red light and feel all my bones breaking. Some days my body craves for drugs and I cave in. Some days my body craves for drugs and I don’t.
The pain is bad, but it’s only temporary. The pain isn’t the hardest thing.
The hardest thing is the living. The hardest thing is the love. The hardest thing is how tenderly my husband kissed my lips this morning before leaving for work, and how I know I have a stepdaughter who calls me twice a week when she’s at her mother’s, just because she misses me. It’s experiencing the love, and knowing it will shatter. It’s feeling the sun on my skin, and knowing this skin will be underground soon.
I’m sorry, that wasn’t sincere.
I haven’t had the opportunity to talk about myself in years, not since I met an immortal for the last time in 1992, so I guess I’m kind of out of practice. It’s easier to lie when you’re only lying to yourself.
Bear with me. I will try to tell the truth.
The hardest thing isn’t the love. It’s the absence of love. It’s the borrowing of a love that isn’t aimed at me. As centuries went by, I’ve learned not to feel guilty about receiving a love that isn’t mine to take: I’m not hurting anyone, and I certainly didn’t choose to wake up in someone’s loved one’s body. I’m simply here, by the result of a cruel curse, and I’ll take whatever I can, whenever I can.
It makes my life a little easier to live with this mindset. To enjoy every minute I can. The smell of rain. The cuddles of lovers, parents, children, friends or pets. The food, oh the food. The alcohol, sometimes, even though it drove me to dark places to try and numb myself with it.
The drugs I try to avoid, even though the bodies I’m in are already doomed - if I’m not already in the body of an addict, or in pain, that is.
Even if I don’t feel guilty for taking pleasure where I can, I’m still perfectly aware that no one loves me. No one knows me. No one knows I’m here. No one can follow me.
And maybe that’s also why I’m writing this. To have someone know me, to be seen, to be heard.
When the internet became a thing, it was pure, intoxicating hope: the chance to create bonds that will transcend my ever changing bodies, the opportunity to have a voice and to exist, to be myself, finally. On the internet, everyone was like me, or so I thought: a mind without a body, a voice without a face, anonymous, for the most part. All I had to do was to remember my email address and my password, and a whole world opened up. I got to have conversations with the same people for several days, sometimes months in a row. It made me feel...Human.
And it made me realise I couldn’t claim to be human anymore.
Descartes said ‘cogito, ergo sum,’ ‘I think, therefore I am,’ and I held to this phrase for two millennia before, ironically, lines of 0 and 1 and machines forced me to admit that a conscience is only ever a person if there’s a body to do the thinking in. I cannot define myself in any way that matters. I hold almost no recollection of who I first was, who my family was, where I lived, what I enjoyed, what I hated. The only memory of that time is the crystal clear record of the assault, and the very last thing I want to define myself with, even though it was far from the last or the worst attack I’ve endured.
Who am I, then? The endless list of people I’ve been? I have their whole lives inside of me, every single one of their memories, too much for one person to handle.
I don’t go on the internet much anymore. It’s too hard to make friends when your life isn’t yours. Plus I’ve lost my mind a few times already, so I wouldn’t be a reliable storyteller even if I had a story of mine to tell.
I am a duality. I am me, and I am all of them, therefore I am no one. I think, therefore they aren’t anymore. I am the opposite of life, and yet I am alive, today and forever.
I’m sorry if I’m hard to follow.
I’ve been talking to myself only for most of the past 2000 years, and for the past few decades, it’s been getting harder and harder to keep myself sane. Everything moves too fast, whereas I am forever stuck into that loop where no societal, technical or industrial change will ever matter.
And this is the only thing I truly want to tell you: none of this should matter to you, either. It doesn’t matter which millennia you are born in. It doesn’t matter if during your lifetime, people fear falling down from the Flat Earth, or roam the sky in space stations. It doesn’t matter if you communicate to your loved ones with a smartphone or handwritten letters.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is the opportunity to live, to fail and to try again, to love, to hate, to injure yourself and keep a scar for the rest of your life. To exercise and see your muscles strengthen. To carry life, for those who can. To taste wine and devour plates of delicious food, and have body rolls that attest to your enjoyment of earthly pleasures. To kiss your lover and taste their soul.
Your body and soul are one. You get to create memories. You get to be seen. Heard. Touched. For who you are. And there you are, wasting it all, wishing for flatter stomachs and bigger bank accounts and immortality.
Reveal in your mortal condition. Bask in the joy of your decaying body. I wish I could.
When you catch yourself fearing death, remember me.
Remember I was a child once, and I’ve been something else ever since. I was like you once, and I’m different now, but who knows? Maybe we’re closer than we think.
On their very last day on Earth, I may have been your great grandma. I may have been your friend. I may have been your lover, your neighbour, or an ancestor you will never know nothing about. I may be a piece of you somehow.
Most importantly, I may be you tomorrow.
Enjoy your life while it’s still yours.