Can I Get a Witness?

Tanzila Ahmed

Tanzila Ahmed

I wake up during the deadly summer night heat to incredible pain in my upper back, and a commotion outside my apartment complex. I can feel the tight muscles all up and down my spine. It’s 2 a.m. I’m on day three of a ten-day detox diet – no caffeine, sugar, dairy, processed food, carbs, legumes, or hydrogenated oils. I am sustaining myself on grass fed meats, organic veggies, and lots of raw nuts. I know that my pains are related to the diet change and am frustrated that my body is unable to handle an all natural diet without pain.

I go to the kitchen for a painkiller. I wonder if ibuprofen is included in a detox diet. As I lean my head against the front door, I hear the sound of the police walkie talkie outside. I saw them in my hall earlier when I came home at 11pm. I wonder why they are still here, three hours later. I wonder why they have face masks hanging around their necks. I wonder who they are here for and if I should be worried.

The next morning, there is a big, bright blue sticker across my neighbor’s doorjamb. It’s labeled: “Warning – Coroner’s Seal”. I later learn that the cops were there for the elderly black man who lived by himself a few doors down from me. His family hadn’t heard from him in a week and had been trying to get a hold of him. When the cops looked through the back window of his apartment they saw that he had died leaning up against the front door. He was 71-years-old and had died of natural causes. He had been dead about a week. In the heat, his body did not keep.

I thought of all the times I had walked by his door this past week on the way to the garage. How every time I had walked by, his body must have been there, leaning up against the door. I wonder if he had known that he was dying and if he was trying to get out of his apartment to get help. I hadn’t known how close mortality had been to me all that time.

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How to be alone

Gorgeous and wise.


Dying before Death

I hate writing about death. It brings up unpleasant family memories.

Mother died at the age of 62 in 1982 from a series of brain infarctions, which is like Alzheimer’s, only accelerated.

Dad died in 1994 at the age of 75 from pancreatic cancer. By the time he was diagnosed, it was so advanced the doctors sent him home after surgically opening him up. He died a couple of weeks later.

These were huge personal losses. But I could comfort myself with knowing that I still had my sister, Debbie. Debbie and I were not close, but whenever we met for lunch or a special occasion, the conversation would always move to our parents and what bratty kids we’d been.

Swapping childhood stories with her was the most fun I ever had with anyone.

She died at the age of 48 in the spring of 1999 from congestive heart failure. When I finished being mad at her for taking a radical position early in life to never ever go to a doctor, things started closing in. I began to realize how alone I was. I was the sole surviving member of my family!
 
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One Year Shy of Forty: The Perils of Starting Over

Next week, I will be one year shy of forty years old.

I don’t feel anywhere close to that 4-0 decade. Somewhere, somehow, I detoured off the path of endowed wisdom, financial security, and gainful employment – all the things one is supposed to have as they nudge up against that fifth decade.  There is this myth in our culture; once you hit 40 years old (or one year short of), you should kinda sorta know who you are. You are almost at a halfway point (if not past it), so you should have the important stuff figured out by now.

Yet, what am I doing as I turn one year shy of forty?

I’m starting over. Completely.
 
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