Wordcarpenter Books
 No More Waiting to Die
 
Chapter Two
 
Just Surviving As Noble Intent

            A bit about Aaron Noble and his life up to his forty-eight years. Dominated by an older brother who excelled at everything he did, so the younger Noble found it was easier to remain in the background, soon learning it was preferable not to participate due to the inevitable comparison with his achiever brother. With a father who left the family when he was four years old, his younger sister was his closest friend and confidant since they together had been the ones who helped their pill-popping mother through the half-dozen suicide attempts and the drunken rants that were never remembered in the morning.

            Despite only being three years older, his brother Rex had never taken a liking to him. His only memories were of Rex and his friends mocking him whenever he tried to join them, always ending up in tears, with cuts or humiliated. His mother, on a few occasions, had spoken to Rex to explain his responsibility to help and protect and include Aaron, but without a firm fatherly role model Rex ran rampant in everything he did. Reckless and talented with unusual physical coordination, Rex was popular throughout school, ever earning a scholarship to Rice University where he played baseball.

            The younger Noble adopted a gentle, withdrawn manner that protected him from ridicule. It was safer to not participate than try in any activity, whether with Rex or with his own classmates. Noble's best friend moved away from Corpus Christi in the seventh grade, leaving him without any close friends at all. His quiet and gentle manner did not cause him to be the victim of bullying because he was already mastering the art of being invisible.

            His father, an aeronautical engineer with an outgoing, bigger-than-life personality like Rex, had moved to San Francisco and had started a new family, but that didn't stop him from writing his father often, clinging to the illusion that they were close yet ignoring that his father seldom replied. It was a source of strength for Noble to exaggerate and fabricate skills and achievements he never did but believed his father was proud of him nonetheless. And he chose to ignore the drunken outbursts of hate his mother had that belittled his father. He excused here for her bitterness because of course she was still grieving.

            Noble read novels to pass the time, and constructed model airplanes until his bedroom was full of them. Then one night during high school, Rex and his best friend Darryl destroyed them all with a baseball bat. Noble had forgotten why they did it and chose to ignore it, not reacting to the loss and adapting the belief that any more models he built would suffer a similar fate.

            After high school and with no scholarship or money for university, he tried his best to find a writing job, soon taking a low-paying job at one of the local newspapers. His reticence and gentle voice were not enough for him to keep the job but it did lead him to find a job with a local manufacturing company that made electronic parts and boats. When asked to write a user manual for one of the many units imported from Taiwan, the owner of the company hired him full time to rewrite all user documentation that came with each unit because the "Chinglish" as he called it was unreadable. Noble found his niche as a technical writer in Houston, a job he still had after nearly twenty-five years. He found it interesting to import parts from the Chinese.

            Noble found he liked his routine of work and the savings from his meager paycheck, choosing to forego activities that cost money. He spent his nights watching television or out walking, comforted that he would one day have a decent pension from his investment in his retirement plan. South America was where he wanted to go, a dream that motivated him each day that passed without spending money. And he wanted to see his cousin Alistair in Saudi Arabia and wanted to see the Great Wall of China.

            Years passed him by, saving his pennies, seeing less and less of his family except his younger sister Vicky, who had settled down in Florida, not far enough away to avoid during the holidays. He tried to be a good uncle to his nephews but no matter how hard he tried, the birthday cards were intermittent and phone calls rare.

            Noble watched his brother Rex from afar, seeing a promising baseball career end during his junior year after being expelled from university for being convicted of rape, spending time in prison, then from job to job, slowly developing into an alcoholic like his mother. Last he had heard Rex was a member of the Banditos Motorcycle Club, spending another stint in prison and now living in the clubhouse in Dallas. Noble still felt fear in his gut when thinking of him.

            There had been a number of failed relationships with an array of different women, but none lasted more than six months. After losing his high school sweetheart due to reasons still unclear to him, he had floundered in his efforts to find a companion. Soon he rationalized it was easier to go solo, keeping to his routine.

            From long hours spent at the computer, his eyes had begun to fail, requiring him to wear eyeglasses. When his hands became sore and bruised, he had assumed it was Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and therefore cut down on the time spent on the computer, with the exception of only the necessary manuals required for work. Noble spent his free time resting his hands, waiting for it to go away.

            Then finally he went to the hospital, enduring blood tests and frustrated doctors, resenting the money required to determine the source of his pain, ending with a diagnosis he had never expected.

&

            Almost mechanically, Noble walked to his favorite restaurant, ordered broccoli and tofu with rice and a coke, and stared ahead holding his head with his hands under his chin. Swirling thoughts, doubts, exasperation and shock created a cocktail in his brain. He let out a laugh, a short burst, then rubbed his face and shook his head. Then he laughed again but it morphed into tears and a suffocated cry, quiet enough so others wouldn't see but powerful enough to illustrate his new situation had registered in a mind long trained to bypass all danger that could hurt or hamper his life.

            Then a long sigh.

            At one point during the meal he shook his head again and threw up his hands.

            After the meal on his long walk to his apartment, he began to feel a thrill, an irrepressible lightness he hadn't felt since perhaps his early childhood. It was all over, his game of safe living, his pussy footing and chronic avoidance of all life had to offer. The thrill stemmed from mischief, and the knowledge of having the means to leave his life, quietly and without fanfare. He already knew where he would go before he uttered the question to himself. With some of the best surfing in South America and one of the cheapest places to live, he would move to Ecuador and finally endure the embarrassment and overcome his fear to learn how to surf, or maybe to go horseback riding. There was no other place that offered what he wanted; it was what he had been daydreaming about while at the office.

            Sure there were other places he's like to see, like the Great Pyramids and the Great Wall of China, but he wanted to gather his thoughts and relax in the middle of the world first and maybe even write an article for some of the surf magazines he was always reading. He knew the international surf competition was taking place in the next few months. Besides, he loved speaking Spanish.

            The more he thought about it, the easier the whole thing was. Giving notice at work, giving notice to his landlord, selling some furniture and buying a backpack, were the major obstacles. There would be a penalty taking his retirement early but there was more than enough in there to support him in Ecuador.

            By the time he arrived home he was high with anticipation. A lot could happen in a year or so.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

Beyond Neophobia

&

            The inertia of place can kill a man. Entranced and chained by comfort and ease deadens and destroys the given right of man to step beyond the horizon and clasp the abundance in life. These were Noble's thoughts when he stepped into the airplane leaving for South America.

             It was only after he was airborne that his new reality hit home. It gave Noble time to reflect over the past four weeks, wrapping up his old life and tying up loose ends. Only from 30,000 feet above and out of the States was he able to see how he had gone through different phases of emotion, and how he could see how some of his behavior had changed. Upon reflection he saw how at first he felt relief that there had finally been an answer to the question that had haunted him for months. The diagnosis was tying up a loose end that had bothered him. Then incredulity and disbelief followed by a somewhat violent gathering of facts about the illness to erase the immediate doubt that arose, but when the facts were made clear and all the symptoms matched there was an undeniable moment of acceptance that the disease was precisely what he had.

            When he had heard there was no treatment and that it was fatal, he was overwhelmed by the sheer absurdity of it. How could there be not treatment? How could there be no known cause? Hands are thrown into the air and laughter followed. When the absurdity phase faded, a stunned shock caused a dazed and numbed state, intermixed with outbursts of laughter that ended in tears and muted crying. The brief cry, only a few seconds or so, was the most potent feeling of sadness he had ever felt. But its potency was an experience that had remained with him, reminding him of the danger it carried. To take the path of the victim would destroy and ultimately collapse his life, not a way to experience the final years.

            Then there was the moment of profound insight, that all the things that had bothered you and intrigued you will all soon be gone. An overwhelming sense of loss hits you, the senses will soon cease witnessing the magic of everyday life, from the colors and smells to the beauty of the architecture and a tree, and even the inexplicability of how so many people rush through life.

            The first behavior change was surprising. Each and every person he had contact with he treated with a pure sincerity, meaningful eye contact and an insuppressible desire to give them respect and gratitude. Petty beefs evaporated in a moment. Forgiveness was tantamount to all, and social intercourse became selective. Those he chose to spend time with were those friends who truly meant something to him. And it was surprising who these friends were. What he chose to talk about was different, perhaps a level or two deeper than usual, showing no fear asking meaningful, human questions to those deemed worthy of his time.

            Unexpectedly there was a sense of relief to the lifelong question of when you would die. Finally, there was an answer to the unknown that had long been accepted as inevitable. There was a neatness to this knowledge as well, so that now plans could be made. Saving money for a life that had you living until you were 95 was no longer a worry. A certain freedom was experienced, that negated anxiety or worry. This freedom was a brave freedom, a sense of uninhibited options now feasible and more likely to happen.

            Any hard edge or impatience disappeared, and deemed wasteful and irrational, the product of an immature state and a frustrated disposition. All quantities of fear disappeared, which transformed the everyday experience, making it richer. A new assertiveness emerged, which allowed curiosity to be followed and respected. Neophobia became a thing of the past, never again a hindrance to new adventures.

            Priorities changed. What was once regarded as important was demoted to its proper place when ones quantity of time left is known. Any quantity of sadness was not for what will no longer be but for all the past times that were not fully enjoyed for what they were, instead hindered by trivial worries and ridiculous insecurities. The sadness was a lamentation for ones own ignorance that had cast shadows on the existing richness of an event or experience. And past disagreements or fights demanded resolution, with the sole object being forgiveness, not by them, but for him.

&

            There were other things too. His morning wake up was the moment his mind took footing on the new day, setting his agenda and establishing the cadence and tenor of his mood. It was the moment to instill hope for a day of success and fruitful endeavors, the first spark of the sparkplug that ignited power, piston and the hum of the engine. This moment changed when Noble had been given the news of his immanent death. The kick-start was different. Perhaps the kick itself was milder, the grind of the motion weaker, the urgency to tackle the day not as important, or, more accurately, mot as crucial. The sparkplug moment was somehow different. The limitless horizon seen throughout his life now had a limit; the cloudless sky now had thunderstorm clouds, hail and impending lightning that he knew would strike him. The step of the day, usually light and full of purpose, was now only a shuffle without urgency.

            It was a somewhat unpleasant experience, an event tinged with tragedy and reservation.

            Little things like making his bed were lowered in priority. Saying no to things he didn't want to do was easier. He became more at ease with designing his day the he wanted. He was more inclined to take a moment to admire and respect nature, like the patter of raindrops on a canopy or the clouds descending on a mountaintop. The futility of shaving became clear, as did the importance of wearing the right shoes, or for that matter, wearing shoes at all. Sandals and comfort became the norm, and there was no anxiety or worry about what others thought.

            Being beholden to another took on the flavor of being a chore. Being alone yet together with his profound thoughts comforted, and the constant race against time ceases altogether. Instead time, or the passage of time, became his intimate friend. A new calm manifested, a person who didn't react emotionally to those things outside of his orbit of control. Even the ubiquitous points of debate on hot topics of religion and politics and economics dwindled in importance, instead regarded as: "to each his own."

            However, the most profound and central thought when told he had a few years left to live was the most revealing of all. You ask and ponder: "Have I lived the life I really wanted to live?" Were you spending the majority of your time doing something that had little meaning to you? Was your time spent doing a job that was only a means to an end, an end you hadn't even touched? Or had you spent your time doing that end?

            The answer to these questions was everything.

            If you spent your life working on the means, there would be a rush towards living the end, running to this illusive life that had always been out of reach. Fueled by a sense of overwhelming loss and fear of being pummeled by an avalanche of regret and self-reproach, in a frenzy you frantically embrace the life you had always coveted. Conversely, if you had chosen and had lived your dream, a clam pride and sense of meaningful fulfillment becomes the tenor of your new emotional base, a poise and tranquil satisfaction that heightened and bestowed on you an unmentioned honor.

            There was also an element of relief if you had followed your own path, as if proven correct and its wisdom verified. It was a relief from having to experience the most profound tragedy possible to an individual with an unrealized dream. But this was not what Noble experienced. As good as he was at ignoring, as time passed this tragedy could no longer be ignored, its torment lacerating him, his anguish piercing. Why hadn't he learned to fly an airplane? Why hadn't he taken time to stay at a surf camp?

            No doubt about it, the toughest thing he was dealing with was that he hadn't done anything with his life that he truly wanted. He had survived. That's it. No surfing. No pilot lessons. Just television and work. It stung him deeply. Fueled a rebellious plan. He wondered how he would feel if he had done it the other way and surfed for twenty-five years and flew a crop plane for a few bucks a day. How different would he feel?

 
 

Table of Contents

  1. The Divine Elbow
  2. Just Surviving As Noble Intent
  3. Surpassing Neophobia
  4. The Middle of the World
  5. The Dane
  6. The Religion of Sfauism
  7. Celebrating Chemistry
  8. Connected Columbians
  9. Stuntmen and Dakar Motorcycle Groupies
  10. Into Amazon Waters
  11. A Beautiful Repressive Niche
  12. Canalazo de Naranilla
  13. Cajunes el grande
  14. A Noble Doppelgänger
  15. Reno Finds His Footing
  16. How to Make a Bomb Out of a Light Bulb
  17. The Impossible Black Lily
  18. The Boy Fascist
  19. Artistas
  20. The Art of Death
  21. The Earthquake Virgin
  22. Lambaster of Laughter
  23. The Sweet Cadence of Scheudenfreunden
  24. Matador: the Agent of Destiny
  25. Overfilling
  26. Mobile Piping
  27. Aristotle’s Character Years
  28. The Great Pilgrimage
  29. A Purpose for Your Sins
  30. Errol Flynn
  31. The Better Man
  32. The Addict’s Ladder
  33. The African Club
  34. The Dutch Hair Piece
  35. The Swiss Army Knife
  36. The Scent of Ammonia
  37. At the Mouth of the Amazon
  38. Broken and Renewed
  39. Seizing the Moment
  40. A Recent Past Discovered
  41. Pinned and Threatened by Fate
  42. Twice as Much in Half the Time
  43. The Assassination
  44. The Pledge
  45. Slandering Hamlet
  46. Stealing Time
  47. Hannibal at the Gates
  48. On the Old Contraband Trail

                  Epilogue

 

 
 

 

 
 

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