Friday, May 20, 2011

The Rapture

In the summer of 2005, I spent four months working for the government in Bonnyville and Cold Lake. Here’s a not-so-surprising fact about government-funded summer desk jobs in isolated communities—they’re really boring. So it should also come as no surprise that 2005 was also the summer of my epic correspondence with Paul #2 started.

Readers of the 2005 incarnation of my blog (“I Enjoy Being a Slut,” which focused on my dating misadventures) will recall that Paul #2 was the second in a series of Pauls. (Oddly enough, I referred to the first Paul as The Newfie.) After developing a crush on the back of his head in class, I worked up the nerve to talk to him at China’s legendary “Green Light, Red Light” housewarming party. He showed up wearing a green sticker, indicating he was single. All signs said go.

This is not Paul #2. This is Tristan at the Red Light Green Light Party

But a week later I returned to Alberta before our relationship had the time to take off. But as luck would have it, his career was just starting and my summer job was painfully boring, so we both had a lot of time on our hands. We started emailing and soon our messages evolved into the Question Game. Here's how it worked:

1. I would write a question.
2. Paul #2 would answer the question, then add his own question.
3. I would answer Paul #2’s question, answer my own previous question, then write a new question.
4. Paul #2 would answer my question, answer his own previous question, then write a new question.

A typical email would go something like this:
Q57 (Paul’s Question): what 7 letter word would you use for your phone number if you could? (Jessica does not count.)
A (Jess’ Answer)- seven letter words are challenging. In scrabble, they are "bingo" words. Hmmm, I'm counting on my fingers right now. prodart. As in, professional dart player. Yah, that's right! (776.3278)
A (Paul’s Answer): spatula.... or quackle, which i found on a website that only had 7 letter words and thought it amusing, but now webster is telling me it means to suffocate or to choke, so maybe not.
Q 58 (Jessica’s Question)- Name the last person you were addicted to and why?
A (Paul’s Answer) i like to think that i am somewhat addicted to you, your emails anyways... though prior it was a few years ago - a girl named beth. I just thought she was an amazing person, and i felt lucky to be able to spend time with her. after we stopped seeing each other i still thought about her. that's how i know i was addicted, you wish you could be with them when they're gone.
Q 59 (Paul’s Question): Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

When I wasn't getting paid by the government to give away free cotton candy at the marina, I was otherwise wasting tax-payers dollars by sending excessively long emails to Paul #2.

The questions were diverse, ranging from the goofy to the serious. By the end of the summer, nothing was off-limits. That’s probably why I confessed to Paul #2 something that I don’t think I’ve told anyone before—or since.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I realized that with my birthday next week and with the rapture tomorrow, there needed to be some sort of public record of this. It's time to share.

I’ve always been convinced that I would not live past 26.

Now that that's out of the way, it may surprise you to know that the origin of this belief is much more embarrassing to publicly admit than the fear itself.

But I'm going to anyway.

Way back in 1996, when I was about 11, I came across a TV show on ancient prophecies. At the time, I was obsessed with witchcraft and the paranormal, so it’s no surprise that I stopped channel surfing to watch. In 2012, the show told me, technology would turn against us. Waffle irons and fax machines would attack. Animals would go crazy. Houses would collapse. People would die.

Laying in bed that night, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was filled with images of computer printers sucking me in and ovens incinerating people. I did the math. I would be 26 in December 2012, I determined. (Math never has been my strong suit.) It was clear to me that people would die in 2012. And I would be one of those people. It was, I think, the first time that I really began to think about mortality.

I didn’t sleep that night.

Or the next.

Images of food processors attacking plagued me whenever I tried to shut my eyes. And this strange fear, the very belief that I would die at 26, didn’t fade with time. As a teenager, it was such an acute belief, that I couldn’t be bothered to plan my life beyond my mid-twenties. I didn’t develop much of an interest in getting married or having kids because I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to do so. And sure, I’d pick a university major. But actually pursuing a career? What would be the point? (Until a couple of years ago, the possibility didn’t even dawn on me that maybe, just maybe, I should actually plan or save for my late 20s.)

The one good thing about thinking you’re going to die at 26 is that it causes you to push yourself to live your life to an extreme. I've been "seizing the decade," if you will.

There's no succinct or happy conclusion to this story. Just an embarrassing admission.

However, for your viewing pleasure there is this--the very TV show that caused me to become an insomniac. I encourage you to fast-forward to the 4:00 minute mark to let the sheer terror set in. Enjoy!



    favourite part: "their turkeys now talked to them and told them what to do." That made my day.

  2. I know. It's so ridiculous that THIS spawned years of nightmares.