Today’s story is set in the middle of nowhere. (If that’s a place, which can be debated.) It’s about cancer and death and a ghost and – as every episode – about life itself!
There is no nowhere. No matter what you do, you’re always somewhere. As long as you are a Who, you are a Where, too
No one had asked me how I was doing for days. That was relieving. Going somewhere with a backpack and a small tent was a great endeavour. Too bad I didn’t do that when I was still alive.
Here, almost exactly in the middle of Sweden, it is autumn. The leaves are floating from the maple trees and a cool wind blows from the mountains in the west.
In gentle gusts it shakes at the stubborn birch trees, which still have no desire to part with their leaves. The rustling is like a natural white noise and since I’ve been walking here I can’t hear my tinnitus anymore.
I have stopped taking my medication, there is no cure. I still take the painkillers. And I have the big green pill that got me here in the middle of nowhere.
I found a huge black poplar, which has a circumference of at least eight meters, if not nine. That could be enough for the top ten of all European black poplars, eight of which are in Hungary.
Nobody knows about this tree in the middle of nowhere, except me. And I stopped being a botanist when lymphoma cancer was diagnosed. My last entry on Monumentaltrees.com is from 2017.
I spread out my air mattress in front of the black poplar. From here I have a nice view on one of the countless lakes that make up this national park. I listen to the wind, and watch the red leaves dancing. The I take a sip of the really expensive wine I took with me and I swallow the green pill.
A faraway place with trees, leaves, water, wind and nothing else. For here am I sitting, far above the world, Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do. But at least I am alone.
Except for the ghost sitting beside me.
I don’t know when he did appear, it must have been while that green pill knocked me out for the first time.
“Stupid place to die,” he says as the leaves and the dust and the wind form his shape.
“You can believe me. Tested by me”, he adds. His leaf face looks at me curiously.
“Stupid place to be dead,” I say to him.
“Ouch! Point for you. What makes someone like you come here to die in the middle of nowhere?”
“We’re somewhere, of course. There’s no nowhere,” I say.
“Very philosophical. Then let me put it another way: Why so far away?”
I have to laugh about the dead man’s curiosity, but it is difficult. Something tears at me. It is like someone had turned up gravity.
I say softly: “I have always loved nature. Not for nature itself, I am not a romantic. Nature kills. But because I can’t stand people.”
“So, you do?”
“Turns out that lymphoma is a real killjoy.”
“That is a disease?”
“Maybe even a contagious one. My ‘friends’ seem to believe it is. Nobody I invited came to my going-away party.”
“That’s why you manufactured your own way out?”
“Something like that. Honestly, I’m a control freak. And with all the planning, I’ve been distracting myself from the pain for the better part of week.”
I am gasping, I don’t have enough air to talk. In the meantime, more foliage has fallen on the ghost. I can clearly see a young man under the leaves.
I whispered, “It’s nice here.”
I close my eyes and smell the damp forest. Leaves, mould, fungus – once the smell of decay. Now the smell nature’s willpower to live.
“I wouldn’t have died anywhere else in the world either. I understand why you came here”, my ghost said.
“So, no one has to find you.”
“Which indicates: You like people.”
“Just a few.”
If I pinch my leg, I feel the pressure. Like someone is touching me gently. I can’t feel my feet anymore, I can’t move my toes.
I turn to my ghost and say: “I wonder if anyone has died here except me.”
“Oh, my friend. There is no place on the whole planet where no one has ever died. Death holds life in an eternal embrace. It is like the wind that blows around us, never in any place, always everywhere.”
“You’re a philosopher yourself!”
“Thank you. Actually, I was just a small and very lonely soldier many, many years ago.”
“And now you’re here to convince me at the last minute not to go, right? And you will explain to me how important life is. And that there’s so much to live for after all. And then I somehow am inspired and my body heals itself miraculously.
“What? No! I am dead. Didn’t you know that?”
“Yes, yes. Sorry, I’ve been watching too many movies.”
“Besides, you’re already half-dead. Once death reaches your heart, it’s over. Won’t be long now, I’d guess.”
I take another deep breath. The legs are numb and I think my upper body will soon be numb, too. The face of my ghost is visible. A sensitive face has painted itself into the wind made from leaves and earth. It has large, widely spaced eyes and the soft lips of a child.
“Why are you here?”, I ask.
“Well, like I said, I was very lonely. I had to fight in a war. It was very… unpleasant. More than unpleasant. It was … devastating. My dear ones…”
My ghost turns its face into the setting sun. My heart no longer beats a steady pulse. It flickers.
“I stayed so that the dying wouldn’t be as alone as I was.”, he says.
“That’s very sweet of you.” – “Thank you very much.”
“Right now, I’m not alone. That’s not bad. That’s pretty good. For a while, anyway.”
“Oh, just wait and see. Maybe we’ll hang out soon.”
“We’re ‘hanging’ out?”
“I mean we’ll spend a lot of time together soon.”
“I don’t know about that. Because, you know…”
“You are mistaken. You’re not right when you say that people are always somewhere. Nowhere, well, nowhere exists. Nowhere is a real place.”
“Good. I think I understand.”
“Good. Well. It’s time now. Farewell.”