I AM THE DARK HORSE OF THE APOCALYPSE
The following conversation happened while I was hungover after a Friday morning lecture in grad school:
FRIEND: We need to talk about D [name redacted to protect the... well, not the innocent, but the asshole who probably doesn’t deserve protecting, whose name is redacted to protect my own sense of being the better person, or some shit].
ME: Oh yeah?
FRIEND: That guy’s not your friend.
That got me to pay attention.
My friend then proceeded to tell me about the conversation they’d had over beers. About me. About me and all of my dead friends.
FRIEND: He called you the dark horse of the apocalypse.
At first, I laughed. Because, to be fair, that statement is so ridiculous that you almost have to. But then, I stopped.
Because the truth of the matter is, when a certain number of people die around you, you do start to wonder if it’s you. I’d call it narcissistic, but it’s actually a more specific form of straight-up self-loathing neurosis that comes from realizing that life is fucking fleeting and one day you’re just gonna be left with only yourself, but what if you’re left with yourself and you’re actually just… cursed?
The year was 2008. My dad had been dead five years. And during my two years of advanced degree hell, I lost two of my friends to freak accidents, my grandmother to old age and general stubbornness, and my dog to, y’know, being euthanized. My best friend, Nathan, was also declared terminal. For all intents and purposes, people around me were “dropping like flies” (another piece of colorful language I would learn was used to describe me by the same person).
So, yeah. Maybe I was cursed. I’d be lying if I said it had never crossed my mind. But that day, after the lecture, with my friend angrily recounting the story to me, telling me how his anger boiled over to the point where he almost punched D in the face, I realized: that kind of thinking is truly fucked. It is shitty. And wrong. And the people I love dying for no good reason at way too young an age has nothing to do with me being smited for being a heathen, or poisoned by the fates. It’s just a shitty set of circumstances, and anyone who would ever imply it was my fault (including myself) was not being a friend.
So why then is it so easy to blame things on curses? Or, for that matter, fate, God, luck, or Flying Spaghetti Monsters?
Is it really easier to say that the Kennedys are cursed than to admit that they’ve been victims of circumstance, poor decision making, and their own vices? Is it easier to believe the Red Sox are cursed than that maybe they’ve been victims of shitty management and some seriously crap pitching (this metaphor worked better during the Bobby Valentine years, obviously)? Is it easier to believe that I’m cursed than that the people around me have drawn truly terrible hands that led to them departing this world way too goddamn soon?
The thing about a curse is, in all of its irrationality, we can use it to rationalize the things that feel too terrible to be comprehended. We can brush off the bad stuff, dismiss it by saying “well, it’s just her, it’s just them, it’s just bad karma or bad chi or the evils of the world catching up to them.” We can distance ourselves from the unimaginable by saying “well, they must have done something to deserve it.”
And to stop believing in curses? Well, it’s to stop believing that there’s order to the universe; that there are reasons that things happen and if we’re good enough, or smart enough, then doggone it, maybe we can avoid having those things happen to us, too. But let me tell you, the most liberating moment of my life was when I stopped believing I was cursed. When I stopped believing that things had to happen for a reason, and realized that sometimes terrible things happen for no good reason at all.
For some people, that thought is terrifying. But for me? It’s how I was able to forgive myself and start to move on.