David Alexander, age thirty-five, was a man of little consequence. A humble night-manager at a small motel in a forgotten corner of Southern California, David’s most notable accomplishment in his largely ineffectual life was actually the way in which it ended.
Unfortunately for David, due to the horrific, highly improbable manner in which he–I wouldn’t say “passed away,” because that greatly undersells the nightmarish torment that preoccupied David in his final moments. But needless to say, David had neither the time nor inclination to comprehend the absurdity of his own situation. In fact the frightening, chaotic, yet effortlessly graceful dance of the cosmos which was David’s death proved so improbable that a successful attempt by Dr. Urvi Patel, of the University of California Irvine, to approximate the odds of it even occurring–odds so mind-boggling, mind you, that I can’t even be bothered to offer a comedic approximation of how impressively absurd they really are–drove the poor women insane. She now exists in a slight, yet perpetual state of depression, and teaches creative writing courses at a community college in Colorado. For the safety of others, the location of Dr. Patel’s research remains classified. Though, there are rumors it’s stored away in an evidence locker somewhere in Anaheim.
That said. Fortunately for us–though admittedly not so much for her–Mrs. Leticia Trevino was there to witness David’s, let’s say, “incident.”
A long-term resident of the motel where David had worked for some fourteen years, Tish’s statements to the police and reporters in the days, months, and even years after the incident faced heavy scrutiny. And in all fairness, it’s not hard to see why. Tish was–and still is–an admitted drunk. To this day, some three years after the incident, Tish can still be found scuttling about the motel at her leisure, walking up and down and all around the place, hair a mess, and always sipping from a seemingly bottomless thermos of whiskey. When asked by one reporter why she felt compelled to drink so much, Tish plainly and simply replied, “I like whiskey.”
David, meanwhile, never had an opportunity to speak with reporters on account that he was dead. But had he somehow the ability to speak from beyond the grave, David likely would have wanted to clarify a couple of things.
First, David would have corrected Tish’s claims that she found him a “weeping mess” in the motel parking lot. For one, he wasn’t crying. He was merely worked up over the rather emotional phone call he had just finished with his wife. If anything, they were the scattered few raindrops of the restrained, though highly emotional storm raging within David. And for another, had he been crying–which he most definitely was not. But had he been crying, it was because–as he had already explained to Tish (who subsequently downplayed this crucial bit of information in most of her interviews)–David’s wife, Denise, had just then threatened to leave David and take their two children upon discovering that David had squandered their meager savings on a failed microbrewery.
And as David bared his soul in that motel parking lot, Tish drank. And as she drank, she thought about her own failed marriage. How she chose drinking and a surprisingly lucrative online poker career over her own husband and children. It had worked out pretty well for her, all things considered. Sure, she was living alone in a motel and unknowingly had a large mass growing on her liver. But even after child support, she was still clearing a cool three-grand every month, which had to count for something, right? And so, halfway through a heartfelt (and utterly tearless) recounting of how he had screwed up his whole life by following his dreams, Tish cut-off David with a seemingly harmless question, which was this: “What’s the worst that can happen?”
This brings us to the second thing that David would have clarified regarding his death: just how excruciatingly painful and frightening the whole ordeal was.
If you take Tish at her word, you come away believing David’s death was instantaneous, or close enough. One moment he was alive, the next he was not. And it’s a story that has proved a comforting thought for David’s family, especially Denise (who, after all this, eventually forgave David’s flagrant disregard for his family’s financial future). Sadly, Tish’s story simply isn’t true.
Now. In all fairness, from Tish’s perspective, one can clearly understand why she saw David’s death as instantaneous. Again, one moment David is standing in front of her, carrying on about his failed marriage and poor life choices. And then a moment later, David’s a pile of bones and clothes soaked and floating in the liquefied mess that was once his own flesh.
You see, Tish’s question had the unintended consequence of triggering, deep within David’s brain, the exact sequence of synapses–the precise chemical cacophony, if you will–required for the human body to self-destruct. In fact, it followed David pondering him living alone in a motel, much like Tish. (Maybe she can teach me about online poker, he thought). In a moment so rare it drove Dr. Patel to write listless and pedantic poetry about it for the rest of her life, David seized, in a manner of speaking, on the most horrific thought imaginable by the human mind. And while nobody has dared to replicate David’s findings to ensure the scientific accuracy of it all, everyone has mostly come to agree it must have been something particularly spooky. The argument here being that nothing capable of liquefying the human body–if not instantly, then at least as instant as the human mind can perceive it–could possibly be as banal as your childhood sweetheart (and mother of your children) leaving you forever. Nor could it be as silly as having one’s genitals slowly removed by way of a small, rabid mammal surgically attached to them. (This is, of course, done in such a way that the devouring of the genitals in a slower, more roundabout fashion is the preferred–and surely more obvious–manner of escape to even a creature as intellectually deficient as a moderately starved, intoxicated kangaroo rat).
To accurately describe David’s death requires details so outlandish that nobody would ever take them seriously. In fact, most reporters who initially interviewed Tish found the whole thing to be rather silly despite the obvious puddle of human goo carted away by local officials. Worse, such details would, aside from the most unprofessional of blogs, be unpublishable on a platform dependent upon ad revenue. Thus the best description we can offer that concisely yet safely encapsulates the grisly nature of the equally untimely demise of Mr. David Alexander is this: imagine a life-sized figure of a man crafted from lasagna melting beneath the heat of the midsummer sun, with its pulpy mess of tomato and chunky, gooey globs of meat and ricotta cheese slushing off in chunks, steadily revealing a skeleton that is, more or less, screaming in such a way that sounds like a frankly poor rendition of New Edition’s classic hit, “Mr. Telephone Man,” and all while gargling with Alfredo sauce. It was a frightful mess, to say the least.
As for how Tish’s view of this conflicts with David’s, simply imagine all this happening in slow motion. And just as the nightmare-inducing image of a man turning into what the bottom of a dumpster behind an Italian restaurant looks like is forever burned into your mind’s eye, slow it down several steps further.
* * *
Three days after the incident, yet another reporter from yet another newspaper–disturbed by the rather enthusiastic and flippant manner in which Tish spoke–asked Tish how someone could carry on with their life as if they hadn’t witnessed something so horrific.
Tish shrugged. “I like whiskey.”