Reasons to be Alive

Words by Michael Kruger

Published on June 27, 2014


It all started when I sat in the wrong seat. I had put my headphones on and was getting all settled by the window when the fat lady whose seat it really was arrived late and out of breath. She spoke to me like I was five. Afterwards, when we took off, I spilt the coke the nice flight attendant gave me and I just felt even worse. Then the plane crashed. Everything always comes in threes, it really does. Film taught me that. When we fell from the sky I tried breaking the world up into thirds through the lens of the window. The white of the clouds. The blue of the water. The red of the burning wings.

I wouldn’t say everything slowed down. Luggage tumbled. Men and women screamed. The pilot got on the intercom and started apologising. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, oh God, I’m sorry.” It reminded me of a song, and it made me want to kiss someone ‒ ’cause that’s what you’re supposed to do when the world’s gonna end, especially if there’s music playing. It was weird though, all the babies went silent, like they knew something we didn’t. I turned to one baby in particular to see if I could understand it and he looked me straight in the eyes. I wanted to put my hand around all of his small fingers more than anything.

Last week I taped a plastic bag to my head and fell asleep. That’s why I’m flying. My sister and her little kid found me, and it really fucked them up and she said I needed to go back and see the family. They’ve got a doctor waiting, and everyone told me not to bring sharp objects. “Like I could even get a fork on a plane these days,” I said, but they didn’t get the joke. On the drive to the hospital that night my sister had told me that I was selfish, selfish, selfish. It really got to me, her voice and the sirens wailing all at once, so I tried scoring some drugs off one of the ambos. He asked if I were still in pain. “Nah, man,” I replied, “I just need to drown out the sounds of this sad, fucking ride.”

My sister slapped me then, but later on she was real nice about the whole thing. She put her kid to bed and we stayed up and drank this new herbal tea of hers. I can’t really remember everything, but we got the blankets off the spare bed and lay on the couch together like when we were young. She asked me why I wanted to die, and I said it wasn’t like that, I just didn’t want to live ‒ if that made any sense. She went into the kitchen for milk and came back with a post-it note. At the top of it she put: ‘Reasons To Not Kill Yourself’. I was supposed to fill it out. I told her that the header was a little lame and morbid, and definitely too straight to the point, so she crossed it out and wrote: ‘Reasons To Be Alive’. We pretended that it sounded better and I stuck the post-it to the inside of my wallet. “If you’re gonna do something,” I said to her, “do it for the right reasons.”

I think everyone on the plane could tell now that the end was pretty close. There were still some people hugging, but the ones that were by themselves had stopped yelling. I guess it’s kinda nice in a way, ’cause I won’t have to feel guilty now. There’s nothing you can do about a plane crash. That was the hardest part about before, trying to justify everything to everyone else. I didn’t want anyone caught up in my shit, thinking that they shouldn’t have missed my birthday, or that they should’ve called more when Remy dumped me. Sadness doesn’t need an excuse. It happens, it’s involuntary. Like breathing.

It’s funny, I didn’t even finish my goodbye letter. I was sitting there, on my bed, with the plastic bag all ready to go, only I couldn’t think of another word for tired. At one point I even tried writing it like an acceptance speech. “I’d like to thank God, and my mum…” but I gave up. I guess I didn’t care that much at the time. And then, when I started and the air got thin, it wasn’t even that hard. I just counted the seconds in my head like they were sheep when you needed to sleep. I hardly had time to think.

Anyway, a suitcase must’ve hit my head on the last bit down, ’cause when I woke up I’d missed the crash, and I was still in my seat, floating upright in the ocean. There were definitely some bodies facing down nearby, but there was also a lifeboat by the carcass of the plane. People were yelling for others to swim closer. A few babies cried in time with the waves. I still wasn’t exactly sure if I was dead or alive or if the after-life was just seriously cold and wet, but when I saw my post-it note drifting on the water, all serene and movie-like, it hit me. I smacked at the water and screamed. There’s just no hope trusting anyone or anything these days. Not to call you back, or to love you, or to kill you. Not even a damn plane crash. Life will always find a way to fuck up and keep you alive. With or without a reason.

Michael Kruger is a writer based in Melbourne. In June he’ll present a series of slightly surreal stories about politics, religion and family.