The Life We Want
I was walking down a residential road in my hometown when something
struck me in the head from behind. The force of the blow sent me
staggering forward, then to my knees. When I looked up, only a second
or two later, I saw a large sedan—a Cadillac or maybe a
Chevy—screeching away with what looked like a golf club
hanging out. The golf club withdrew into the front passenger window as
I watched, but nobody looked out, and it was too dark—it must
have been nine at night—for me to see inside the back window.
I don't play golf, and in any case I couldn't recognize the club from
so far away, but it felt like one of those big, solid ones. I'm not
I just sat there for a while, on the gravel by the road, as there was
no sidewalk in that part of town, not really understanding what had
happened to me. Which is to say I couldn't come up with a reason that
anyone I knew would attack me like that. Finally I grasped that someone
had hit me with a golf club as a kind of sport—for
fun—but I still couldn't understand why. It didn't make any
sense to me that someone could completely disregard the rules of daily
life in this way.
I had been walking home from my girlfriend's house. I was seventeen
then, a senior, and getting ready to go off to college. I was
considered a well-adjusted youth—I remember that's what
adults would say about me when they thought I couldn't hear.
Eventually I got back on my feet just to see if I could, and I felt my
head all over and my hands came away clean—no blood. And so I
continued walking home. It was a good fifteen minute walk, but it
seemed a lot longer.
By the time I reached my house I realized my smartphone, which was at
that point only four or so weeks old, a pre-graduation gift, had fallen
out of my pocket, probably while I was seated on the gravel. But I
didn't feel like walking all the way back, and I didn't want to ask
anyone—especially not either of my parents—for a
ride. And so I went inside and straight to my room and locked my door.
I never did get my smartphone back.
I remember I felt so embarrassed about being attacked like that, as if
I should have known better or as if it showed how weak I was. I didn't
want to tell anyone about it if I could avoid it.
My mom came to my room and asked through the closed door if I was
feeling alright and I said yes, I was fine, but that I wanted to go to
sleep. She acted as if I were behaving strangely but eventually went
away and left me alone.
It was after she left that my head really began to hurt—I
mean like my skull was vibrating against a piece of concrete or
something. And I couldn't help it, I began to whimper. And then I was
weeping. So I took a clean white t-shirt and bit down on it.
But the pain kept getting worse. I realized that I needed to man up and
go to the hospital or I might suffer some serious consequences, might
even die. Soon I was convinced—I had somehow convinced
myself—that I was going to die. But I couldn't bear the
thought of going into a hospital and saying I was hit by a golf club
held out of a Cadillac—I felt as if that just wasn't good
There I was, convinced I was going to die. And I didn't
die—I'm here right now, obviously. I woke up the next morning
with a headache and that was that. But I had convinced myself that that
night was my last night on earth, and so I decided to write a letter to
everyone I loved. Then I figured it would be hard to write a letter
while I was dying, so I took out my laptop and decided to record a
video of myself saying what I wanted to say. And I've never shown
anyone this video—I'm too embarrassed to show it to
anyone—but I haven't deleted it. In this video I'm crying. I
say that I love my girlfriend, Hanna, even though I broke up with her
later, and my parents and grandparents, and my brother Jared. And I go
on and on, blubbering, listing all the people I know and saying I love
them. This takes about ten minutes. And then I lie down while the video
is still on and appear to go to sleep—I don't remember
exactly what I was thinking at this point. By the next morning the
recording had autostopped. I woke up and remembered what had happened
and realized that I was alive—I was so happy even though my
head still hurt pretty bad—and I watched the video, which
mortified me, I was such a weepy mess. I decided then and there that I
could never show the video to anyone, but I couldn't bring myself to
delete it, either. And that day was pretty much the same as any other,
as far as what happened—I went to school, etc.— but
the whole time I understood that I loved everyone, or thought I
did—I'm still not sure which. And the day came and went and
more days came and went and I never found out who hit me with the golf
club or why. But I still have the video. Sometimes when I feel down I
watch it by myself with my headphones on so nobody can hear anything if
they happen to be nearby, and oddly—or maybe it's not odd at
all—the video always makes me feel better.
Clancy McGilligan has worked as a journalist in Cambodia and Wyoming. This is his first published fiction.
Read his postcard.
Detail of photo on main page courtesy
of Joe Flintham.
W i g l e a f