It’s an odd thing to decide on paper the fate of one’s body. I did so about a decade ago. We sat there in our lawyer’s office, the wife and I, and we stared down at our last testaments. They stared back, blank and bone white, like moribund reminders of the fact that we’d leave behind flesh after death. There were four boxes from which we could choose: burial, cremation, educational use, or government study. The first two are pretty self-explanatory: six feet down or burnt to a crisp. I’d imagine that if I checked the third, I’d end up on one of those burnished stainless-steel examination tables, covered partially by a white sheet, while some medical student stood above with trembling hands and a false mask of indifference glued onto her face. But the fourth? Government study? What the hell does that entail? I didn’t know, so of course I filled in the box with my indelible ink. I’m sure they’ll use my body for something mundane like a ballistics test, but I had grander aspirations. Maybe they have me on some sort of clandestine list and maybe they’re watching me right now. Maybe, when I die, they’ll swoop in and harvest my brain. And then, obviously, they’ll implant it into a superhuman body that’s been engineered in a lab; it’s been waiting for me, floating in a huge tube of pinkish fluid, far underground in an Antarctic bunker that we’ll never know about. They’ll plug me into a supercomputer and I’ll be taught Kung Fu and automatic weapons mastery via a fiber optic cable. And then I’ll be unleashed after minimal pomp and circumstance to fight crime across the globe like an ultra badass. I’ll see my family from time to time, but I won’t be allowed to make contact or else a small bomb slash tracking device that’s implanted in my head will detonate. It’ll be rough, but it’ll be better than the permanence of a dark and endless death. I’m just too damn rational to be anything other than an agnostic, so unfortunately, this is my only hope for an afterlife.
But why wait? This body of mine doesn’t have any cool upgrades like carbon fiber bones or x-ray eyeballs, but I workout and I’m only thirty-six. I’m just as arrogant as anybody, so I’d like to think that the C.I.A. will end up reading this. These few paragraphs could serve as my job application. So here it goes…
Dear the C.I.A.,
I’d like a job as one of your sexy and mysterious spies and/or assassins. All I’d really need is a nice suit and a better haircut. You could direct deposit into my checking a monthly stipend and I could drive around Durango, Colorado in a rugged Jeep Wrangler to keep up my disguise. I’d carry on me at all times my encrypted government cell phone, and when you finally called, I’d answer it with a disaffected expression and a hushed monotone voice so “they” couldn’t find out what you were telling me to do. I’d kiss the wife and kids goodbye, and then I’d board a private jet enroot to a yacht that’d take me to an exotic locale. I’d shoot a couple bad guys, save the day with a cheeky remark for punctuation, and then come back home to complain about a boring business trip.
Don’t you see? It’s perfect. You wouldn’t even have to engineer an elaborate cover story for my identity because I’ve got it covered thanks to the thirty-six years of pedestrian life that I already have under my belt. They bad guys would never be able to unearth my real identity as a super-spy because my alias as a “boring middle aged man who works in the oilfield but dreams of being a writer” is just so depressingly airtight that it’d withstand any amount of scrutiny. Of course, this little letter might give us away, but I’ll delete any evidence that I ever wrote it if you hire me.
Anyway, judging by the amount of time that I’ve been spending on Netflix lately, I’d say that I can start immediately. I’m sure that you already have my phone number and email address, so just give me a shout whenever.
J.J. Anderson (but my code name would obviously be Dirk McNinja)
This is where I’ve been lately. I’ve been hoping for something more. The oilfield is imploding, and while I’m still milking out a paycheck, it’s impossible to avoid reading the writing on the wall. It’s in broken English (because it was written by a redneck), but I know what it means. The obvious effect of fossil fuels on this planet is leading this industry into extinction. Isn’t the irony hilarious? So I’m looking elsewhere. Maybe I’ll just be a fulltime student when the axe finally falls. Hell, school starts tomorrow, and I could always add a few more credits and try to get it over with sooner rather than later. Or it might be better if I became a real estate agent. I love looking at houses, but I don’t like people all that much so this route is dicey at best. And the way I see it, even though the open letter you read is absurd at best, who knows? Maybe you’ll see me downtown next week driving around in an old Jeep with a new phone plastered to my ear. Either way, I’ve had this pervading feeling of “something has got to give” lately even though I know this paradigm is fallacious. Nothing ever has to give unless you make it give. Nothing is ever going to change unless I facilitate change despite my sanguine optimism.
So here I sit, going over the options. That’s not to say that I’m going to choose one today because I’m not. I just wanted to check in with you. I just wanted to give you one more little piece of nonsense to read before I start school on the morrow because alas, you won’t hear from me until the summer. But if you’re a bad guy, and you see me in your rear-view sporting a dashing new haircut and wearing a dapper new suit, it’s best that you start running from Dirk McNinja.