Is there greater proof of our own finite span than a sunburn's red sting? Skin in itself, we rarely give it much thought. The occasional itch. The glance in the mirror each morning, to double check our two chins. A scab here and there, that subtle scrape and its bite. It's our own overcoat, old and unwanted. Just there, really. Only when the sun reminds us once more that we're nothing but flesh do we groan with dismay: Ah, death -- I now feel thy sly touch.
For if we are honest -- and who wants to be honest, but what the hell, let's tie one on -- the pink burn that delights is but death's lazy doorman. Surely the hesitant tilt of our head when we've kissed the sun far too long is some kind of indifferent guide to the underworld that awaits when the coffin's lids creaks its way shut. Think of it: If death is the absence of life, the destruction of comfort, a blackhead extended outwards in round steady cycles, then what better prep can we have than a slap to our skin that makes life itself but a chore? Sitting, showering, bending our knees and looking left and now right -- good God, what a pain, after a sunburn's first night. You start to resent being awake. Being aware.
The sun. The light. Give me some cold, a soft soothing touch that might still sway with a swoosh all that lies underneath. No deal, boss. No stroking here; no relief. You will crash on that couch with a groan and wish the black to come back. No more of light's brilliant booth, its cozy niche in the corner. Just give me the black, straight up, and let me be the rock.
These thoughts take me back -- a few centuries, even further. For who can imagine what it must have been like to endure such a sun when the shade had its home at the base of a tree? And only the tree? Think of that shade! What an oasis it must have seemed to the mad and the dazed and the sun-drunken pilgrims! I can go inside with some air-con, and french-kiss its cold tongue. What relief did they lack! Can I call them my own brethren, if I've not felt that red mark on each moment of time?
Perhaps there's still hope. I can discover what they might have known. Some tricks. Approaches to life, even. I could lay out on the grass, shirt off. Underwear whipped at the sky like an archer's last arrow. Quite nude. Let the sun brand itself on my skin. I could lay there for two, three hours. Two, three days. Build up some kind of resistance. Let the hurt hurt so bad that it must do nothing but morph. (Can one feel pain for so long that it becomes ecstasy's final spurt? Are they cousins, in fact, agony and great bliss?)
Quite soon I could be as red as the sun when it sets on an early spring eve. Callused, I'll be. Nothing could hurt me anymore. Impervious. Pain as both antidote and elixir. My sunburn's covert role as the lazy doorman of death might keep that door half ajar, trying to coax me to enter. Instead, I'd just lay there, sizzling.