The other day I remembered an ancient Egyptian proverb I once read somewhere. “We all die twice. First when we stop breathing and then again, a bit later on, the last time someone says our name.” The proverb appeared as a perplexing non-sequitur in my internal monologue while I was driving my car past a KFC. It was just after 1.15pm. The song Never Ever by All Saints was playing on the radio. The sky was empty-seeming and windswept.
Around 9 minutes later I was in the car park of a large nursery retailer. I was on my phone looking up the ancient Egyptian proverb. On a forum, a person called “moose_man” said that the proverb did not come from the ancient Egyptians but was first spoken by the anonymous street artist, Banksy. Another person called “HurricaneDNA” disagreed: “I believe it was actually David Eagleman who said this first.” I typed “David Eagleman” into Google but before I could read the results a man knocked on my window.
He asked if I was Oscar. I said yes. He told me he had been waiting for me and asked me to get out of the car. “Have you installed a bub seat before?” he asked. He wore a red polo shirt with a badge on it that said: “Baby on Board.” His hair was pulled back in a tight bun. It looked like he had shaved his widow’s peak to make his hairline straight, but the widow’s peak was beginning to grow back, leaving a patch of triangle shaped stubble on his forehead. He was grinning and not making eye contact. I told him that I had never installed a baby seat before. He said it was “too easy” and then installed a baby seat I had brought along with me in the backseat of my car. I was paying him money for this service, which had come recommended when we bought the baby seat a few weeks earlier.
I then asked the man if he could show me how to strap the baby in to ensure its safety. “Where’s the baby?” he asked, turning his head around both ways dramatically like the baby was somewhere nearby and had escaped. I looked around too, but then I said, “it isn’t here yet.” He said: “Of course it isn’t here yet.” Then he showed me how to strap the baby into car seat. He said we could pretend that his arm was the baby, to practice. I carefully held his white, hairless forearm and placed it in the baby seat and strapped it in. He referred to his arm, at that point, as “bubbsy”. He began wriggling his fingers. “This is where the legs go and they will really wriggle like this,” he said. “Like tiny frog legs.”
Later, when I showed J how to use the baby seat, I could still see the fingers wriggling where the real legs will shortly go. It was like the man had momentarily conjured the baby. I thought about the wisdom of Bansky, but inverted. If we die twice how many times are we born?
Shining Water, an essay by Frank Moorhouse (RIP)
Scenes from an Open Marriage, an essay by Jean Garnett
Two stories, by Willy Miwa
On Marble, an essay by Rachel Cusk
A scene, from The Simpsons
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As always, brilliant.