Mortality, Christopher Hitchens
Twelve, September 4, 2012
The words lived, and then, in a careless instant, they perished.
Oh, God! Please. I beg you. Please, please bring ’em back. All that potential cannot be kissed goodbye. Taken away.
Unthinking, panicked invocations to a higher being indubitably offered no reasonable promise of retrieving everything lost.
I know. I should have had a backup. I know already. But established nuggets of wisdom render meaningless to someone battered by my predicament. Peddle judicious counsel elsewhere.
Mine was a stupid yet characteristic mistake for the writer altogether reliant upon a computer: selecting “Save” instead of “Save As.” With several perfunctory clicks of a mouse, I opened a work-in-progress document for use as a template on a future composition, deliberately typing over extant text in one section, while deleting still flourishing contents below through to the end. The secondary file should have been renamed at that point, in order to keep the previous version intact. Nevertheless, two-fold preservation failed due to an errant arrow point, and an earnest embarkation regarding Mortality, along with profuse notes on the book, passed beyond virtual and physical memory. An outward record of my thoughts on the memoir, as well as quote after Hitchens quote that awed from the moment I felt personally addressed on page one, were suddenly relegated to the form of a digital phantom intent to haunt.
Meanwhile, a submission deadline for my publication loomed.
Shit! I do not deserve this.
Shit is right. As frustrated as I was about effacing a list of extraordinary book excerpts transcribed mostly for inclusion herein, an absence of anger over the obliteration of my own locutions registered with sobering articulation. Truth be told, the draft I started amounted to a load of crap. Parts were overly sorrowful, entirely disingenuous with Hitchens, who represents sentiment antonymous to pity. An imbalance of my sentences sounded forced; affectation opposed the effortless prose from the author at hand. Also, could I, with creative élan (i.e., a disrespectful infusion of too cute by half), reconstitute the voice of an individual whose own words moved me with commanding dignity? Hardly. My approach took a misdirected course from the onset, steering toward a mawkish disservice far from the honor I aspired to impart.
I struggled for hours, considering options about how best to reconstruct erased paragraphs anyway, until finally accepting that an exact original replacement could never exist again, nor should it.
After curses and exclamations of Why me?—to which Hitch, a colloquial friends shared and I borrow humbled by the privilege, would pragmatically reply “Why not?” just as he resolved when questioning his more daunting but, by his candid assessment, banal esophageal cancer diagnosis—I deliberated the ramifications of lacking backup. A night’s rest and intense circumspection produced resolution. I could start over.
Christopher Hitchens is dead. The terminal man accepted that well-intended prayers were incapable of sparing his life. Nothing can ever regenerate his influential voice, his wit, or his devilish intellect. A separate miracle, however, grants some solace. He saved himself the only way believed expedient. Hitchens made what turned out to become his final compositions recoverable.