Two Men Dying
“We only have six minutes until the oxygen runs out,” said Barry.
“Six minutes?” said Don. “You mean six minutes until our lives are completely over?”
“That’s right,” said Barry. “Well, maybe not six minutes on the dot, and we won’t die right away. Probably we’ll lose consciousness and then die.”
“Still,” said Don, “that’s a very short time before it all comes to an end.”
“Truly,” said Barry. “It’s very strange to know that. Death always seemed like something mysterious, something that would just show up unannounced and take you away.”
“Indeed,” said Don. “We’ve lived all these days, thousands and thousands of days, billions of minutes–”
“You mean millions of minutes.”
“It can’t be just millions,” said Don, frowning. “How many minutes are in a year?”
“I don’t know. The computer is offline.”
“You can’t do simple math without a computer?”
“I could just as well say the same to you.”
“Then, how do you know that it’s millions of minutes and not billions?” asked Don.
“Billions just seems like too high of a number,” said Barry. “We’re used to seeing numbers in billions and trillions that we don’t think of how incredibly large a number it is.”
“Well, do we have pen and paper?” asked Don.
“I do,” said Barry, “but I was saving it to write some last words to my girlfriend.”
“Since when do you have a girlfriend?”
“Well, she’s not really a girlfriend, but we were lovers once, and I thought she would be touched to receive a note from someone who had died in such circumstances. Plus, the guy she’s with is a total jerk. When she hears on the news about the note I left her, she will examine her life and realize that that other guy is not nearly as good as a life with me would have been. She’ll realize that life is precious, and not to be wasted, and she’ll have one final fight with him where she finally sees his flaws as damaging to her own well-being. And then she’ll drive off in an old convertible with their dog.”
Don nodded. “That makes sense. So, what were you going to write on the note?”
“I was thinking of, ‘Dear Jennifer, sex with you was my favorite.’ ”
“Do you think it needs more?”
“Why? You just said she was the best. Less is more.”
“Okay, cool. I just wondered if I should say something about feelings.”
“It’s all in the subtext,” said Don. “Don’t worry, she knows how you feel. You’re awesome, man.”
“Thanks,” said Barry. “You’re pretty awesome yourself.”
“Hey thanks,” said Don. “So… anyway, can we use the back of the paper to figure out the minutes per year?”
“Well wait, don’t you want to write something to someone you love?”
“Not really. I wouldn’t be out here if I was that attached to anyone.”
“Don?” Barry continued, after a moment.
“Were you waiting for me to ask you?”
“Ask me what?”
“You know… I mean, we’ve only got a few minutes left. It could be the last time we get a chance…”
“A chance to what?”
“To, uh… well, to um… ”
“…Never mind… Anyway, there’s 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year.”
“What about leap years?”
“At this point, Don, I don’t think it matters.”
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