I have been doing some more transcription work on the side for a little extra money, although now that I wrote that first half of the sentence, I realize that that's not exactly how it has worked out so far. The company I am transcribing videotapes for has yet to cut me a cheque for my last job with them.

At any rate, but hopefully a rate of more than $0 per tape, I have been transcribing a videotaped interview with a veteran firefighter. While I have begun to feel more positive about the human race over recent days, I am now starting to feel the familiar anxiety about having to board a plane and travel internationally. To put it gently, it freaks me the fuck out. Listening repeatedly to this firefighter's stories of unsightly human remains and how they got to be that way isn't helping me feel any safer. This interview seems to be pulling out my worst imagined fears.

When we pulled the body from the car, it was basically only a torso. I should warn you. I don't want to gross you out...

I am not so bad with the idea of torsos. I have one. Everyone I know has a torso. We don't talk about them much, but there they are all over the place all the time. In fact, I would say that I am quite good with torsos. Torsos are fine.

...because, you know, generally the limbs just burn right off...

The firefighter has a Newfoundland accent, and although it is not that strong, it does mean that I have to rewind and replay, rewind and replay, rewind and replay to make sure that my transcription is accurate. This means that for about a minute I heard ...because, you know, generally the limbs just burn right off...because, you know, generally the limbs just burn right off...because, you know, generally the limbs just burn right off... After I had transcribed that lovely line, I was hit with

...and the head.

I really did not want to know that this torso had no head. For some reason, limbless is acceptable if not palatable, but headless is making me think of my inevitable demise in a fireball hurtling through the friendly skies or in a fireball hurtling along a rural road in Costa Rica. I guess it's because limbless can mean amputee, but headless only means decapitated.

You know, of course he had no fingers left, so I says to the guys "we should keep looking through them ashes", and sure enough, there were some little bones in there...

The firefighters tone changes here to sound as though he is leading us somewhere, somewhere that includes little bones, and I don't like it, because I can't stop. I won't get my $35 if I stop. Some editing person at a documentary television company will be less than pleased with me if I stop. The Fiery One will be disappointed if I stop, because this is for the television series that he produces.

...and his wedding ring.

Okay, that's it. Torso, fine. Limbless, fine. Headless, not so fine, but I've moved on. Wedding ring, not fine at all, especially when you consider that I have been moving through this story at a jerky pace of ten seconds forward, twenty seconds back. I have had a lot of space in between to type and mull over mental images of this limbless, headless, and now fingerless torso in a burnt out car. I have had a long time to emotionally build up to this moment of realization that this torso was a man with a wife and maybe some kids and a couple of cats. Little bones and a wedding ring.

Despite the fact that this torso does not have a name and that his demise is not technically related to my life (aside from my more intimate knowledge of how his finger bones were tossed across the floor of the car in the inferno), my anxiety latches onto the story. I could die on the airplane to Costa Rica. The road conditions in Costa Rica are listed as "fair to poor", so I fell asleep last night with images of my own head cracked open on a rock in a ditch after our jeep overturned. The travel clinic nurse warned me to seek immediate medical attention if I found blood in my stool resulting from food contamination.

I find it fascinating how anxiety can throw our minds ahead through time to envision worst case scenarios as though they have already happened. Future possibilities become like remembered histories, complete with sight, smell, and sound.

When I woke up this morning, I remembered the last moment of a dream in which I was on vacation, semi-conscious and face down in a moist layer of leaves at the side of a road. I could smell the heady fungal sweat of peat.

Will someone just give me thirty-five bucks to stop watching this videotape? Because I have to get on an airplane in eight days, and I am already white-knuckling my office chair.

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"Wedding-Ring" by Denise Levertov