At 12:46 I get on the train. The airport, 43 minutes away, awaits. I have two to six hours to live. Sure, my ETA is only five hours away, but we can’t rule out that I do not die on impact. My face broken, my body worthless, I struggle to live for an hour or three, eventually succumbing just before found. “It’s not as bad as it sounds,” I would say, Later. “My condition was so critical and my body so compromised that there wasn’t anything they could have done, just (perhaps) give me something to ease the leaving.”
“Or, I suppose, be my last human contact.” (Everyone else is dead or thrown distant) but really would you want that to be it for you? I originally assumed that I would rather go out alone than to close on some perfunctory intermission, a taut-smile pat interaction that is essentially customer service, but I have to wonder how Dying Me would feel…
Ok. Now instead of everyone else dying/having died/getting thrown there are a bunch of survivors in varying degrees of injury. The least compromised wander the wreckage scouring for survivors and eventually one finds me.
He’s in his thirties but still in good shape. He has a gash across his temple, but its under control: it’s ‘of blood’ but not bleeding. Good platelets; the blood mixed with dust dirt or ash (its hard to tell) has gelled up and to the side the front of his close crop hair. His royal purple U-Dub sweatshirt is torn at the shoulder and dirty. I’m not sure how this would have happened without evident injury, but it did, and it really sells the we crashed act.
He touches my shoulder. He looks into my eye. I still have two, I think, but the left is so smashed and blood covered it no longer counts (as anything). He looks into my eye and silently mouths the name of his lord and savior. He seems concerned and under his breath he mutters something I can’t quite grasp, no doubt in response to my terribly face and body and hands. Well, hand.
As he continues to unaddress me, it occurs that I haven’t heard anything but my own head for as long as I can remember. In isolation it has provided a droning, tinnitus kind of version of “Let It Bleed,” muddy and underwater. So now there’s that.
Still: I blink twice, real hard to signal that I understand what he’s saying but I don’t understand what he’s saying. Everyone can read lips until there’s not any words to accompany. And by blink I probably mean wink.
He seems genuinely upset and, yep, that clinches it, I see tears leave his two functional eyes. Granted, the situation has to get credit for most of it– both the crash in general and having to witness all these someones dying (this is when it first occurs to me that I am definitely going to die)– but at the risk of being presumptuous-cum-unhumble, or excessively narrativizing these scattered facts, I think part of it is me.
He doesn’t want to see ME go. Having only just met me, and having no actual content to go on, he knows. He still knows that this death is extra-tragic.
This interpretation is contradicted somewhat when, without so much as having wiped his nose with his sleeve, he leaves. Dashes off to try to help someone worth saving. Or, being fair to myself, but also nightmarishly brusque, someone he is able to save.
‘Maybe he couldn’t stand to watch you go,’ offers the tiny version of my mom who stays in my brain. ‘It was probably too painful.’ I thank my brain-mom and struggle to reorient myself in time and place. My eye, having found it easy to focus on Ryan’s face (I’ve named him Ryan), can’t figure out the sky and it’s feature-lite unfettered and unfettrable reach.Now what?
Now what: no sound, limited vision, can’t tell if I can or can’t speak. Probably not is a safe bet, and certainly not more likely than yes. And even if I could speak what would I say?
“Ok, so I’m dying. This is it, I guess. … How much longer do I’ve got? I’m sorry– do I got. Do I have. Ugh. Here I am on my death… pile of plane scraps and I can’t stop correcting my own dumb grammar, berating my self-correction, and then noting the whole process. Don’t kill me. Might as well try, right? Where was I….
Well, first off, I’m surprised by how much this doesn’t hurt. I don’t really feel much of anything, actually. Whether that’s because of shock or extensive nerve damage or a plain old shattered spine I guess I’ll never know. Not that it matters at this point. It still doesn’t matter, right? Please don’t kill me? No? Ok.
I wish I could say that there are so many thoughts running through my head right now and that the reason I’m so tongue-tuckered is I can’t pick just one, but that’s sadly not the case. There’s plenty of signal batting back and forth (so much for the nerve damage scenario?), but it’s all adrenaline, and panic, and content-less re-and-misdirection. And then, amongst all that, this tiny and quickly shrinking pocket I’ve stuffed myself away into. Into which I’ve stuffed myself, into which I’ve myself stuffed. Shit.
Ok. Back on track. Words of advice, words of advice… well, do something pretty while you can. Not mine, but true nonetheless. Because being my intellectual property is a chief determinant of truth value when it comes to judging thoughts. No. No time for joking. No time especially for hypervigilant self-deprecation and inter-sentence wordplay. As opposed to intra-sentence wordplay? Exosentence wordno. Stop it.
Or start it. Why change things now that I am this close to dying?
Four lines. Four lines close. Four lines left.
Maybe. Shit. When I fill them then what?
Got. Choose, ca–good. Only 1.5 left. My life,
like this notebook, is small and college-ruled. Shit.
Ok. I’m fine. What a disappointment that was! Not not dying but the complete nothing my last four lines were. Also not dying. Weird. Didn’t think I would want it to happen so bad. Or at all. Maybe it’s better than waiting once you already know it’s going to happen.
Guh. This sucks. Maybe if I take a lookaround break I can say something better. Unable to hear it, I forgot I was actually saying all this out loud. Well, trying to at least.”
The switchover is painful. For the first time it hurts. In the bubble, in the pocket, I must have been disconnected from everything else. Couldn’t perceive my surroundings, couldn’t figure my body or the developments going on therein, nor a notion of it as it was last remembered before the attempt to talk. And from the few people surrounding, staring, it seems to have been successful at least in part. Ow. ow ow. ow. Or. ow.
Or maybe not. If I know me, I’m probably screaming. It hurts. All of a sudden, everything hurts.
The sky is yellow. Why is that?
The pain wins, and I seem stupid for thinking it could ever not. Five people watch me. Sweatshirt is back– David, wasn’t it? And with him four more. The pain (ow; ow) is enough that I can’t even put their faces and features together to form four distinct people. With every blink (wink, technically)* they change, become a whole new batch of people who, like the sky– feature-lite, ever-ending, yellow– can’t seem to place me anywhere other than beneath it. Them. Ow. ow. ow. Shit.
*Is it a wink if you only have one eye, or are they all blinks? Can you never wink or is it just apparent through body language, context?
Fuck. Ok. If these are the people around me, and all of these people are around me, I decide that I must be the only one left who’s neither dead nor relatively fine. With nothing to do but wait for help to arrive, I decide, they’ve gathered around me like a fire so as to watch, feel me flicker out. I don’t blame them, whoever they may be.
Ok, I blame Don a little. And I would blame the rest but I can’t catch them for long enough to fix faces to the blame. I decide to decide I can tell exactly who they are so that I can hold it against them.
Old black man, nice– no, kindly.
A teenage girl, long ponytail and braces. Not bad looking but with the thankful combination of baggy clothes and not-yet-interestedness to avoid unacceptable pants reactions.
The girl/woman/lady of my dreams and the man she married instead of me round out the four.
Her indefinite pronoun reflects my transitional state but also hers too.
Her husband is older. His posture isn’t posture but physical fact.
To his face I paste a slight smile: a secret, hidden so that only he and I can find it.
Now that I’m dying, he thinks (we think) he is safe. Home free.
She looks at me but doesn’t look at me, not as much as I-slash-we deserve. I think and then realize (decide) that words were important in convincing her to not love me that way and now she’ll never not be mine.
Not, ow, not, ow, unless, ow, and I reach to speak:
“I know, ok. We’ll never be together. I know this now. Ow. Owwwww. And it hurts to admit it, and it seems dumb to even entertain this thought now, but die like you live, right? Right. Ow.
But so what. You’re not that great. Not that much completely better than every other lady I would have ever met and have had a passing chance with. Not that much funnier. Not that much smarter or nicer. I think I’m supposed to use ‘kinder’ when referring to people I want to put it in, instead of nicer, as nice has that platonic quality to it, but I also don’t care about that right now either.
Sure– I obviously do or else why would I have said it. But storywise, narratively, I don’t. So there?”
At this point it is apparent that whatever you’re saying you’re not saying. If you’re forming words they’re ow they’re oh god, oh OW they’re. They’re not the ones you think you OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW
They. They can’t look at you any longer and, crying, turn away, leave forever. You take one last look around because OWWWWWneitherwww neither you can’t neither OW neither you can’t.
It’s YELLOW. Why is it yellow?
“Oh god. Oh god oh god oh God. There’s still a little bit of room here but it’s not much and not muchening. What else? What’s left? Dream girls are the worst, right? Right? Seriously , I need your help to even affirm that my thoughts are correct, make sense, right now, it’s all. Right now it’s all Saucer Section and Battle Bridge, and– nacelles cracked, hull breached– we’re looking at low-to-no maneuverability. Running on impulse only (if that).
Why do I still remember that but not my own name? Or how I got here? “Here”. Everything’s ending, I know that. And the girl with the world’s perfect thighs, the ones the globe calls its own, I know she’s gone now. She was here and I met her. We talked, I talked I talked her into it and she agreed, her thighs tensing at my touch and my tongue , for some reason yellow against them , kindly cracking them open, the tip tracing the places for her muscles to relax. Now where?
Her thighs, in small shorts.
Her thighs, too round for her thin and thinning pants.
Her thighs, butterscotch to match her eyes, did they used to be yellow?
Her thighs, on and around me.
I don’t get it.
Now: she smiles. I think. It’s hard to tell.
Now: feels as if every inch of my body is accounted for. That the whole thing is in its entirety and I can feel it every inch. And I can feel it. Each word, pressing to get out and just barely emerging just to. No.
Need to be careful now.
It’s not. Just. Her thighs.
Not. Not right. But also that.
But also: her arms.
Her big arms, in her sleeves.
Not strong but not fat.
Just so much of it. Her arms.
And,. As if. Just by. And with them. Her. And Later.
The screen duets you suddenly, and the bell rings, catching you on guard.
As you pray it waits for you to finish, de-escalation pressure keeps ringing, and you try to remind yourself of someone who dreams of you:
someone who sweats strong scents picturing your half face cradled on their open breasts,
someone who, weary, wanting it, would rest your head there if it should crash.