Death dealt the cards Jack had shuffled. His hands weren’t bony or pale; they were large hands with hardened callouses. His fingers flew gracefully, everything about the motion casual and relaxed.
“I need more time.”
Death smiled. It was a genuinely kind expression. It made his eyes crinkle warmly. They were blue like the sky, and there was nothing hollow about them. His face was fully fleshed, albeit chiseled. He wore a simple plaid button-up shirt and blue jeans. He smelled of a subtle cologne.
“That is why we are here, is it not?” He replied. “So you may buy yourself more time?”
Jack trembled. He picked up his hand, eyes flying over the cards. He looked better equipped to the name of Death than the entity before him. He was shriveled in his white hospital gown, his bald head gleaming under the single light hanging from the ceiling. A diaper was wrapped around his waist because he could no longer control his bowels.
He was thirty four.
“If I win,” he whispered. His tongue flicked over his lips like a worm checking for birds. “If I win, I get more time?”
Death fanned out his cards. They were spaced perfectly, and his kind eyes moved over them without giving anything away. “That is correct,” he replied. “Five more years added onto your life.”
Jack began to tremble harder. He felt the fear down to his bones. He felt wetness seep into the godawful diaper, smelled the sharpness of urine. Death did not flinch. Their hands moved in unison, and he felt as though he had no control over the motion of his own arm.
He had three tens. A three of a kind.
Death had a flush.
The tears immediately began to run hot down his cheeks. “One more,” he rasped. “Please, please one more.”
Death’s blue eyes watched his face. He said nothing. The silence made him angry, and he stood, slamming his fists against the table so the cards shook and tumbled over the edge.
“It’s not fair! I…I’m not ready to die!”
Death continued to watch him. He reached out for a card and begin to spin it slowly, end over end, just fast enough that Jack couldn’t make out what it was. Still he said nothing.
But an ashtray appeared in the middle of the table.
Jack stared at it. The tears dammed up, and he felt a knot form in his throat. The ashes were full to the brim, nearly overflowing.
“How long would it take to fill that?” Death murmured.
Jack swiped his hands over his face. “A day,” he replied. “Maybe.”
The ashtray disappeared. In its place bloomed a bottle of rum, the amber liquid inside sloshing gently. It was half empty.
Death didn’t need to ask. Jack whispered, “One night.”
Sheets of paper unrolled across the table’s surface. He couldn’t bear to look at the doctor’s signatures, the warning signs, the omens from check-ups that he always ignored.
Silence reigned again until the bottle cracked. The glass fractured, and its contents spilled out, seeping into the paper like blood. Jack sat down again and raised his gaze back to the man across from him.
The spinning card came to a stop. The Jack of Diamonds stared out from it, boasting his own face.
“You shuffled this deck, Jack. You controlled the cards you were given. You were the master of your own fate.” For just a moment, a fleeting second, he thought he saw pain flash across the man’s kindly face. “Not everyone is so privileged.”
Death leaned forward. The card grew bigger, and the light faded as it encompassed his vision.
“The hand you were dealt was the one you made.”
The Deathly Dialogue
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Lily was awoken by a buzzing sound. She fumbled blindly trying to make the noise stop, sleep still resting in her eyes. It took her a moment to realize it was her phone ringing not her alarm. Who in their right mind calls someone at 1:30 in the morning? She looks lazily at her phone and sat up, instantly awake, as she realized who was calling.
"Luca?" She answered.
"I'm sorry, Lil" Luca's voice resonates softly through the phone.
"Luca?" Lily repeated as her heart raced. Nothing good comes from phone calls made in the middle of the night. Least of those that start off with an apology. "What's wrong?"
"I just....." He exhales shakily "I just can't do this anymore." He gasped sounding as if he was choking on his words. "I'm sorry. I just.......I love you." He paused for a breath as his words began to slur "did you know that?" He mumbled something she couldn't quite hear "I just wanted you to know. You know?"
"Luca? Where are you? Are you home?" Lily springs out of bed tripping slightly as she tries to maneuver out of her blankets.
He laughs quietly under his breath as if he could see her "You are the only good thing. The only reason. I wanted......You......I..... Forgive me?" She hears a loud crash. Followed by silence.
"LUCA!!!!!! LUCA!!!!!" She found herself running out the front door. She had to get to him. She had to know that he was alright. Her blood boiled and her bare feet stung against the pavement as she rounded the corner to his house. Barely pausing on the front porch before barreling into the front door. "LUCA!!" She scans the dimly lit living room trying to catch her breath "LUCA!!"
Upstairs, he must be upstairs. Her feet barely touch the ground as she flies to his room. Her body freezing the instant she sees him. Crumpled on the floor. His hair shielding his face from her view. "No. No. No" her voice barely a whisper as she makes her way over to him slowly. "Luca?" Her trembling hand reaches for him as she falls to her knees. "Luca? Can you hear me?" Her hand pauses just out of reach. Tears flowing from her eyes "Luca?" She gently touches him pushing the hair out of his face. His eyes opened but rolled back in his head. Vomit stringing from his lips. The warmth of his skin against her fingertips snapped her out of the shock. She looked down at her phone that she had a death grip on. Quickly dialing 911.
"911. What is your emergency?"
Lily's voice hitched and the words refused to be spoken.
"Can you speak?" The woman's voice wrapped itself around Lily in a calm comfort.
Life was happening in broken stages and blurred memories. Time passing both too quickly and way too slowly. As the 911 dispatcher tried to keep Lily calm and focused. Lily's arms burned through countless chest compressions until the paramedics took over. She hadn't realized they'd arrived. Pulling her away slowly. Asking her questions she wasn't sure if she even answered.
She found herself at the hospital waiting room with little memory of getting there. A police officer had been kind enough to drop her off. Taking her home briefly to gather her shoes. She paced the long corridors for an eternity drowning in the noisy chaos of the ER on a Friday night.
Jumping each time a doctor or nurse walked by. Praying for news. But none came until morning when they were able to track down his mother. She waltzed in, dressed to the nines, make-up painted perfectly upon her face, not a hair out of place. She begins speaking to the nurse at the desk. Hushed voices Lily can't make out.
"Ms. Lords?" Lily's voice cracking "is he" she stops herself unable to finish the sentence.
"Oh Lilian" she gushes "look at you. What an utter mess." Clicking her tongue and shaking her head. Lily instinctually looks down at her clothes. "To go out of the house while still in your pajamas. Don't you have any respect for yourself?"
"Excuse me?" The words seethed through Lily's lips "I'm sorry. I didn't have time to get dressed or do my hair, I was too busy trying to save YOUR son."
His mother laughs. Shaking her head "Dear sweet child. You should know better than waste your time on that boy. He is completely hopeless." Lily's eyebrows creased as tears formed in her eyes. "Honestly. If you keep making that face you'll need Botox before you are 20."
The nurse calls his mother to follow her. She shuffles in her too high of heels. Pausing momentarily looking back at Lily. "Well are you coming? God knows he'll want to see you when he wakes up."
Her mother shrugs "Apparently he can't even kill himself properly. Honestly, drug overdose. With these genes" she laughs.
Aunt Jenny’s Pasta
No family gathering was complete without a platter of Aunt Jenny's homemade pasta. The most tender noodles one could imagine; practically melting on the tongue. Sometimes she brought lasagna or gnocchi, but if you were really lucky, she whipped up her heavenly cheese ravioli, the likes of which existed nowhere else in the world beyond Aunt Jenny's kitchen. And her sauce was unparalleled - light, almost watery, yet rich with the brightest flavor.
Summer gatherings at her house were beyond dinners, they were more like family reunions (even though most of us saw each other every Sunday anyway). One by one, the cars would start lining Detroit Avenue, we'd make our way up the driveway and enter the house through the side door. The women would carry the desserts or whatever side dishes they were contributing, as the men toted the heavier jugs of wine - pressed and aged in my grandfather's cellar. The kids were either empty handed or did the light lifting with armloads of crusty loaves of bread.
After everything was piled onto the kitchen table, we kids would congregate out back, playing in the gazebo just beyond my Uncle Dan's garden. To this day, when I smell geraniums and marigolds, I think of that garden. They were planted among the vegetables because Aunt Jenny and Uncle Dan believed the smell repelled deer, raccoons, and other unwelcome foragers.
As the ladies tied on aprons and busied themselves preparing the meal, the men helped themselves to ice cold cans of Utica Club and unpacked the bocci balls.
Each Sunday, one "chosen" child was allowed the honor of grating the Parmesan. It was a big deal.
When dinner was ready, my brothers and the rest of the older boys were in charge of setting up the wooden folding chairs. Three tables, placed end-to-end ran the length of the room. They were covered with linen cloths, topped with white paper. There was never a "kiddie table." We all ate together, family style.
Aunt Jenny and Uncle Dan were childless, which was one of life's great injustices, and a heartache for them. So they lavished all of us kids with their love and attention and we adored them for it.
Uncle Dan died within months of learning he was ill. His was the first funeral to which I'd ever been. I remember he died in winter because Aunt Jenny was wearing a mink coat when she entered the funeral parlor. Inconsolable, she stumbled up to the coffin and crumpled onto the kneeler, asking, "Why? Why?" She would outlive her husband by over 20 years, never remarrying or even dating.
By the time I was in college, she was diagnosed with cancer. Now a woman, I joined my mother and all the aunts at my Aunt Jenny's bedside as she lay dying. She kept crying out, "Mia morte! Mia Morte!" My death. My death. I could not bear to watch her suffer. After gently stroking her forehead, I kissed her cheek and left, never to see her alive again.
When she died, she took her pasta and sauce recipes with her. The women of the family scoured her kitchen, her notes, her cookbooks and came up empty-handed. At every family gathering afterwards, someone would lament the absence of Aunt Jenny and her delicious dishes. Once, my Uncle Mike's wife remarked that she'd never really cared for Aunt Jenny's pasta and couldn't understand what all the excitement was about. You could have heard a pin drop. We all stared at her. It was like telling the Pope you never really cared for Jesus and didn't know why we made such a fuss on his birthday.
Years later, when my daughter was 12-years-old, she thought it would be fun to take cooking lessons at a culinary day camp during the summer. Each week, from Monday to Thursday, campers would learn to make foods from a particular cuisine. On Fridays, we parents would arrive an hour before pick-up, and the children would prepare and serve us what they learned.
On the Friday of "Italian Week," my daughter (in her little chef's toque and jacket) placed a bowl of pasta in front of me. The sauce was light, almost watery. I took a bite. Its flavor was rich and bright. The pasta was tender; so tender that it nearly melted on my tongue - and although it was delicate, I found it difficult to swallow past the lump in my throat.
My daughter looked at me and ask, "Mommy, why are you crying?"
I smiled through my tears. "Because," I said, "this is Aunt Jenny's pasta."
Cocking his head to one side, he observed her sluggish and weary movements. Bruises piled up on her arms and thighs, a purple and blue blanket over her ivory skin. Groans tumbled from her dry lips, echoing and ricocheting along the walls. The noises vacating her mouth were unpleasant, like nails against a chalkboard, but each time she writhed in pain, a euphoric sensation surged through his blood.
Amusement vibrated within his bones as he gleefully watched her struggle against the chains.
Taking steady, calculated steps towards her, he delicately ran his fingernails along the rusted chains. A sob ripped through the back of her throat as he repeated this motion over and over.
"P-please..." Broken stuttering poured out from her bloodied lips. "W-why.. are you..." Her words were suddenly cut short, as she began to vomit blood.
His hazel eyes darted down to the tiled floor, a vibrant red covering up any nearby white slates. Upper lip curling, he turned away, deliberately yanking on the chains as he moved. In between spurts of blood dripping from her mouth, her high-pitched weeping flooded away any other noise in the room.
"Christ!" The man finally spoke, animosity and irritation thundering in his tone. "Not even for one second– one fucking second, you can't shut your whore mouth?"
A small whimper resonated from her side of the room, but all crying had ceased.
Her mouth was shut, but blood began to gurgle from the corner of her lips, dribbling down her pallid cheeks.
"Much better." He gravelly muttered, gazing at her through shrewd and critical eyes.
Crouching down onto the heals of his shoes while still grasping onto the chains, he yanked her towards him with all of his force.
Anguished screeching tore through the rooms silence as her body was flung towards him.
"What the fuck did I say, you fucking slut?" The man roared, taking a fistful of her matted hair. "If you don't keep your pretty little mouth shut, I'll slit your throat and leave you to bleed." Digging into his coat pocket, he pulled out a dirty dagger, waving it before her widened eyes. "Don't fucking doubt me, bitch."
Continuing to keep a grip on her greasy hair, he tugged her even closer, until her eyes were directly aligned with his. Tears glistened over her amber irises, and a mixture of sweat and blood trickled down her forehead. As he absorbed all of her physical traits, a faint smile began to cross over his lips.
"I would be doing the world a justice, killing someone as ugly as you."
Silence bled through the walls as they stared at each other.
He continued, "'Cause, you know, life and death just repeat, over and over and over. You're ugly in this life and a hot piece of ass in the next. You should be thanking me for this opportunity I'm giving you."
The man paused, taking in all of her details again. Blood had stopped oozing from her lips, but the burgundy color had stained most of her face and clothes. Her eyes were dry now, irises full of anticipation.
"Why?" The one word eased smoothly from her lips, no hesitation underneath her inquiring tone. Anger flowed throughout his being at the sound of her voice, but answered her anyways.
Still grasping onto the dagger, he slid it straight across her neck. "Death is a gift to those plagued by life."
He was my closest friend back then. Always ready with a joke, and that endless smile of his that was reassuring in dangerous times. His name was William and he was a private soldier in my section. We became friends almost the moment we met, and were seldom apart.
The streets of Belfast at night were not for the faint of heart with frequent shootings and acts of murderous violence. We patrolled in section strength and were always alert for trouble. But that particular night was going to be very different, if only we'd known.
I trusted Williams reactions so I had him on point as we moved cautiously through the shadowy streets, silent we moved, conveying intentions only through hand gestures and with weapons loaded and ready.
Something caught Williams attention and he signalled to pause, I hurried to where he was crouched as he pointed out two shadowy figures about 50 metres ahead, just kids smoking I reassured him, and motioned for our patrol to move on.
I returned to my slot, mid-section as William gave the thumbs up, no one saw the tripwire as his boot pulled it taut.
The blinding flash and thunderous impact of the blast threw us to the floor, no one moved for a few moments. I gasped, checked I was okay, and checked the section.
Man down. It was William.
I ordered everyone into cover and grabbed the handset from the signaller, "Contact, contact, wait out", they would know instantly back at HQ that we'd found trouble, and other troops would be heading for our location almost instantly.
I inched to where William lay slumped over his rifle, he was unconscious, I gave the order "Watch and Shoot" and the rest of the section adopted firing positions, I tended Williams wounds as best I could using the pitiful bandaging that was issued, but the shock had set in quickly and he was sinking fast.
He died of his wounds three hours later and I cried like a kid.
Three days later and I was called to accompany my commanding officer to the morgue. Together we had to formally identify the body. I was given his dog tags, his bible and medals to prepare for his mother.
He lay as though asleep, though his head wounds were extensive. I noted that he was unshaven. Odd that even after life has exited the body, hair still grows a while. I said a silent farewell and we turned to sign the paperwork confirming victim ID, before heading back to base in silence, he was everywhere, all around us, laughing and my hands trembled with emotion.
I volunteered to attend his funeral and to be the one who gave his parents the knock. The Knock was the hardest part of all as I stood outside Williams home and tapped on the door. His mother greeted me, her face lined in tears as I handed over his personal possessions, all laundered, pressed. She clutched his medals and beret to her breast as I stood before her unable to hide my own grief.
Yet he was there also, holding her in silence. He gave me that smile and hugged his mother as she wept.
One day I found her walking with my grandpa.
She wore long, silky dresses and cherry lipstick
Her eyes dark voids of love bid farewell to him
And I stared at her for a long time, almost a lifetime
“Dime, tell me, do you want to dance?”
I accepted such dark invitation
Dance, oh dance!
Please don’t touch me
Just keep moving to this rhythm
The rhythm of “Llorona”
She kept smiling offering flowers to me
Cempasuchil, just like her perfume and her breath
She smelled like coffee, sweet bread, tamales, and mole
She finally sat, and I offered her tequila, she gladly accepted.
“Dime, why do people think I like to carry a scythe?
I like to dance with people
I like to see them smile
I like to see them bid me farewell after a long talk”
I tried to look into those empty eyes of her
She only seemed pleased
She never complained
I knew her job
She carried many people on their way back home
I said, bonita, why do you have such task?
She smiled again, and said,
“Life is not cruel. The ones who are cruel are all of you
You dare not live your lives
You dare not live your lives because of money
You cut each other with words sharper than a scythe
You spent your lives thinking about the future which does not exist
And you keep thinking about the past which is already dead (giggles)
You dare not love because you hate all of those who harmed you
You dare not love because you are afraid to love again
Yet you dare blame me when I come to pay a visit”
I undestand, flaquita, my petite lady, I replied.
Here’s is a rose for you.
She said, “Thanks. But roses are only
for the ones whose hearts are still beating
Cempasuchil is for the ones
who are lost in their way to Heaven
They’ll be more than glad to receive a flower like that.
Now, Señora mia, my lady,
Why are you always smiling?
She said, “Why be sad when one is resting?
There is only joy in knowing you’re going to Nirvana, Sky, or Heaven
It does not matter where you’re going or where you are from
Your journey here is over
You’re starting another one
Take it as if you were moving
Plus you don’t have to carry any boxes or luggage
Only a sack of sins and joys
Now, perplexed, I only saw how she stood up and
Cracked her knuckles and neck
and began to sing
With such a splendid and sweet voice:
“Life is a candle
Hidden in Tajin
Quetzalcoatl carries it
Anubis guides you and weighs your soul
While mighty God in Nirvana awaits
Life is a candle and when it gets weaker,
Inside the temples of Tajin
It is time for me to blow it off
And guide you through this path
This is the path where lovers meet
This is the path were lovers’ love never dies
That’s the only love from me my dearest children
La Catrina awaits for you...
In the temples of Tajin
And now is time for you to come.”
As she stopped singing such sweetest song,
I took her hand, and walked with her
Is time to come, is time to smile
The candle goes off...
"You've been living for too long," the voice hissed in the old woman's ear. "It's time for you to go."
The old woman shook her head vigorously. "No. Never, not until he comes home." The old woman stroked the old photo of her husband, and she let out a long, sad sigh.
The voice laughed. "You think he's coming home? You sad old woman!"
"He'll come home." The woman's voice sounded broken. "I know he will."
The voice materialized. "You have been knowing for quite a while, old lady."
The old woman met Death's gaze. He was not as she imagined him to be--he did not look one bit evil. He was wrinkled, like the old lady, and had soft, sad eyes. Eyes that had seen to much. Death smiled softly, and reached out his hands to the old lady. She did not take them.
"Just a little bit longer," the old lady whispered. "I want my husband to come home."
Death sat down next to the old lady. "And if he doesn't come home? Life is not a fairy tale, woman. You should have learned that by now."
The old woman hugged her husband's photo. "This is only a dream," she murmured, squeezing her eyes shut.
"Dreams are powerful things," Death whispered.
"A year," the old woman said. "Give me a year."
Death pondered for a moment. "Let's play a game."
The woman eyes Death warily. "I don't trust you."
Death reached out his fingertips towards the old woman. "Ah. Come with me now, old lady, or play a game with me."
"A quick game?" The old lady's breath was coming in short gasps, as if she, too, knew that her end was coming soon.
Death tipped his head to one side. "It's a game. My quick and your quick are two different quicks."
"Get on with it," The old woman snapped. "I don't have all night."
"But you do." Death's eyes danced with unspoken words. "Old woman, since you seem so intent on hiding from me, let's play a little game of hide and seek, shall we?"
"I don't..." The old woman trailed off.
"You don't want to?" Death tapped his chin. "Oh, so sad. I'm afraid you'll have to come with me, then."
The woman's eyes blazed. "I won't come with you!"
Death seemed amused. In an instant, he was standing in front of the woman. "Oh, you have spirit! I haven't had such an unwilling customer for a while. Sadly, Life isn't here for you. She gave in and gave you to me last night, and now I am here to claim you." Death's lips spread into a smile. "Life gave you up easily. She knows that you have been living far too long, and for nothing--a dead husband."
The old woman sucked in a breath. "He's not dead!"
Death's eyes were sympathetic. "Oh! Don't you think I would know whether he was dead or not? I remember claiming him, in fact--he was rather eager to leave this world, to-" Death paused and watched the old woman closely.
The old woman's eyes pricked with tears. "No..."
"Yes." Death sighed. "Life and Death are unfair, old woman. Life and I don't usually make exceptions for people just because they want us to make a exception."
"My husband..." The old woman gazed down at his picture, and a tear trickled down her cheek.
"Won't you come with me now?" Death's voice was soft. "You'll see your husband again. You can be together again."
The woman looked from Death to her husband's picture. "I... I think..."
Death leaned forward, licking his lips eagerly.
"I think that you are lying," the old woman retorted.
Death stared at her. "He misses you. He wants to be with you, he yearns for it."
Tears streaked the woman's face. "I don't believe you!"
Death grabbed the old woman. "He wants you," he hissed. "But you don't want him!"
"I have children, and grandchildren!" The old woman exclaimed, yanking herself away from Death. "I have to take care of them, even if my husband is dead like you say!"
Death's eyes burned with a dark fire. "Think hard about your choice, old lady," he growled.
"Get away from me!" The old lady screeched.
"Fine," Death said, and dissolved into darkness.
The old lady woke to crying, and her oldest grandchild came rushing into the room. "Help!" She gasped.
The old lady rushed into her room, and her heart ached at what she saw.
Lying in her crib was her youngest grandchild, and when the old lady picked her up, her skin was cold, her eyes dull.
And the old lady hung her head and cried. Life and Death were unfair.
They say it is the shortest part of the process, the shortest but the most intense. If one can last the flight of youth, the lengthy lingering of middle age, the subtle stagnation of being elderly and, perhaps infirm at that, then the transition would seem quick.
It is worth mentioning, of course, that while the whole of the process and the number of accumulated years might vary, the transaction still completes the same way for each of us. We breathe, we breathe, we breathe and then the air recedes, the blood stills, the pain fades, the brain shuts down all systems like a shop manager closing up. The store is there, still and solid, but with empty shelves, absent customers, cobwebs clouding corners and dust piling up.
In childbirth it is the same, you know. Transition is the shortest part, filled with long languishing labor pains, a constant undulating tightening wave racing east to west around the belly without fail. It presses in. It presses down. It forces life from life, miracle like and marvelous.
We cry for mercy in any case. We cry for hope. We cry for an end to the pain and that mercy presses in and it presses down. It forces life from life to wherever it goes next, miracle like and mysterious.
And those of us who wait, who watch, who stay behind, we witness that great mystery, that soft miracle, that marvel. The grief pours in with the ebb of breath. Sometimes it brings along relief, sometimes wonder, sometimes anger. This is our transition, a series of perpetual transitions, a dialing of numbers and outpouring of words or tears or memories until we have only that hollow space, here, beneath the ribs.
At night we feel that space, holding air, holding grief. We hold it gently there, like a sacred word spoken in the dark. We worry that we'll forget if we speak it. We worry that we will be forgotten. We worry that we will fade from this world to nothing, to everything, to white light.
We wonder what any of it will mean then. We wonder about the arguments and the tears, about the organic foods, the chocolate bars, leaded or unleaded, gluten free, half price, full time, all roads leading fast into the woods or the desert or the inner city.
Then a breath, and another, and a third. We breathe, we breathe, we breathe. We remember that our heart still beats. We remember that the earth is round. We remember that though the waves rush across the belly east to west, tightening without fail, that this is the shortest part, the transition.
But we don't believe it in that moment, we hold to that hollow space just beneath the ribcage. We press our hands to that space. We press in, we press down until at last we force life from life. We deepen into the dark at last, pulling out life - blinking and reluctant, miracle like and marvelous, mysterious and merciful.
We left through the back door, and went left, rather than the usual right. I tried to start conversations the entire time but it became increasingly clear that Rag had something on his mind. The mid-winter air was cold, and we could see our breathe. Mine grew more and more frequent as I spoke, but Rag’s remained slow. He was slow, and sluggish. That wasn't like him. Rag was quick.
About halfway to the view point we reached a bridge. It was a bridge I had seen and crossed countless times before. One sides, a string of house and the hill down the view point, the other the neighborhood center of West Seattle. Under the bridge was a road that in the gorge it ran looked more like a concrete river. The fall was long down to the bottom.
About halfway on the bridge, Rag stopped. I called out, ‘Rag?’
He looked at me. he put his hand on the railing that ran the right side of the bridge. He put his other hand on and pushed up, pulling himself onto the ledge. His feet found their way on and he stood. His back towards me, face out over the gorge.
‘Rag! Get down you will hurt yourself!’
He looked slightly back at me, ‘Do you ever think about doing it? Killing yourself?’
‘No. I don’t.’ I lied
‘I do. All the time. It sounds kind of nice. Just a complete freedom from everything. From life, and from un-wanted death. A freedom from addiction, and a freedom from the past. Freedom from desire, and place and everything shitty about the world.’
‘It’s also freedom from everything good in the world.’
‘Name on good thing about the world.’ He left me speechless. ‘What if I did it? Right now? What would happen?’
‘Rag please get down! I need you! The world needs you!’
‘No. Neither of those things are true.’
He wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t want this. ‘Rag please don’t do this! What about Chris, or your mom!?’
‘I just don’t like it. I don’t like not being in control. I feel trapped.' he breathed. 'I want to know freedom.' He paused. 'One day you will all know freedom.’ And with that he let himself slide off. It wasn’t graceful. His foot kicked out, and he feel face first, hitting his head on the way down. I screamed out in agony as I watched his body fall. I had stopped by the time I heard, and saw it hit the ground with a grotesque bloody slap.
A car had slammed to a halt when he jumped, and now the driver was rushing towards me. I buried my head in my knees and started crying. Crying harder than I ever had, or ever would. The driver called nine-one-one and was explaining what he had seen. He requested an ambulance but it was too late. I saw Rag’s brain on the pavement.
Rag was the first person I ever knew to die.