This was the best way to die.
Not the cold, the struggling to breathe as my skin screamed and I tried to swim with heavy, numbing limbs.
Not the way some wayward piece of ship rammed into my skull and ended it, although that was better than drowning.
Would it have been the drowning or the hypothermia that got me first?
Maybe there are people out there who would say what a silly question, but I didn't know. That's what I was thinking in the water, how will I die tonight?
Also, I hope my cello isn't crushed.
I'm not sure why that was so important to me; I guess I just liked the image of it, sitting way deep down under the water, lodged in the thick silt with seaweed and fish weaving in and out of it.
But the hours leading up to the fall into the icy water, those were beautifully surreal.
At first there were whisperings, stirrings, the hints that something was wrong because you can always feel it in a crowd, when something starts to go wrong.
Sometimes that would throw me off, that crowd-flutter of anxiety, but on the night of my death, I felt so steady.
The music was warm and wavering and solid, holding me up, my bow casting a web of flowing sound that helped hold up the crowd, too.
I felt so powerful, in a quiet sort of way, a humble sort of way.
I thought, this is what's it's like to be God, isn't it? You do what you can to hold everything together, and even as it crumbles through your fingers, you can feel the tangible spaces of peace you created.
There's nothing like music to connect a crowd, the same notes flowing through everyone's ears, the same rhythms in their bodies, the same music in their minds.
I felt like I was doing something important.
I felt as if the distant screaming, the flickering pulse of person after person realizing they're about to die, it was all something fantastical. Supernatural.
Yes, there was something distinctly magical about playing on the deck as everything fell to pieces around us.
We were one entity, one orchestra, playing until death do us part, breathing the same notes.
One young woman in the crowd joined us too, for a moment, standing close and keeping her feet firm, her stance stable as everything collapsed; she watched the motions of the music and closed her eyes, swaying slightly, effortlessly joining our connection.
An older woman came and grabbed her arm, trying to pull her away, shouting words in her ear that were carried off by the chaos, but she kept her eyes closed, she held onto the music, until the woman gave a yank and she stumbled out, blinking, confused.
The older woman was screaming something about lifeboats.
The younger woman was shaking her head, glancing back at us, at the strings of my cello vibrating their deep, shimmering hum.
Giving up with a flustered flutter of arms over her head, the older woman rushed off.
Perhaps she lived.
The younger woman died, died with us as the deck tipped and we slipped off, and there was a moment where she met my eyes, in that still moment just before the fall is real.
We had stopped playing, just clinging to our instruments now, clinging to each other, to anything, the panic finally catching up with us.
But she met my eyes, and we both heard it.
The music, the same music holding us together.
I think if everyone had paused right then and listened, they all would have heard it too, but maybe instead it was only the two of us.
And then we fell, and the water was shockingly cold, and my lungs were screaming for air, and I was holding stubbornly against the urge to gulp in whatever I could, but I knew soon it would be too much and I'd fill my own lungs with water.
And I was thinking, I wonder how I'll die tonight.
And I was thinking, I hope my cello isn't crushed.
And my head was crushed instead.
And as I died, I listened to the music.