I tried to clean the spilled coffee off of my shirt with the gray linen handkerchief – but I couldn’t, of course. I felt the hard pavement pushes against my back coldly – I couldn’t really feel, of course, but that’s what it would have felt like if I could. Looking up – once again, I couldn’t really look – the indomitable sky scrapers looked back at me blankly.
It was an autumn morning. One minute ago, I was walking down the street with a cup of coffee, when, of all things, a toilet seat fell from one of the skyscrapers and hit me in the head. As I looked around me, I could see that the toilet seat managed to land gracefully on the ground without any signs of damage. I had no such luck.
A significant crowd has gathered around him. I could hear the snickers, the sighs, the rare sob. Soon, the sound of a siren will soar through it all, and me – my corpse to be more precise – will be hauled away, and the crowd would part, scuttling along their little lives. It would be as if I had never existed.
Twenty four minutes ago, on my way to work, I had driven past the very ambulance that will be carrying his dead body.
A hand reached down. “I thought you might need a hand.” I took the hand and got up. I looked at my watch. “You’re late,” I said to the adolescent girl that stood before me. “Two minutes to be exact.”
“Oh yeah? Kill me.” The girl stuck her tongue out and winked. I found her to be unfathomable. She was wearing jeans from Abercrombie and Fitch, a black T-shirt that said “YOU’RE DEAD TO ME,” a black necklace that extended down to her bosom – not that I was staring. But what she is, I could not describe if my life had depended on it – not that it ever would now. She had a bored expression on her face. It would make sense for Death to be unfathomable.
Eighteen years ago, I had first begun working at this city. At that time, I had no family or friends here. So little has changed.
“Would you mind picking that up?” She pointed to the toilet seat. I did as I was told. Blood dripped down from it. How ironic that the force that is causing the blood to drip is also what caused my death.
“Walk with me.” Death commanded, and I followed behind her as she walked past the crowds of people that, I presume, could not see them at all. They were each holding a cup of coffee cautiously, afraid to lose even a single drop. I often wondered about what made the cups so important. After all, it’s just coffee. But Whatever it was, their carriers are absolutely captivated, and their faces are filled with terrified bliss. Like headless salmons, they never bother to look up at the sky that is ready to casts the fishing line at any moment.
“Maybe it’s not coffee.” Death suddenly commented. “Maybe it’s porpoises. Or some beef.”
“I beg your pardon?” I held my nose. The aroma from the coffee had combined with the exhaust fumes of the cars to settle into a very unsavoury smell.
“You know? An attraction? Regions and geology?” Seeing my lack of comprehension, Death sighed. “So,” she pointed to the toilet seat, “how come you were killed by that?”
For a second there, I thought that she was joking. When I realized that she wasn’t, and that one of the most powerful gods did not know the most fundamental principles of the universe, I was only able to mutter incoherent chain of words. “Gravity. Terminal velocity. Newton.” The last time I took physics, I was in high school. My teacher, a bald and no-nonsense man, had failed me. Death was not very impressed. “That man” – I presumed that she was talking about Newton – “was so dumb. Nearly shit his pants when he first saw me.” She smacked her lips. “That boy from Rwanda, on the other hand, was smart.” She closed her eyes. “Too bad the machete went straight for the head.”
I did not say a thing. Twenty-four years ago, I had graduated from university, brimming with hope for the future. Death fell silent, and we kept on walking. Eventually we passed by a large crowd. Maybe someone else died, I thought to myself. But Death grabbed my hand, and squeezed our ways to the front of the crowd. There, I saw the attraction. It was a young girl, around the same age as death. She was dancing to an invisible melody. The sound from her feet, her hands, her dress that fluttered around in the wind, pierced through the noisy silence of the streets. The crowd was so mesmerized by her that they had forgotten to sip their coffee. She looked alien, and I could not discern where she had come from. The girl suddenly spotted Death, and waved at her. “Come on!” Death yelled, and I soon found all three of us dancing in broad daylight. “How can she see us?” I asked, but Death was too entranced by her dance, the dance of the dead.
Thirty-five years ago, my mother had lied in a bed with white sheet. Her eyes slowly opened and closed. Her breathing was slow and gentle. Tears flowed down my eyes.
We danced for a long time. After we stopped, Death made me leave behind the toilet seat for the girl. We resumed walking, and they walked until dusk, where they arrived at a beach. Death stopped. She smiled at me.
“This is where we part.” She said.
“Umm… so what happens now?” I asked.
She shrugged. “How should I know?”
I looked out at the horizon where the sea mixes with the sky. A strange thought occurred to me. Salmon migrate to the sea after they are hatched. I chuckled at the absurdity of the thought. I see.
Forty-two years ago, in a hospital somewhere, a baby boy was born to a very tired woman. Upon seeing him, she forgot all about her fatigue couldn’t help but smile. “I love you so much.” She said to him as she bent down and kissed him gently on the forehead.
And in a flash he was gone.