Death Became Me
I wrote this post early last year as voice work for one of the main characters in my novel. He’s evolved a lot since then, more obsessed with living than dying. Still, if you’ve been reading this week, I hope you’ll be a tiny bit freaked out with me. The other posts are here: First: http://andrawatkins.com/2013/09/04/shine-on-you-crazy-diamond/. Second: http://andrawatkins.com/2013/09/05/a-whisper-named-tallulah/. Third: http://andrawatkins.com/2013/09/06/take-me-to-the-river/. Fourth: http://andrawatkins.com/2013/09/07/drop-me-in-the-water/. Thank you for reading and interacting here.
January. A Tuesday. I almost died today.
Funny. All the time I spent as a kid, fantasizing about Death’s embrace, only to fight it when it almost claimed me. When I stared Death in his single eye, I realized I didn’t really want to die. Maybe it was the high side of my melancholia, kicking up the embers of my fear. Death stuck its blackened toe in the water, testing the limits of my mettle.
In my euphoria, I almost failed the exam.
Climbing. I was climbing. In front of people. They were following me, wherever I decided to go. It didn’t matter to me that they were paid to be there. Under my leadership. Somebody said I was leadership material, and that meant it was so. To me, at least.
So. Climbing. Rock faces look navigable up close. Hairline fractures and broken footholds. Ancient shelves of solitude. They tease me, make me scale them on adouble-dog-dare. I bet you can’t reach the top without falling. You won’t be brave enough to climb without a tether. Are you sure this is the best place to wedge your boot?
It was that moment, the last question, that tripped me. I paused, insomuch as I could on a vertical surface, and in my dallying with my foot dangling free, I slipped. Like I was levitating in midair. Frozen, a hundred feet above the ground.
I remember looking at the exact spot, the one where I would burst open like a tossed piece of fruit. I wondered whether the dirt would be offended, to be forced fed bits of me.
My arms whirring like a windmill, I recall studying the rock in front of me. How it scrolled as I plunged. Layers of rock gouging into my space. Twinkling. Saluting me as I fell.
And, I didn’t want to die. Not in that crunchy displacement of bones and sinew. No. Not that day. Maybe not ever.
I grabbed the leather scabbard of my knife, and I heaved the metal point into the rock. Dislocated shoulders heal. Spilled brains do not. My blade found purchase. My strength halted my fall. Everyone saw me save my own miserable life.
If they could see me now, I wonder. Would they follow me here?