Papyrus

The Last Breath Story

 

As I lay dying, I wait for my life to flash before my eyes.

Not everything, of course. I don’t want to see one of those animal planet-style documentaries where an omnipresent voice apathetically narrates the life of a hatching till it becomes food to some predatory animal. No, I don’t have enough patience, or time for that.

To think of it,  pretty much two-third of my life was made of moments that I don’t have the patience to look back to. I’ve had one of those predictable life of a middle class city woman that can be summed up in one compound sentence. There weren’t many major ups or downs. The successes I had, and the failures I suffered mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. My life lazily strolled on a straight street with slight curves, never knowing what’s ahead. Since now  it’s my time to go, I want to skip through all the small talks, exhausting waits, hollow promises and wasted times. One great memory before I let go of my last breath, that’s all I want.

Only a moment ago, I got hit by a white car. The impact tossed me up in the air like a flipping coin, and I landed on the ground head first. The moment my body left the ground, I entered a new temporality where everything moves in super-slow motion. From my levitation, I saw shock, fear, and horror curving their marks on the faces of the witnesses of the accident. The people around me must have rushed to help, but from my perspective, they looked like automatons, mechanically moving their rigid limbs inch by inch towards me.

Even though my body must have hit the ground pretty hard, I felt like a feather floating in the air; weightless, slowly descending to the earth. From then on, I’m holding onto the breath that I know is my last one. “Please dear God, show me only the best of times,” I prayed.

Death was nowhere in my mind when I woke up, brushed my teeth, had my morning coffee and got out of the house to catch the bus to work this morning. It was like countless other mornings that I’ve had in my thirty-four years of life- predictable, uneventful, monotonous. Death didn’t seem to have any premeditated motive to take me down today either. It just came me out of nowhere without a warning and bumped into me, just like that white car.

Since marital bliss never showered upon my humble womanly existence, at thirty-four I was practically an old hag in the eyes of the society. But since I’m dying, my youth will soon be restored with compensation. From now on, I will never be too old, or too late for anything. Thirty-four might be too old for a woman to be unmarried, but it’s a pretty young age for her to die. No one is going to say- “Oh, she died at the ripe old age of thirty-four, after living a full life”. I will forever be that woman in photo albums who was “gone too soon.”

“At least in death, you’re becoming eternally young,” a thought crossed my mind. “Don’t look for silver lining, you loon…you’re dying!” my mind squashed the earlier thought.

I fell to the ground face up, and my eyes could only see the sky above me. Unlike some great cinematic moments- there is no rainbow, cotton- candy cloud, red balloon or blue bird adorning the blank canvas of the sky to unveil some great mystery of life to me that I can take to my grave. The sky looks jaundiced, stained with yellow patches of blinding sunlight. The air is stale with a whiff of metallic stench- which might as well be the smell of my own blood. “Ok god, you failed me with the sights and symbols so far. At least roll some good snippets from my life before I die,” I prayed impatiently.

Then, it started to appear. A picture- fluttering like a candle in the wind- fleeting, contorting-breaking apart only to come together again. “What will it be?” I wondered. Will it be a childhood memory? What about that time my best friend and I skipped school to see a puppy in an old man’s backyard? Or, that one time I won a prize in a drawing competition and felt invincible? Can it be the first or the last time I kissed a man? Are any of those moments grand enough to be my last memory on earth?

The more I thought, the more doubts boggled my mind. Surely those moments stand out in my life, but do I necessarily remember them as good memories? After the initial buzz, they all became that sour test that sticks to your mouth after you suck something sweet for a long time. That puppy died, I’ve never won anything in my life ever again, and those tender kisses unlocked the doors to unbridled heartaches. The magic of those chosen moments eventually waned, what remained was that sour aftertaste.

My lungs are about to give up. I must have at least one vision before I go. Something, bearing some meaning- any meaning.

As my life drains out drop by drop with every sweat bead, and a crowd of concerned spectators circles my broken body around, I could finally see it.  Pushing the crowd apart, a small slice of my life tiptoes in to say goodbye, then to set me adrift. I can see it with a clarity I never had before, about anything.

I see myself- sitting on my couch, in my pajamas, watching my favorite TV show. A steaming cup of coffee waits on the table. A piece of gloriously rich chocolate cake sits on a plate that I’m holding close to my chest. I can hear my family from the other room- laughing, joking,having a good time. I, bundled up like a newborn in a blanket, scoop up a spoonful of cake and put it in my mouth.

Suddenly, all of my senses seem to explode. Lying on a concrete road under that harsh, unloving sun, my dried lips, swollen tongue, crushed nose- everything rejuvenates. My parched mouth fills up with saliva. The taste of chocolate, aroma of coffee, the warmth of my blanket, love of my family – everything patches themselves together and turns into a fantastical, all-healing quilt, then slowly shrouds my mangled body.

“It was a good day, and that was one great cake,” I say to myself as I exhale.

Written by: Anwesha Mamtaz