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I Watched a Man Die Today

2021-01-02 ☼ words

At the Atlantic Ave/Barclays Center train stop, I walked into the atrium at the north door and wandered around waiting for T so we could hang out — meanwhile, others were waiting around too, staring down to the lower level.

If I hadn’t wandered over to the ledge and looked down, I wouldn’t have seen it:

White guy. Late-thirties. White t-shirt. Red blotch in the center of his chest. Sprawled out as if awaiting a white-chalk outline. Three police officers tending to him. He was still breathing, but barely conscious.

I looked down and back up ten times, pleading guilty to my own fascination. I watched his breathing slow.

And then it was gone.

The spot where I stood aligned so perfectly with the death below that his dying eyes appeared to meet mine and didn’t move until one of the officers shook the man’s face back and forth. (Why the officer did this, I have no idea.) Not even in someone’s sleep have I seen every muscle in the face so relaxed, every flap of skin and even his open mouth and tongue swing back and forth like a ragdoll.

I watched a man die today.

The crowd gathered. People stopped, people left. T showed up shortly after. We went on our walk. Went back to my apartment. She revealed affections without speech. In an unlikely turn of events, the most brilliant and aloof woman I have ever met is sleeping over tonight. She’s stroking my leg, watching me write, and half-hates herself for doing so.

Indulging in love — no matter how temporary, detached, or shallow — is the sort of thing one might not do if not pressured by the prospect of a great flood. Soon, the world ends. Your world ends. Her world ends.

And when that happens, our eyes may only meet in a one-way silence, as opposed to the two-way hush of acknowledgement while we hold each other close.

No matter how much we repeat —

memento mori

remember that you will die

live every day like it’s your last

— the end comes like a great flood.

The waters rise and eyes fall back into ones skull.

The earth engulfs your casket with a few swings of a shovel.

The crowd surrounds the memorial and then the flood recedes.