I’ve been dead for exactly three weeks, two days, five hours, and 32 minutes. But who’s counting? I was killed crossing the street late at night on a Wednesday, and we all know Wednesdays are the worst days of the week (besides Mondays). They’re like the freezer burn atop your favorite carton of ice cream: unwanted, needed to be scraped away as quickly as possible. It was humid—I remember that—the kind of humid when it feels like you’re walking through molasses, and I had gone to my friend Janice’s to pick up a sweater I’d left there. It was one of those sweaters you could wear in the summertime; light, breezy, a soft material. I wore it to the beach, let it hang slanted across my chest so that one shoulder peeked through, exposed to the skin-toasting sunlight. I slept with it under my pillow so that if I needed to sneak outside, shake hands with risk and take adventurous teenage stupidity out for a candlelit dinner, I would have it in my grasp, quick to slip it on over my nest of long, brunette curls, and tip toe to unknown places. It was the color of night, a bold black. Maybe that’s why the man driving that car didn’t see me as I crossed the street. Maybe my sweater blended in too well with the darkness of the hour, making me invisible, hiding me in the shadows.
The car that hit me was a lipstick red Jaguar, a F-TYPE V8 S model to be exact. My dad used to always talk about these types of cars; how powerful they were, how smoothly they drove, how “outstanding the levels of dynamic capability” were. The “V8 engine produces 495 horsepower,” and other “holy” necessities like that. When he talked about cars he could go on for hours on end, his tone fluctuating as though he was telling a scary story, using his hands with great enthusiasm to paint the picture of the kind of parts he was discussing. If you got him started about leather seats, you’d be hunched over at the kitchen table, staring at the beige tablecloth, fighting the urge to rest your head upon the stained placemats. I think he would imagine speeding down the freeway wearing sunglasses with one arm outstretched to the side of him, feeling the air as it rushed through the gaps in between his fingers. Like he was Leonardo DiCaprio or something; a superstar, a king of the road.
My mom was a note person. That is, she wrote everything down. Like a dog mopping up every last crumb from the kitchen floor. On sticky notes, notebook pads, crumpled up receipts, scraps of colorful construction paper. Once, I picked up an old coupon for the local nail salon (the one that always smelled of gasoline or some sort of fish) and on the back in neat penmanship read, “If you yelled for eight years, seven months and six days, you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.” It was fun facts like these that captured her interest. My mom lived a rather mundane life, so I think writing snippets down amused her, made her mind churn and ponder, like watching game shows and challenging your intellect. She was a thinker, a collector of rarities. It helped her enjoy the moments of the day where she was submerged into quietness.
I’m kind of just there. Just here. Floating around with the wind as though I’m something, someone, yet nothing and no one all the same. I’m not actually alive, yet I’m still living. Somehow. It’s just my thoughts that are still vibrant, still aimlessly wandering, wondering. And I’m seeing, but not actually seeing the things around me. My surroundings grasp my being as though they are keeping me grounded, as though I am still a body to be grasped, to be held. Like I am being kept on a shelf like an old book or one of those Russian dolls that all fit inside each other, comprising one wooden thing but existing in separate, painted-faced parts. Oh you know, those wooden dolls that are all plump and identical looking, all decreasing in size, one by one placed inside of one another until you are left with a rather large, fat, strange looking woman with a babushka and pink lips. It’s something a step-aunt would give you as a housewarming gift, an item she had acquired from her last trip overseas. You don’t know what else to do with this ugly piece of memorabilia that your crazy relative says is a very valuable possession, so you stick it in the corner of your bookshelf where it collects dust until the next dinner party when you wipe it down with a Kleenex or two. So I’m just as worthless. As I continue to live dead, continue to exist in my nonexistence, I have no choice but to remain as I am.
So Mom, you will continue to write notes, to scribble down facts, only now they will all pertain to death like, “More than ten people a year are killed by vending machines.” Dad, you will no longer be infatuated with fixing cars. Instead, you will go to the junkyard at night and cause destruction, kicking dents into doors, slashing tires, shattering windows.
by Samantha Brodsky