“You cannot escape death. You can, however, reach beyond it. In word or action, penance or patience; your essence can be a time traveler of affect or effect.” ~ Brahna Sameal
Those words maybe my own, but their spirit was borne of her, a denizen of courage and hope. She indoctrinated, embedding the idea while proselytizing the capture of this event in prose. What lays beyond for you, dear reader, is that attempt, for her. Perhaps for you, too. May the language and stance, even the errors and ignorance, give you solace, or better; may it launch you into the after with a passion and fervor not contained.
Chapter 1 – The Giving Up or The Giving In.
It was here that Sarah felt the weight of it all sink into her soul. It, the relentless gnash of teeth and crunch of bone, marrow and muscle; rendering lifeless that which previously leapt or careened. She who would jostle and jockey for favor or position, only to later, now, be crushed in the powerful jaws of an increasingly typical life. Ground down to pulpy goo by its large, flat teeth but also ripped by the sharper more voracious type. She, the boldly seasoned by creativity and determination. Yet, ever the warrior, she pressed on into her abyss. And it was there, in a thin hospital gown and with a warm blanket over her stocking covered feet, that she found herself, and the end. Her end.
It was in ugly, warm Sloan Kettering socks that she discovered the obsolescence of desire. There, with the beeping and churning. The forever whirring and stirring of activity all around. It was there that she breached the void of self and reached a previously unknown plateau of warmed and comfortable fallacy. One that she quickly gravitated toward. Sought out.
It is the long suffering adult that thirsts for a normal charade. A basket of balance. All offerings of appeasement will be placed on the doorstep of any higher power that might offer a night off, a constant temperature, or a vegetative state of contentment. A normal. Any normal. One that, for her and in this moment, she believed only he could provide. The hum-drum boredom of ambulant mediocrity was present with him and she was now, in defeat (or victory?) accepting.
He was a plodding, insouciant, barrel of a man. His gruff, graveled draw slurred words unrecognizable and required a stern look and full attention to catch his gist. But even then, true understanding was questionable. Were closed captioning to have been provided, Sarah believed those nearby would have been treated to requiem and daydream. Picturesque fanciful splendor and elegance in verb, adjective and meter. A poet of the slurred word and mumble.
Sadly, there was no captioner nor fancy voice capture translation technology which would closely follow his path. Nothing projecting his true intent and meaning above him in some ultra high definition, 100 point, serif font, with accompanying dictionary. No, only a parade of “huh?” and “What was that again?” Except with Sarah, who seemed to hear and accept each word as if it were enunciated, defined and given word origin for the purposes of Scripps Spelling Bee in the final round. And in her final round, she needed this comfort. His comfort.
He walked staccato with an added pitch and yaw reserved for aviation, while his patient eyes glowed a transfixing blue that captured the wandering thoughts of passers-by. Wiry tufts of brown, red and gray, hairy smatterings, cascaded over his jaw and crept ever closer to all edges and openings: lips and nostril. All his follicles seemed to work in tandem threatening to end the ritual of unholy weekly slaughter by trimmer. They seemed to wish to thread-together with the hook and loop connection of Velcro. Facial hair with malicious intent on leaving him breathless and without word. She would call him Beardicus the Great or Should-He-Shave-Nah; yet, she found it refreshing; that he would retain his ‘don’t give a damn’ portrait he painted each time he came near, even here in her shattered moment.
Both his name and body were carved of, or torn by, years lacking in some odd combination of nutrients, empathy or emoluments. But that which did not end Brahna Sameal, would only propel him further. He had and would continue to use each of those instruments of circumstance or pain as a guttural cry or shout at the world. A wretch and spit inducing scream for hope throughout his childhood and a constant war paint for his stoic, die-cast longanimity. Broad shoulders and thick skin were his hallmarks, all adorned with ornaments of ignored but internalized ridicule.
But here it would only be Brahna who would suffer more variation and range in emotion in the weeks that would follow. Sarah, sadly, would simply fade, again and again, until her shell, fully softened and sunken, would decompress and expire. Over and over. Once and again. Rebirth and re-death every few days of her final treatments. And all Brahna could do was watch, stammer mouthed and pale of mind. Witness to haunting visions of this woman; knowing their substance was some portion glue. These episodes would surely stick and cling steadfast to crevices deep inside his lobes and cortexes for an eternity. Each memory eager, desperate even, to whisper in his ear a reminder of this loss. His loss. His evacuation of hope. His Sarah and her final moments.
But ephemeral bits of his only hope would twinkle and chime after each dose she was given. Her head would rise and their eyes would collide; she would smile. Her face, a skeleton covered only by stretched-too-thin tissue paper, opening to expose a wide pearly grin. Skin even thinner still. With each passing day. Perhaps Bible paper; scritta? Regardless, he saw it as thin and delicate. Lovely, he thought. Angelic. The Biblical skin was suitable, he knew.
Brahna would smile back. Front tooth chipped. He would think it too much. Was it too much? Don’t get her hopes too high, he would consider. Then, follow with a softer smile. No teeth. Bite back tears and hurried attempts to solve all the worlds troubles as a team, as they had discussed so many times before. Their team. They had such ambition. She the muse. It was all her, he would admit to anyone who would ask. No one ever did.
He wanted to release the floodgates of life upon her. Empty the chambers and storehouses of experience and livable moments, all at once, to give her all she had ever dreamed. Host countless parties of grandeur and import. Give her all the praise and moments on high before the inevitable. He wanted this, but she was exhausted. He wanted fawning and gushing, adoration and amusement; while all she could stomach were moments of quiet contemplation and small cups of ice chips or of lemon-lime cola.
She would then draw in a dry and deserted breath. She trembled nervous and gave Brahna a knowing glance. Smiling again. She was assured, by the return of his chipped tooth, that he would absolutely survive this. He would fix the world needing fixed. He would Sherpa the lost and he would hunt the wicked. He could do all of this without her, she believed, but not with her here. Definitely not as a passenger on this recursive death cycle. He would eventually find the note she had left and he would continue on, emboldened and forever unabated. Now, she believed was her opportunity to disembark, and so she exhaled. Her eyes fell close.
It appeared to Brahna like a blink. Or perhaps she was falling to sleep after so many hours waiting for and through the day’s treatment. It was, however, much more concrete than blinking and much less temporary than a nap. The exhale that followed was hollow. Different. It was simply air escaping a chamber, no forced migration nor bodily management of air flow.
Beeps and buzzers sounded immediately. Alarms bursting excitedly to share the news. Nurses and doctors, attendants and other hospital staff; all flying past him. In and out. Loud and direct voices, rushed action and charged direction were party to this calamity. “Clear” and “NOW”, spoken or shouted. He counted seven times. They were all soldiers, battling; but this procession ended as quickly as it had begun.
They called it.
Time of death.
One thirty seven.
The hour-past-midnight utter darkness beyond the window held more joy than the room. Brahna was still fixated on her face. Even more collapsed now than moments ago. Still angelic but somehow smaller. Still inspiration for him. Her journey, he knew, was just beginning. Phase two for Sarah would begin now. Ounces would soon depart and become, or return, to something more. Something larger. Something forever.
Sarah’s body lay still. Yet, Brahna imagined that perhaps, and maybe now everywhere, a part of the river of consciousness that flowed past and over everything. She floated out, fully acquiescent and translucent, into the ether of after. A passenger, but soon a captain, on a voyage that continued on for eternity. One that he too would someday join. One that he would prefer to have joined long ago; that was, until he had met Sarah. And now, her absence made that desire return tenfold.
Brahna imagined mouthing a pistol or shotgun; perhaps a noose or a simple blade run lengthwise down the soft underside of his forearm. Each time these thoughts surfaced before, they had been restrained by her. Sarah, or more accurately, Sarah’s memory was continuing to bury them still. Her mission. His words. Her heart. His gift.
He knew what he was to do next. She had repeated it time and again. She had fed him the words and the life that he now embodied with her every nudge and motion. She wasn’t here to keep these feelings at bay forever. And in this moment, this ‘now’. Here, before the body of a dead friend, the future was impossible. Now was shattered glass and disinterest.
‘Now’ was a gut punch.