“So, what is the closest you have ever come to death?” I saw Britney’s small pink lips curve into a sinister smile of her short petite face. I could even hear her tongue lingering on the last word of her question. I was slightly taken aback. I wasn’t surprised by the random question. I was surprised at how she casually asked it. Most people pause and ask carefully because they understand the weight behind such a question yet she seemed so unperturbed about asking me something as significant as Death. It was as if the question never had any power on how to dictate her approach for she had the gravity of question’s power deep within her and could summon it whenever she pleased. Her confident glance fixated on me and I tried to match hers. She could barely contain the excitement in her pale blue eyes from anticipation to hearing my answer. I got the feeling that the stories I’d share with her would be intimate and sensual for her. I watched her part a lush golden strand of hair from her forehead while she smoked her Marlborough with the feigned elegance of a star actress. The end of her cigarette lit up in glowing amber and I watched curly thin grey strips of smoke float and fade into the atmosphere of a chilly November night. I wanted another sip of my Heineken but the cold forced my hands into the comforting pockets of my favorite blue hoody. We were only separated by a small stone table in an outdoor seating area on a clean sidewalk with the strip of neon-lit bars and small business stores. Despite the noisy and indistinct voices and the wailing of cop sirens in the distance, it was only her presence that prevailed throughout the night. I felt relaxed. I even felt important as I caught passersby looking twice our way because a girl like her was with me.
“Well?” She asked again with graced impatience through the guise of her constant smile before I realized I had been nodding the whole time without saying anything.
“Oh yeah, the closest I’ve ever come to Death? Wow, that’s a really interesting question,” I chuckled nevoursly trying to stall for more time. “Umm,” I slowly kept bobbing my head as if the answer would jumble into my mouth.I tried to capture or even recreate the scariest memories that I thought I wouldn’t live through but then I realized that I was most sheltered and cared for boy who ever lived. A perfect childhood of toys, first birthday parties, Saturday morning cartoons and games of hide and seek with friends and siblings. Even at 22, I still hadn’t lost my…innocence.
I lifted my head up to Britney. Her confident gaze still held me, waiting for my answer. The thing about Death is that It’s never been apart of my life. Britney had asked me a very irrelevant question. To truly come close to Death, it has to directly affect you someway or you will never understand. I mean I have some grandparents that are dead but I didn’t really know them. I didn’t even care for them. Same with uncles, aunts and a close friend’s other friend who I thought was an asshole. If it’s never happened to someone that you love, then there’s no impact. That didn’t mean I turned my back on Death. Death could come for me or someone who meant a lot to me any day any second. It’s always on the back of my mind. Every damn second. I’m not scared. I’m just aware. Sometimes when I wake up I feel bad for not thinking whether I was going to die today. For now, I guess Death wasn’t ready for me yet. Death wouldn’t give me the time of day so sometimes Death sent its close cousin Danger. I had brushes with Danger and even those experiences were pitiful. I broke my left wrist falling off a slide but was immediately soothed by my mother to comfort me through the pain. I had glass cut deep into my ankle but had my father yanked out the bloody shard and shut me up before I could even scream, I fell into a 35-foot well trying to chase a soccer ball but had my friends pulled me up before I felt the fear of what it’s like to drown. Death never humbled me. Death never marked me. Not yet anyway. So I just didn’t know how to deal with it or what to expect. It became this useless game of torture and I decided to move on with my life but I never moved on so far enough that I ever forgot. I wished I had said all of that to Britney. Instead I just told her about a car accident that happened to me and my mother when I was nine. Some drunk driver smashed us from behind then somehow flipped his SUV onto oncoming traffic. Him and five other people died. One of them was five-year old kid. My mother caught a serious neck and head injury and had to get admitted to the hospital. I was fine.
Britney’s smile was gone. She paused and took a long draft from her cigarette then blew a grey darted mist in my face. ” Lucky. I guess that’s death’s way of saying I can have you when I want.”
I took in what she said with reflective silence and nodded. “How about you?”