Rain pelted against the windows of the conference room. Monsoon season had come upon the country with citizens breathing a sigh of relief, after a harsh drought. Seven people sat glancing at each other. A sudden lapse in conversation had befallen them, and no one knew what to say anymore.
Silence was prevalent among at least three people, but the rest were used to holding up the conversation. Usually, there’d be laughter, some passionate exchange about one current issue or the other, questions but today? Nothing.
Perhaps it was the weather affecting how they felt about conversation. There was something about this kind of rain, in this kind of city that made people want to stop and stare. Observe, but without making a sound. A little like bird watching. At least half the occupants stared outside, eyes a little hazy.
One occupant in particular seemed miles away, distant only in the way memories can make you. First, they traipse along the back of the mind. Then they make a brief appearance, which one usually bats away to focus on better things. But the mind is resilient; sooner or later you just can’t help it. You watch, paralyzed as the memory takes over. It’s all you can think about, and it keeps playing over and over again; until you relive it as if it were happening once again. That’s memory for you.
Three males, five females; half of them too entrapped in the surroundings to notice what was about to happen right next to them, and the remaining focusing on the occupant lost to the world.
“What were you doing this summer?” The question instantly brought all back to attention except one for whom it was attended. She blinked, sluggishly parting the web of memories. Like a spider’s, it clung stubbornly.
She sluggishly came back to the present when her name was breathed into the air.
“What did you do this summer?” It was evident to the others that the speaker was trying to rustle her feathers, given the nature of the question.
“One would think…” she paused to ponder her words, or maybe she wasn’t completely out of her reverie, “I- uh – I thought you’d know exactly what I was doing.”
“I want to hear all about it.” The others wanted to intervene, but alas, human curiosity got the better of them. They too, wanted an insight into that barely lucid head.
“Which part would you like me to explain? Is it the death or the grief, or would you like to know what a grave looks like up close?” There was no bite behind the question, just…nonchalance.
Addie bit her lip, eyes flickering between the two; she didn’t want Mary to go through this. Mary on the other hand was ready to take on Hamish. Or so she thought.
“It happened and now it’s over,” Hamish pressed on, “It’s finally over. You don’t have to go through it again.”
A brittle laugh escaped Mary.
“What brought you to that conclusion? Why do you think “it’s over”, H?” she loathed the tremble in her voice, an octave higher.
“Death is the finale isn’t it? So it’s over,” Hamish sat back in his chair as if he’d said something profound.
A deep breath to brace herself, she fixed him with a steady gaze.
“Death,” she enunciated carefully, “does not leave you. You’re wrong if you think it happens once. It happens over and over again, until it’s all there is.
It happens when you wake up in the morning and check your texts only to be met with disappointment; your person hasn’t texted you, and it doesn’t sit well, but then you realize. That person will never text you again, you will never hear their voice again because they’re gone.
It’s when you cook an entire dinner, every favorite dish with your best recipe garnished to perfection lays piping hot on the dining table. The cutlery is set for a family that will never use it, not anymore. And you can’t call any of your friends because you’re barely holding it together. Death strikes when you eat all alone despite the food having turned to ashes in your mouth.
Death occurs when you accomplish something and in your excitement, you want to share it with that one person, but you can’t. That one person will never see you do the things you are. Moreover, you’ll never know what they would have done. How they would have chosen to live.
It’s a weight on your chest, this death: on your birthday nobody understands how close you are to edge. The cake, the presents, all the lights are too bright yet they don’t offer any light or comfort. You tell yourself you’re happy. You’ve had to set your phone to silent because of all the notifications. All of them say the same thing: Congratulations, you’ve outlived them. You have officially grown older than your dead. They lay in their coffins never to age again but you…you’ve made it. You’ve surpassed them.
Death happens over and over again, until it consumes you to the point you want to be dead too. It makes you wonder how your dead would feel about your demise, were they still alive. Sometimes, it all leaves you entirely. You live and you forget until it hits you like a shard of glass.
They all keep dying and it never stops. It never ends.”
She left them to return to her reverie, as the glass shard twisted once more.
The lights flickered into oblivion and they all rushed to search for flashlights, hands fidgeting. Uneasy, aware.
Death stood on the other side of the window.