When the car made contact with my body, I didn't notice anything except for the speed, as I was thrown from the cross walk on Starr Street and St. Nick to the far corner where the chinamen slaughter the chickens and ducks. Then only the incredible stillness. Nothing moved. Then I was standing over myself watching my body bleed out by the steps to the Best King Live Poultry. I had a few of those small white feathers stuck in my hair.
How often had I avoided this corner? Every time. How much had I hated the clingy feathers blown all over the neighborhood? Stuck in dog shit. Gathering around skinny tree trunks. Clinging to a jagged bit of brick. And the smell. Now, there was no smell at all. Now, I was dying here.
I remembered the car being red. Now, I look and see it momentarily paused with the boy leaning out. He's seeing through me to the me on the ground. There's this muted yelling of his mouth. Then, I am hearing again. Someone turned on the volume. The boy is shouting to the driver. "You fucking killed him, dude, drive!" Then the smoking wheels and speeding away, I see it, it was a silver car, in fact. Oh well, silver or red, they are gone and I am dying.
A girl rushes up. I'd seen her before in the neighborhood. She never went in the bars. She's odd. Always wearing white. I'd laughed about her many times with Beau and Richie. Yeah it may not be cool to be a hipster anymore, but what is she?
Then she looked up at me, standing next to my body. She looked at me while she was talking into her flip phone. Who has a flip phone? Even my mother doesn't. She was telling them to send the ambulance. She was staring at me. The me standing up. Then she says, "They're coming. Try to hang on if you can."
I don't know what to say to her. Can I say anything? I am not really thinking. I realize that. I haven't got any concrete thoughts, just flashes, except I wish I wasn't dying in front of the slaughter place. I don't want that infected chicken stuff getting in my head. That smell. But I still can't smell.
Then the girl's hand is hovering over my body lying on the ground. I suddenly can think another solid thought, how her white dress is going to get blood on it. For some reason, this makes me want to laugh but I can't laugh.
She's looking up at the sky. She's saying some words. She's saying the word, "God." She's actually talking to God. I want to laugh again. What the fuck? What a freak. I wonder if I am dead. I wonder when the ambulance will get here. There is a hospital near Myrtle. It's so close. I think I am hearing sirens. Maybe I am not. It sounds like sirens coming through a wall of water. Or this is what I think I hear. I think I am thinking that.
She keeps talking to the sky, talking to "God". I am looking up at the sky now, too. I don't see anything. Then, I do. I don't like what I see, more than dying in front of the Best King Live Poultry.
I look down at her. What is she doing? Her hand is under my head, but I am not there in my body. I can't feel it. Still, this is my body. She can't just touch me. She's touching where the blood is seeping out. She's got another hand on my chest. She's pleading to the sky for something. I see her face and tears are coming out of her eyes, dripping down her cheeks.
I realize how slow I am inside, how slow my thoughts are. That's it. Thoughts are there, but it's just so slow. All this is happening so fast, too fast to think really.
The drama of the scene is pretty compelling. I realize this, also. I feel no emotion at all. Or maybe just a twinge. Not for myself. But maybe a little for her. Still, I don't like what she's doing.
I look back at the sky where she is looking and the thing she is talking to is getting closer. A golden ring. Golden like light. But not so bright. From high up, it seemed more scary then now when it is close, close to my body. It's small really. When it's there, where my body is, where I used to be, she closes her eyes and talks to it.
Then the ambulance is suddenly right on us. Then there are the medics. I look away from her. I watch them do their thing. It's fast. They are good. I am saved. Maybe.
When I look back, the golden ring is now over my head, my bleeding head. She's asking it to bring a light from heaven. She is literally saying this out loud where anyone could hear her as the first medic approaches her. He firmly takes her by the shoulders and moves her away. Yes, please. What a freak.
But then, I don't know why, but I don't feel like laughing. I feel a distant twinge of outrage. I want the white dress girl to stay. Before I didn't want her to touch me but now I want her to stay.
So fast, then, I, well, not me, but my body is on the stretcher, wheeled into the ambulance, the doors are closing, the medics are inside, the vehicle is speeding away.
One of the men from the chicken place comes out. Was he just waiting there inside all this time? He's in the usual slaughter house garb. Giant rubber yellow pants that come up to his arm pits and are held in place by green suspenders. Knee high black rubber boots. And some t-shirt that looks like it came from the back of a homeless kid in Calcutta. He's holding his super hose. I have seen this more times than I can count. Spraying the place down, spraying the empty cages, spraying the super high pressure water with chicken shit and duck shit and feathers foaming out the open door and across the sidewalk and into the storm drain.
The man with the hose is eyeing the white dress girl. She looks at him and his hose and the blood pool on the street. They both nod to each other. So she walks away, across Starr Street, back away from St. Nick heading toward Cypress as the man ignites the spray and aims it where I am standing still.
I don't know if I can move my legs, honestly. He's washing the blood right through my not there shoes and feet. I wonder why I am wearing clothes if I am dead, if I am not there, why would I not be just naked or maybe in a white robe, or better, why not some body-stocking type get up, the way a super hero is, only more futuristic and less fruity. The blood froths and bubbles under the laser water ray aimed at the sidewalk by the man in the yellow pants. It's my blood heading into the gutter.
Then I am walking. I think I should be walking up St Nick to Myrtle to find myself in the hospital to see if I have lived, but instead, I am following the white dress girl. She is going up a stairway. This is where she lives. Obviously.
I live five doors away. Lived? I wonder if I am walking to my house, not following her. I will pass her and just go home and wait for my parents to come collect my things. Maybe that is what I am doing? But no, I am following her into her building. She's got blood on her hand and is holding it out so she doesn't smear it on anything. She keys open the door then walks through and lets go before I am all the way through it. The door swings through my face. Neat trick. So I let her do it again on the next door. Not a wind. Not a feeling. Nothing. It just goes right through me.
Inside her place, I don't feel like an interloper. Well, maybe a little bit. But I seem not to have a care in the world. Normal- ness fades so fast, this, I think. I don't know what I mean by it. Standing in her living room, I look around and I try to imagine my own meaning. Would I have ever come into her house before? Never. Not for any reason except certainly for a million dollars. I hate it when people say that. Of course, you would eat shit for a million dollars. But that would never be on offer so I would never come into her house. This is the previous normal of which I must be thinking. This must be what I mean.
She's calling out. "I'm back. I didn't go. There was an accident. A man was hit by a car."
"What? Mom, are you okay?" Says a deep voice in the next room.
She's a mother. Classic. Almost explains the flip phone. Out walks a boy. I realize I have seen her with him before. I thought he was her freaky boyfriend. Who would date her, right? How old is he? How old is she? I literally try to say out loud, "Weird." I mouth the words but no sound comes out. Right, of course. I can't move the air. I can't make a sound. Elementary.
"Flynn?" She's calling to someone else. "How loud have you got your earphones turned up?"
"What?" Returns another boy's voice, clearly younger.
"Mom! Are you bleeding?" The first boy, son, man, says this with his very deep voice but he's so naive. Wow. Duh? Of course it's not her blood. This is freaksville. Why these people are so weird, I don't know. But they are very weird.
"No, Tig, it's the man's blood who got hit by the car."
"Did you heal him? I thought you weren't doing that anymore."
"No, I didn't really. I just...you know...he was dying."
The girl, I mean, woman, mother-person, suddenly looks down at her dress. The hem is soaked in my blood. The red had blossomed upward making an interesting shape, maybe a flower, maybe just blood shape. I notice for the first time, her white dress is not just white. There's something on it, like a drawing, but stitched. It's a fox. A little white fox, curled in blood. I think, I may be smiling. I don't know why.
"Did he die?" I'm looking at the guy, son, whatever he is, Tig. He says this with a caring strange look. I think this is weird, again. I am smiling, I realize. Why?
The mother-woman gets very serious then. She is going to a little table with stones and leaves and feathers and strange artifacts, like, there's an animal claw, but not, you know, in a cool way.
She takes a birthday candle from a bowl filled with them. Lights a match and sticks the end to a stone then lights the little wick. She closes her eyes and inhales deeply.
"Is he dead, Mom?" He says it again. Impatient kid, really. I am the one who got hit by a car. What is he all worked up about?
"No, he's not dead. I just kept him alive a little bit till the ambulance could get him to the hospital. They won't know what happened. But his soul has followed me home."
The Tig dude looks around the living room for me. He can't see me. Of course. Obviously.
"What are you going to do?" The kid says. And I am wondering the same thing. What is she going to do?
"I am going to send him to his body in the hospital."
And just like that, she blows out the candle and I am gone.
I am at the foot of my body for a long time. It wasn't a whoosh that got me here. I didn't fly. I am just here suddenly as they rush around through me and past me and do all the stuff they do. Science is amazing. Medicine, yeah. I see my brain. I see them pulling the bits of my skull out of the back of my brain.
Hair. Is. So. Weird. I mean, only so weird when you are looking at your skull with a hole in it and your brain is showing through. Hair is amazingly superfluous seeming. It is ridiculous relative to a brain being hidden inside the hair under the skull, like the proverbial wool being pulled over your eyes. I am not quite sure what I mean by that, but the main thing that I am impressed with is, why do I have hair? What are we trying to hide? Clearly a lot of blood and mushy parts and how easy we are to break. My hair has been doing that since the day I was born. I won't even mention skin. Suffice it to say, peel-able.
I don't know how long it has taken me to notice him, because there is so much else to watch. I am alive, of course. That is amazing. It's taking a lot of my attention. How am I? Bags of blood, x-rays, sutures, suction, reconstruction, sewing, glue. Glue?
So after awhile things calmed down and I really see him more, really notice, someone else is getting walked through. Someone else is watching. Not fascinated really, like me. He seems more an overseer. I feel almost as if he is taking notes. But of course, he isn't. He isn't carrying a clip board. He isn't in surgical scrubs. He is dressed a lot like me, from this day. Well, in fact, like I still am, the me standing and watching. The me on the table is in a blue gown.
He's got on the vans, the vintage jacket, the good jeans cuffed right, the plaid shirt buttoned up with a t-shirt showing underneath, and the skinny tie. I like his style, actually. I think to myself, this guy has taste and I wonder if all the dead are well dressed.
He hasn't taken much notice of me, except for a single head nod, when I first noticed he is there, but also not there, like me. So I know he can see me, too.
After awhile, I am wheeled into an ICU and a curtain is pulled around me. I guess I am not out of the woods, yet. I see and hear policemen asking questions. Whatever. I am unconscious, not dead and no one mentions coma. I guess I just have to wait to wake up, then I'll be back inside me again. I wonder how long this will take. I do my best to think in those terms, but something about time is very elusive to me all of a sudden.
Then the guy is right beside me, the guy like me. He is awkwardly close. I move to the side of myself, my body, I mean, but he seems to be there when I am there, right by my side. I move again, this time to the other side of my body. But there he is again. I look up to where I had just been standing. It feels like some impression of the other guy is still there fading away while he is right next to me at the same time.
I look at him square in the face. I want to speak, but I don't know if I can. Then I hear him.
"Go ahead, ask." He says to me. No lips moving.
"What are you doing here? Who are you?" I say. I don't think my lips move either.
"You are dead and I am going to have your body." The guy says.
It seems to me, there are a lot of responses I can say. None but the lamest gets 'spoke'. "I'm not dead." Is all that comes out of me.
"You are quite dead. And the girl saved you, but you did not take her gift. So I will." He says.
"Who the fuck are you?" Comes next. I regret saying it instantly, because really, who the fuck is he? I don't know. He could be the highest satanic overlord of the 14th underworld, for all I know. If I can cringe inside my own not there head, I do, trying to peak out from beyond myself to see what he is. I feel really cowardly. I feel like I am flinching from a punch. I don't see the guy swing a fist, this guy who is going to take the gift the girl gave me, this guy who is sure I am dead when I am really sure I am not.
I never have seen myself as a coward before. Thoughts are running through my head again, the fast kind like before when all this dead/alive thing started, the slower thoughts being the only ones concrete. I see things, things about myself. I look around. Yes, around but not at the hospital room. I am looking at my own fast thoughts around me. I can't think solidly because the fast thoughts are thinking me. What does it mean?
When I look again at the guy, he's gone. Relief swims over me. I stare at myself in the bed. I am face down with my head cradled in some kind of a doughnut shaped holder. I think, that doughnut thing is gonna leave a mark. But really I should be thinking, Where did the guy go?
Maybe he's inside my body. Now, I look around the room for some kind of evidence about what's happening. Is he inside me, inside my body now?
The guy sticks his head through the curtain suddenly. I wish I could be startled but I feel like I knew that was going to happen before it did. That feels more startling then his disembodied not-there head appearing. He motions to me, so I follow him.
I aim to walk through the curtain but then I am someplace else. Still it's the hospital. We are in some room, somewhere else where all the sounds of the ICU, where the talking of policemen and doctors and the endless beeping and all the emergency vibes are gone. Suddenly, I can smell. In fact, that is about all that I can do, because I realize, it's not just quiet, there is no sound. The smell is unearthly bad. Wait, there is a sound. It's too weird to place. Too subdued, too down below regular hearing if there is such a thing when you are dead but not dead and waiting to go into your body.
I want to look around but I can't move my head. My eyes are fixed. I am staring at an old man or more specifically at a pained old man. Wincing. Hurting and squeezing from pain behind drugged-closed sleeping eyes. What is he, like a thousand years old? He's a bag of bones, I mean that for real, because he has no muscle, no fat, just bones inside sacks of peel- able skin. He is what is smelling. This is what I think. This is what I know. He is making this horrific unearthly smell.
I feel the guy with me real close. He is not there. But he is. He is moving my head, I think. Aiming my sight, controlling it. Two hands on either side of my frozen head eyeballs that are not there. I am more not there than even before. Why the god-awful smell? Why can I smell it? It's worse than death. And then I see it. Something is gnawing at the man's leg. That's the sound, the sound of biting into flesh and bone, over and over again. The thing biting is barely there. Then it is all there. It's wavering, in fact, in and out of sight. It's shimmering the air above the man as if the air is water or the biting thing is water. It's big. One second a shape hulking over the leg and the man and then it is gone. And where it is biting, the putrid flesh of a man, blackened, festering, disease. He's dead, not yet but he's gonna be. That's all I know. He's screwed, he's dead or as good as and I don't want to catch his flesh eating disease.
I speak the think speak way. "It's, it's..." But I have no word in my lexicon suddenly for what it is.
"It's a monster," the guy says.
Clearly, it is a monster. I think demon but the guy tells me, No. Demons are not what you think. He doesn't think-speak then. I just know what he says.
Then I think, that must be what you are. He thinks me again, no.
And he moves my sight, as if I am really a pair of binoculars and all my vision is limited and both my eyes are inside tunnels, two separate tunnels of sight.
There at the old man's head is something else. Something soothing. When I see it, I feel some of the smell is pushed away by something effervescent and sweet. I am not breathing. I finally realize, like speaking, I don't smell because I don't breath but something about the soothing thing feels like I just took a breath and I feel happy. I realize the not breathing all this time was quite heavy. As a matter of fact, I want to smell-breathe the soothing thing again, or possibly for forever.
Then like the way the monster demon thing did, this soothing feeling thing makes a shape. It too is shimmering in and out of visibility. I see the wings. I see the brightness of some other kind of light. I see the golden ring, she's holding it above the man's head. The soothing thing is a she. She's got a golden ring the same way the girl had made one come for me. I see the face, more beautiful than a face-- it's not a face at all, disappearing and reappearing in the air like she's related to water somehow.
Then I shout over all the guy's thinking me, controlling my eyes, making me see and smell, "I don't believe in any of this!" I squeeze my not-there eyelids shut. I want this all to go away.
Then I am touching my lips with my hand. I feel like I spoke out loud, in the air. I am standing beside myself again. We are back through the curtain. The guy is standing beside me well dressed as before. I know it now, those are not like the clothes I wore today, those are the same ones, exactly.