Sunday, 6 January 2013

Kiss of Life

I died in a very interesting way. Gripping the manifest, I swang from the low bed of the wagon. It was only a few feet to the ground but my left knee gave way on landing. It had been dodgy ever since Corey Fenwick clattered it with a piece of drainpipe in Sunday school twenty years ago. Drainpipes were made of lead back then, so it would have packed quite a heft. I don't think there was a particular reason. Random violence was a common boredom-beater in those times.

So I leapt, when I should have known better. You get to an age where you have to accept a lack of invincibility, where things you used to manage with ease suddenly appear improbable. I couldn't know that for me the age would be thirty-five, but perhaps it had been on the cards ever since I tried to clear my driveway gates in a hurdler's leap and got my feet caught in two wrought-iron curlicues. That ended badly too, although nowhere near as badly as this.

I jumped. I don't know what it is with the jumping. I wasn't a hurdler, nor had I any ambition to be one. I just liked to jump, either over things or from on top of them. Height didn't seem to be a factor, nor circumstances (I once jumped from a hotel balcony in Albufeira, fortunately landing in the swimming pool and not some oily sunbather's lap.)

I just liked to jump, is all.

Actually, I jumped from this particular deck, because the driver of the truck it belonged to was a lady and I wanted to impress her. An Eastern European lady, attractive and wholly anomalous to the profession. It made a change. She wore a cheesecloth shirt, tied at the waist. It was summer, an even spread of sun and high, thinning cloud. She had long curls. Her hands looked strong and she smelled of light sweat and heavy tobacco. What I remember most was that she didn't need language to tell me to do all the work. Her lashes and lips were a universal translator.

So I landed and stumbled, feeling that gunshot pain in my knee. I tried to cushion it by squatting like a frog, and the biro in my top pocket, (a Bic biro - red, ironically) pierced my neck. It had a sharp, tapered top. An assassin couldn't have managed it better. It popped through my carotid and lodged itself in my windpipe. I can be thankful (one always looks for the positives) that exsanguination was marginally quicker than the choking. It still took a while, but those wide, shocked eyes and the Dubrovnik Marlboro kiss sustained me, and sustains me still.

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