In Another Life

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I died just now.
You didn’t notice, did you?
I know, I know. I was walking along and slipped on the ice but caught myself, right?
In this life.
But in another, I died. I slipped on the ice and fell to the ground. One leg just flew out from under me with such momentum that it swept the other after it, slamming me to the ground. My head hit that craggy remaining bit of frozen snow over there. I have a tough skull, but the force as I met that jagged edge was hard enough to pierce right at my temple. I felt the heat of blood flowing from my body, steaming slightly as it met the cold ground.
And I died.
I felt every moment of that death, and yet I kept walking in this life to where I am now, here, talking to you.
You probably think I’m crazy, don’t you? But haven’t you ever come to a juncture in your life where you suddenly thought, “I could have died just now?” I see from your expression that you have. Where was it? Driving down a street? Stepping off an escalator?
I think that every person feels that now and then, that sense that his or her life has just intersected with death. I’ve asked this question of many people and always I get that same reaction, that look of “oh, that feeling.” My data may have been derived from an informal sampling, but I still trust that it’s valid.
So now that you’ve remembered your moments of almost-death, you think that we have something in common? Not as much as you think.
You see, what you’ve described is a situation where you could have died. In my case, I did. I died. Bit the big one, met the Grim Reaper, kicked the bucket, rode the pale horse. Nothing “could have” about my experience.
Now you think I’m exaggerating. But with me this isn’t a now and then, creeping up on me when I least expect it event. It happens a dozen times each day.
I’ve died hundreds of times.
More than I care to count.
Each death is unique, unlike any I’ve suffered before it. Each death is exquisitely detailed.
Some are quick. A safe falls on my head as I’m walking down the street: I don’t even have time to think “Holy Wile E. Coyote” before I’m gone, on the ground, all sensation finished.
And yet I walk on in this life, knowing that I’m splatted in another.
Some are slow. I open a bottle of beer and chug it down, then realize that something didn’t taste quite right. I feel a tickle in my throat, then something more, slowly squeezing shut, closing off my airway, taking away breath and speech before I can utter a word to call for help.
And yet in this life my thirst is quenched and I carry on as if nothing unusual has happened.
Paranoia? I think not. Knowing that I’ll be aware of every possible way that I can die each day doesn’t keep me from living a normal life.
Although there are places I’ve learned to avoid.
Ski slopes. Amusement parks. Too many paths to pushing up daisies in even a few hours of those types of recreation.
And I definitely steer clear of fast-moving machinery with sharp edges. Some deaths are difficult to assimilate as I strive to keep on keeping on in this lifetime.
I can see that you’re edging away from me. I make you uncomfortable with my talk about dying. That’s the way it always turns out. I try to confide in someone, to share my knowledge of life and death, and it never turns out well. At least you’re just turning away, walking away from me.
Because in another life, you reached out and wrapped your fingers around my neck, squeezing with all your might.
I saw your face red with exertion and anger, your teeth gritted, your eyes glaring.
I heard your growl of hatred directed at me.
I felt the pressure upon my windpipe as your thumbs pressed, harder and harder still.
I called out to you, begging you to stop, but you didn’t.
So I died just now.
And yet, I live.