His stomach was still trembling: last meals are never digested. The bitter taste of bile, now stuck to the roof of his mouth, proved impossible to rinse out. Drinking water only sharpened the inflammation in his throat: did death have to be so distasteful? He could feel the emptiness his stomach; desolate, scorched. His mouth was dry. A sudden thirst had overcome him. He looked at his watch. There was ten minutes left: time to move.
The disabled toilets at the station seemed so big. He’d never been inside one. Now, looking at himself in the lowered mirror, he couldn’t help noticing how everything seemed louder. He could hear the buzz of the hand dryers in the adjacent toilets, the footsteps of people walking in and out, as well as the slam of the door closing in their wake: all as silence compared to the thumping from his heart. Again he looked at his watch. Eight minutes to go; time to move.
Water mixed with sweat dripped down his face – it was a new face, he tried to find within it the things he would normally recognize. The eyes weren’t the same. these pupils were broader and darker, fuller, more intense, more worried, free, sad, sorry, angry, anguished, uncertain. This face was thinner; where had his cheeks gone? This beard was new. With a deep breath he closed his eyes. Exhaling, he opened them to his watch. Six minutes to go: time to move.
His hand reached for the door handle. The dryers began to buzz. He hesitated. Took a few deliberate breaths while waiting for the footsteps to pass. The less people he saw the easier it would be. The door slammed and the footsteps passed, it was time to move. He looked at his watch: five minutes to go.
The door opened. He’d hoped it would resist. The ticket queue had subsided. Left to the barriers. Oyster ready. His heart beat louder. He could feel his veins pulsate, echoing his straining heart. Right to the escalators. He tried not to make any eye contact. Under another deep breath, he closed his eyes. Once more opening them to his watch; three minutes to go. Just enough time for a prayer.
His stomach churned. His hands trembled as they felt through his coat pocket. It was in there somewhere. Right onto the platform.
Another deep breath. His feet felt weak. His head felt heavy. The bag on his back felt heavy. He could hear the ticks. He checked his watch again; thirty seconds to go. He was in the right place.
Another deep breath. He sat on the floor. His head was pounding. His stomach wrenching. He could hear the ticks. He checked his watch again; twenty seconds to go.
Did death have to be so distasteful?
Another deep breath. He ignored the people now staring at him. His heartbeat was all he could hear. His stomach was in knots. He could feel the ticks. He checked his watch. ‘for the last time,’ he hoped. Ten seconds to go.
One last breath. Eyes closed.
© Denis Adide 2009
Intimate with Fear
“The world is not a safe place to live in. We shiver in separate cells in enclosed cities, shoulders hunched, barely keeping the panic below the surface of the skin, daily drinking shock along with our morning coffee, fearing the torches being set to our buildings, the attacks in the streets. Shutting down.” Gloria Anzaldua – Borderlands.
Surely there exists another way!