Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 11

companions in this death spiral. I smell smoke and fear and vomit rises. I spit, I try to scream, and then we impact as slowly as a house of cards falls breathless to the ground. I implode into ash.

* * *

This time I’m in my car, on the freeway, and maybe it’s raining, and maybe it’s night. I always do this thing where I look in my rear-view mirror and when I see a car behind me, I memorize it as my last clear thought before death. I wear my seatbelt, always, and I drive under the speed limit, but still, there are maniacs out there. But when it happens I’m not prepared. The light is green and I approach the intersection with normal caution. I have the right of way. But two cars come at me from the cross street, one from each direction, and they broadside me. I am crushed between them like an ant between fingers. I can’t breathe; my only thought is to suck in air but the pressure is so great, such a squeeze, so tight. At the moment when I begin to lose consciousness, a falling into shadow, I feel a sliding sensation, like a banana slipped from its peel. Then I pop from my body and hover above, watching the blood bubble out my nose and mouth as the last breath sighs away.

* * *

When I eat by myself, I try to chew carefully, because if there’s no one here, there’s no one to pound you on the back, no one to call 911 or try to do the Heimlich. I don’t eat lying on my back, for heaven’s sake, and I don’t take huge gulping bites of sandwich. Nuts make me especially nervous. The dangers of food I understand. So when I’m sitting at my desk, making some notes, I don’t think about it when the cap of my pen comes off. I suck on it for a minute, the way you do when you’re a kid, and the open end of the cap suctions to the skin of my cheek. I pull it off with my tongue, and it sucks back to my cheek. This is an unthinking game I play with myself, notepad in hand, when my tongue flips the cap from my cheek and sends

Julia Park Tracey | 11