They pronounced me dead at 2:35 AM.
It was the night my world fell apart.
They say that your life flashes before your eyes as death reaches for your hand, and in those few moments it seemed to. I had always imagined it would sprawl out like a movie time line, cutting between significant events, but it was nothing even close. It came to me like a bad acid trip, splattered moments mixed with vivid paint and glitter and the images were things I had simply forgotten because i thought they would never be worth remembering.
They told me that the ambulances rushed me to the hospital, EMTs speaking quickly, pursed lips and quick movements, trying their best to bind me to the world. And that the Emergency Room was busy that night, something about a drop in the barometer for an upcoming storm inducing labor in what must have been every Mormon mother-to-be in the valley. They said that the ER unit on duty was professional and efficient as they lifted me off the gurney and onto the table and began to hook me to their machines.
It was these tiny little things that they told me that made the night seem more like a strange dream than an actual event.
They pronounced me dead at 2:35 AM.
Two minutes later my lungs convulsed as I gasped for air.
They told me that I was like a crazed animal thrown into a sea of ice, thrashing and wailing incoherently as stunned nurses raced to hold me down, to start their machines again and to keep me from tearing myself to pieces. The doctor rushed into the stark room, flustered and short of breath from sprinting down the long hospital corridor to look in on his recently deceased patient. He clasped me in thick hands and looked into my face. They say that I stopped fighting at that moment, staring vacantly into the eyes of this physician. Green eyes. Deep and soothing like the down comforter on your bed back home. They say that I cursed loudly and screamed a disjointed line of syllables that I knew to be your words to your songs, before dropping into my pillow and losing consciousness again.
The hours that followed were nothing more than splotchy marks of ink on my mind. I was in and out of consciousness, vitals unstable and shaky. IV tubes snaked out of my pale arms into machines with lights and bells and my nose filled with the stench of antiseptics and sterilization.
Fragments of conversations, hushed voices, and familiar words all danced wickedly to the cadence of the beeping monitors in the caverns of my mind, falling together like misshapen puzzle pieces on white linoleum floors. I reached tiredly for understanding, but it was all mixed up, seeming far away and drained of substance.
Drug overdose, they said. Only I knew I had been clean for at least a few days. You would have been so proud. Withdrawal, they speculated later, after my condition had stabilized enough to move me to my own room with a fat window that offered a city view. I wanted to scream at them. I wanted to tell them that it had been the neverending feeling of butterflies in my stomach and the memory of stolen kisses that had been my fleeting thoughts as I crashed into the pavement. Heartbreak, I wanted to yell. I was dying of a broken heart. I was broken without you. I wanted them to know. I wanted the world to hear it. I wanted it to be recorded and dated and sealed with wax and official seals that you were the last thing I thought of as I crumbled to the sidewalk in a familiar neighborhood. But I was muted by sedatives and by the weight of dying and could only offer my ears to their words.
He called me, I heard a voice whisper. Before the hospital had even called us. He was on the phone with me about it. They were talking about you again. It was the jumble of words that made my heart swell and break in the same motion. It was the blue splash of acrylic on my water colored soul. These puzzle pieces were composed in a song of your voice, sobbing frantically over wireless telephone waves into my best friend's ear in the dead of night. You had woken from a nightmare and called. Not my phone but his. Knowing that something was wrong. Knowing that you'd never reach me on my cell. He's dead, Quinn. You had known before the flashing red and white lights had even arrived on the scene. He'd tried to quiet you, telling you that you had been dreaming and there was no need to worry.
I had heard this story, or at least parts of it, so many times I could recite it nearly verbatim. I kept hoping that the happy-ending of the story would be that you had given up on Quinn's assurances and left immediately for the airport. I could see you in this storyline, standing at the ticket desk, hair messy and clothing in disarray, demanding a seat on whatever plane would put you in Salt Lake the quickest. I could see you pounding your fist on the counter in irritation until they handed you a boarding pass and ushered you to the plane. I strained to hear your voice each time I awoke, fumbling sloppily with consciousness. Waiting for you to be the one standing at my bedside.
Instead, it was Quinn's face that smiled at me when I opened my eyes. Quinn's voice that whispered jokes and stories to my broken body. Quinn's frame that folded into the chair beside the window as he waited out the minutes.
I didn't mind that Quinn was there. He was, after all, my best friend, even when we fought, even when we hated each other, even when we told each other that we hoped the other would fuck off and die, we were still the best mix, in perfect shades of green. You and I had never mixed quite so well, contrasting yet complimentary and it showed in all that we ever did. It showed in vibrant hues of deafening volume, in violent yellows and bloody reds, splayed across royal purples and oranges. It was a messy abstract that was nothing short of amazing.
And it was the colors of you that haunted my sleep. More than the taste or smell of you. More than the sound of your voice or the depth of your eyes. More than the silky feel of your hair or your skin. It was the colors of all of those things. You were more than an artist. You were the art.
It was color that pulled me from my sleep. Pressing its brilliant sunny fingers against my eyelids, tugging my mind from hibernation, sliding into the sunlit room.
Warm fingers laced through mine, tucked beneath the soft skin of a chin. The soft whisper of breath that could have been a mumble of words or a simple sigh. I struggled to lift my eyelids, squinting in the light that overwhelmed the sterile room.
Your lips moved in a small smile as I tightened my hand around yours and your eyes raised to meet mine in an explosion of color. My breath caught in my throat and my heart raced, changing the beat of the monitor's whine momentarily and causing us both to chuckle.
"You're here," I rasped out, my tongue feeling as if it hadn't been used in years.
You leaned forward, pressing your lips against the back of my hand. "Of course I am."
Our eyes met again, in silent conversation, framed by lashes, but naked of innuendo. You knew what I was thinking. You knew all the questions in my head. You knew the only answer I wanted to know. You knew my doubts and my weaknesses. You knew the way our colors laid against each other in love and in hate. You knew the curves and angles of my every shadow. You knew me. The same way you knew that I was dead from miles away. And the same way you knew that holding your hand made me feel more alive than I had in months.
You smiled again, your lips revealing secrets and promises that I knew in the same ways that you knew me.
And I smiled back, feeling my heart begin to beat again.
"I couldn't miss your birthday," you said softly. "Could I?"