When it came down to it, death was motherfucking easy. No rage, no fight, no attempts to bite death in its goddamned throat, chew on its ashy veins. Other folks, maybe, but not me. I just stepped into the street. The asphalt was hot and soft. The heat radiated upwards in waves. There was a blast of a horn, a scrape of a wheel. I felt a pop, a gurgle at the mouth, and a rush of air at my face. I wouldn’t have known what happened were it not for the sound of meat thudding to the ground.
“Huh,” I said. “Would you look at that.” I’d never been what you call a good-looking guy, and cracked skull didn’t do much to improve matters. I shrugged.
The guy in the car came running out, saw the corpse on the ground and vomited right there on his shoes.
“Nasty,” I said.
He looked at me—both of me actually. The me on the ground—bloody mouth, bloody eyes, bloody ears—and the me standing next to him, wavering between light and shadow, leaning against the hood of the car.
“Um,” he said. “Isn’t that—”
“Me?” I said and he nodded. “Appears to be.”
“Huh.” He ran his fingers thoughtfully through his hair. “I just assumed that you’d just, I don’t know, vanish or rot or something. Isn’t that what you thought?”
“Can’t say I thought about it much,” I said.
He shushed out a breath, I could feel the air in his mouth, heavy with spit and worry and life. I shivered.
“So, if you’re still yourself, and that on the ground isn’t you at all anymore, do I need to report the accident?”
“I don’t follow,” I said.
“Well, if you’re here, you can’t rightly say that I killed you. I mean, you can’t be dead and gone if you’re not gone. Plus, with insurance and—”
“Good point,” I said. “No need wake the insurance dogs.” He looked at me. His eyes were wide and brown, with tiny red capillaries spidering the edges. He blinked rapidly, slicking his eyes with tears. I could feel the squeeze of each gland, the flutter of each lash. I felt the wind of his breath—the breath of his mouth, of his nose, of each pore. God! I thought. Beautiful.
“I mean, it’s not like I’m not sorry or anything. It’s just that, you know, you seem fine to me.”
He was right. I was fine. So was he. He moved and shrugged and shuffled his feet. The mechanics of his body had a pleasant pulse to it like poetry or music or sex. I moved closer.
“You got any cigarettes?” I said.
“Can you smoke?”
“Prolly not. You’d have to do it for me.”
He lit up. I pressed my mouth—or, I guessed it was my mouth. The thing I now use as a mouth. I pressed it against his lips, felt his breath curl around the space that was not my body nor my breath, but my self, you see. Myself, myself, myself. And what’s more, I was now lips, and smoke and two voices—his and mine—twining into one.
“How did you do that?” he said, running his tongue along his lips. I was the tongue. I was the lips. I was the slick of spit on chapped skin, the reservoir behind the teeth. He shivered, which is to say I shivered.
“Who the hell knows how anyone does anything,” I said. Or he said. Or I said with his mouth and my voice and his tongue and my words.
“God,” he said, falling to his knees. He looked at the meat that was me and the smoke that is me, and the street and the sky and the pooling blood, cooking now on the hot asphalt. “Dear god. It’s amazing.” And it was amazing, I thought, as he took drag after drag, pulling thought and breath and smoke into his mouth, into his lungs, into the gentle quiver of each pulse. I uncurled into a thousand working cells, pressed past membranes, swam through plasma and sebum and tears. I was flow and breath and poetry. I was blood and sex and grief and joy.
“Thank you,” he said, laying his hands on his heart, his cock, his face. He tore at his hair and eyes and mouth. He cradled the remains of my face in the crook of his arm, brought my bloody lips to his own, running his tongue against my broken teeth.
“You’re welcome,” I said as the police arrived. He lifted his blood smeared face to the first officer and smiled.