I used to think the air inside just came out in one final surge, the way warm smoke pours from chimneys on cold winter mornings, carried off in an indifferent gust. But lately I’ve been thinking, maybe there’s something more when we die. Maybe that last action is only our last here, not just our final warm breath released, but a million fireflies, rushing out our open mouth and up, towards a summer moon, all our suffering and joy.
I saw John’s body, still, plastic, slightly green. Empty of everything. A vessel abandoned, and I wondered what it was inside him that gave such a laugh, a wild chuckle that erupted without warning. The time I slipped into a river, I heard it as he helped me out. Annoyed then, but I’d do it again if I could find that voice. What caused the mallet in his throat to strum those chords and make that sound?
What is it that made John? Skin, bones and muscle, but something else, too. The smell of cider brings New York autumns, the way John’s eyes were windows. Deep, brown, squinted from smiling. But when I saw him last, they were closed. The air seemed cold around his coffin, a vacuum pulling in the warmth. His body might have wanted to be full again, and I tried to pack it with some happy memories of my friend, but I couldn’t hear that laugh, and John’s coffin shut with a hollow thump.