by Amelia Kanan
That bullet killed me two life times ago. I wasn’t walking in the dark. I wasn’t alone. And it wasn’t the first shot.
The men who had killed me hovered over my naked little body. Laughing as I squirmed on the precipice of death.
I was seven.
The bang rattled me more than the pain itself. Dreaming of my mother’s arms, I was comforted by sadness instead of fear. My head on her chest, listening to her voice rattle through her rib cage. Her breath from her nose felt warm on my forehead. Her buttery skin smelled sweet and safe. As I trembled, I closed my eyes and tried my hardest to keep her with me. Petting my hair, brushing my cheek and kissing the top of my head. All the things I used to hate until that moment.
The pain grew like a weed. Wrapping its stinging vines around my stomach, up into my chest and then around pelvis. My lungs were hasty in their requests for the winter air as my body rattled on the cement slab. I had always liked the winter.
A warmth spread beneath me and blanketed my right thigh. The urine was a brief comfort and went it abandoned me I was a fiend for heat. I buried my hands into the depths of my stomach where the fire was still alive, groaning with pain. Arousing the men to mock me. Shame rippled through me, nearly numbing the bullet pain. The humiliation reckoned me to welcome death. That feeling of vulnerability proved to be more powerful than even the fatal shot that ended that life. More painful than the holes in my abdomen. That emotional pang escorted me into my next two lifetimes.
It’s somewhat true that you get to choose aspects of your life. There are lessons we all have to learn. Some take a few lifetimes to learn others move on to new ones quickly. After exiting that soul crushing life and before I began to work on the aftermath, I needed to be frivolous. I needed to drive in a convertible. Get drunk. Have a lot of sex. I needed a life where I could be free.
My next life was exactly that. I was pretty, blonde and entitled. I got to sleep with a certain U.S. president president before driving over a bridge in my 20’s. Although I lived that life, I feel very detached from it. I feel like she was someone I once played on stage. Maybe that’s why I can’t feel the pain from that death. Though I do still feel the fear every time I drive over a bridge, “It’s over, this is it,” plays like a broken record. I can feel the wind push my car towards the edge, as it had happened a lifetime before. I also still have an obsessive fondness for a certain president.
My life has never flashed in front of me, like they say it’s supposed to. Instead, a jolt of Déjà vu strikes all six of my senses. Freezing my body, surrendering it so my higher self can be present for those final few moments. The fear serves as a comforting reminder of familiarity; knowing the end is right there in sight. It’s oddly beautiful.
The other night I had a dream. I was swimming in the ocean, like a dolphin. Happily. I dove deep towards a white glow on the sea floor. I couldn’t breathe but like a dolphin, I could hold my breath for a long time. The glow was coming from a cozy little house and once I entered, I found every person I had ever loved. But even though I was bursting with joy, I still couldn’t breathe. I had to leave my most favorite place. Swimming to the surface, I knew I’d be back. When I took my first breath, I found a neighboring island. I crawled onto the sand, lied in the sun and began to think about reality, fear reality. Shelter, food and danger. I knew it was too soon to go back to the cozy little sea house but I also didn’t want to live somewhere unsafe and all alone. I went back into the sea and floated on my back, in the middle of nowhere. Then, I woke up.
I think my afterlife was that little cozy home on the sea floor. I keep asking to come back to Earth because I have to breathe but I get here and feel as though I just don’t belong.