This is a work of fiction.
“You would literally die,” the words slipped from their teenage lips. Girls and boys alike, seeking a metaphor to give their stories a hint of spice, even the one that’d been pushed to the back of the rack. Death – it lurks amongst the “totallys” and “likes” and “ohmygods”. Creeps up in conversations as if to mimic its reality. It couldn’t be simpler.
Except there’s nothing simple about the thick, frantic breaths I heard down the phone that Thursday. It was just after 6pm, the receiver slipping through my oil licked fingers. The timer was set, stuffed peppers in the oven – her favourite.
“Lola, there’s a taxi coming to get you-” he sounded panicked. Dad never panicked. “I called one, it’ll be outside any minute now, go, grab all the money you can from my top office draw, that one, all of it. Anything you can find, now-”
“Dad, what’s going on?”
“Your mother, car accident, crash. They’re doing what they can. Tell the taxi driver St. John’s Hospital, emergency room-” an ending as abrupt as his beginning; he hung up before he’d finished the fraction of his sentence. My ears had shut off anyway, my movements robotic. Money, oven, phone, money, keys, check oven, coat. Mum.
The spice their fingers found was red hot chilli pepper. “My mum and I were watching this show yesterday, and we died it was so funny,” the remark scorching as I swallowed, forcing myself to keep it down. Words that were so unintentional they drifted over every other head, a mere pinch of salt gone unnoticed.
And as much as I’d like to convince myself that my mother did die laughing, I can’t. Not ohmygod I literally can’t. But I cannot fit the most heart-warming and heartbreaking feelings into the same sentence. They resist each other like cinnamon and mustard powder. The days of dying over comedy films are long gone. On an empty sofa, the laughs are strangled before they even reach my throat.
I would die for just another night, one more stuffed pepper dinner, a last laugh.