(Winner, The Julian Cowan Youth Award, 2016, age 14)
(Winner, My High School Junior Writing Competition, 2016, age 14)
After the heart stops, there are seven seconds of brain activity left.
Seven seconds. Four hundred and twenty milliseconds.
And in these last fleeting moments, the brain replays the best moments of your life, as if to make the ceasing of existence easier.
I saw you. I saw your eyes, green like swimming pools in mid-July, but sometimes hazel, if you looked close enough, in the right light. I saw your hair, and the stray strands that never would cooperate, always drifting across your face, and how you brushed them back impatiently, and I laughed. I saw your smile – your real smile, the one that was too big for your face, the one that warmed me from within like the showers I had at your place.
Six seconds. I saw the curve of your collarbone, and how it felt pressed against my forehead, and how I whispered into your skin how much I loved you, even though you never could have heard me.
Five seconds. I saw the first time I saw you cry – at your final basketball game, when I watched from the stands, and how afterwards you enveloped me in a hug and you smelled like sweat and winter and salt water and how I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply and didn’t let go.
Four seconds. I saw the late nights and the heavy darkness and quiet breathing of two people secretly entwined in the earliest hours of a school morning. I saw the quiet buzzing of your phone, and the soft light flashing on your table, and when my breathing was steady I saw you slip from the bed and disappear from the room like a shadow.
Three seconds. I saw vacant kisses and hugs you leaned away from. I saw your eyes, like washed out water colors, and I watched the stars in your eyes fall into your throat, and you choking on them. I watched your fingers slip from my grasp, and your smile fade into a small pretend, and your hair become perfect.
Two seconds. I saw the arguments that blossomed from the tiniest things in your life. I saw you yell where you would have kissed me, ignore when you would have smiled, hit where you would have hugged me. I saw the bruises blossom beneath my skin, I saw the long sleeves I tugged over my wrists, and I saw both our eyes become dark and heavy.
One second. I saw sour apples. I saw the very last day, by the beach near your house, where we sat under an apple tree and I tried. I echoed my old laugh, and picked an apple, and bit into the tart green skin. And as the juice washed over my tongue, I saw you voice the words that tore into my skin like razors, that caused more damage to my body than both you and I had ever managed. And the taste of sour apples had not quite faded from my tongue when you left.