Brush With Death

by Elliot Pope


It’s the third time this week that I’ve watched myself die. And I still haven’t figured out when it will happen.

The vision comes to me all at once. A person stands at a crosswalk. They look in my direction, and though I know what to expect by now, I still cringe at the sight of my own face staring at me. The other me looks in both directions and steps out into the street. They walk briskly across, and at once I know what will happen. It doesn’t stop me from watching myself spot the car speeding around the corner, watching myself freeze up in panic. I have never been good at remembering ‘fight or flight’. I turn away from the impact itself, but I hear the squeal of tires and a distinctive thunk. A burning impulse fills me, telling me to look and see. But when I open my eyes, I don’t see my broken body lying in the street. Instead, I’m back in my apartment, staring down into a glass of half-filled water. 

“It was different again. The way I died.” I say out loud, but the only living thing in the room with me is my cat. And she doesn’t care.

Last time, two days ago, I watched myself drown in my apartment swimming pool. And before that, I watched as I fell from the top floor of my office building. The first time I watched myself die, I had mistakenly eaten a cookie with nuts in it. It had been a particularly boring death, observing as I stumbled around my apartment for my EpiPen, only to collapse and suffocate right before I pulled open the drawer. After I had jolted out from the vision, I had placed my EpiPen in a more convenient place. Dying from a stupid allergy is the worst way to go. 

Now, I refill my water cup, which I don’t remember drinking, and swallow the whole thing in one gulp. I glance down at my outfit and frown at the sweatpants and ratty t-shirt. This won’t do. My closet is a disaster, but I find what I’m looking for right away. It must be fate. I strip and dress quickly, slipping on my best pair of shoes and making sure my hair is arranged just so. I pause to inspect myself in the hall mirror before leaving, turning this way and that to see if I missed anything. My cat finds my eyes, and I crack the living room window open, just in case. There. It all seems right this time. 

The street below is bustling with commuters. I wonder for a moment if they too have seen their deaths. Is it always the same? Do they change every time, like mine? It doesn’t matter. Even if I stopped to ask, they would just look at me like I was crazy. After all, it’s human nature to block out horrors. 

My destination comes into view after a brisk walk through the streets. It’s just as it was in my vision: the crosswalk. And judging by the familiar people waiting to cross, I’ve made it just in time. Good. What’s a show without a star? 

The sign changes to a walk sign. The people next to me cross, but I stay put. Rocking back and forth on my heels, I watch the countdown slip from fifteen to five. I repeat the numbers in my head. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. When the stop hand appears, I smile. I look to the right and then to the left. One step onto the street. Then another. Faster and faster, the other side so near yet so far. Someone on the sidewalk behind me calls out, but I pay no attention. Nothing will stop me from doing what I want. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I watch a black SUV come flying around the corner. I turn toward it, freezing in what I had thought earlier to be panic, but what I now recognize as acceptance. I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the person behind the wheel. This is my time, not theirs. I breathe in once and send up a silent prayer. I’ve never been religious, never even acknowledged a higher power, but this seems as good a time as ever. God, is this what you want for me? Are you proud? If I make it to you, answer me, please.

I wait for the impact, the moment of truth. But… nothing. My feet are still rooted to the pavement, my eyes still shut tight. A light drizzle has begun to fall on my skin. This isn’t how it should be.

I open my eyes. The car has stopped, inches from my boots. The driver is visible through the windshield, their head rolled back. They look like they’re sleeping, but then I see the cracked window and the blood splattered on the passenger seat. They were shot through the head, right before they could run me over. Just like everyone else before.

“GODDAMNIT,” I yell to the sky. The people watching the spectacle jump and whisper, but I can’t begin to care. I’ve tried and tried and I’m still here. After two weeks of visions of gruesome deaths, I’m still here. It’s the third time this week that I’ve tried to end my life. And I still haven’t figured out when I will finally die.