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Seven Seconds

Illustration by Andrea Wan

One: At 6000 ft. when the red 'Danger' sign starts slipping away.

Age 1 to 4:

Mother feeds me soft, mushy food,

My mouth is smeared in a mess of curry and rice.

I walk like a crab with my feet on daddy’s,

I play with dolls and run around the house like mice.

I write crooked alphabet with chalk on black slate,

I fill the board with checks and copy the same letter a million times.

All the world's my playground, and I, a carefree child.

Two: At 5500 ft. when the sky grows taller in front of me, raining glass.

Age 5 to 8:

I happily march into the school on first day.

I don't turn to wave my parents goodbye.

The streak lasts until lunch time, When I remember my parents and start to cry.

That’s when I meet my best friend –

She consoles me with her box of grapes and sweet lime.

We go on sleepovers,

Share ghost stories under the covers,

And refuse to sleep on time.

Three: At 4800 ft. when reality hits like that truck and I hug Lily closer to my chest.

Age 9 to 12:

I discover my love for art.

And start copying drawings on every surface I saw.

I hoarded wax crayons and smelled like Play-Doh all day long.

I watched movies with my family almost every night,

And started craving burgers.

When they refused to buy me one, I put up a fight.

Mother twists my ear one afternoon, asking me to clean the scribbling on the walls.

I come back from a drawing competition with a medal hanging on my overalls.

Four: At 4000 ft. when I turn to my husband sleeping peacefully against his seat, drooling blood.

Age 13 to 16:

Loneliness engulfs me.

My mind is a flurry of thoughts.

I start developing breasts,

And wanted to saw them off.

I think too much about boys.

And start wetting my thighs.

Blood stains too many of my skirts.

Sometimes I confuse the two,

And scurry into the bathroom stalls

With a pad I borrowed from a friend

Like drug deals in abandoned parking lots.

Five: At 3100 ft. when I notice the lilies on Lily's head have turned red.

Age 17 – 20:

I finish school, and manage to get decent marks.

When I thought I was free, I get into a nightmare called college.

It was a prestigious institute for arts.

I fall in love for the first time,

I blush while accepting a rose.

He leaves me and breaks my tender heart.

I paint with my tears, and in art, I mend myself.

I drown in canvases and oils, and graduate with an art degree in hand.

My fingers covered in dried paint instead of polish, my room covered in canvases instead of posters–

It's all worth nothing, they said.

Six: At 2000 ft. when tears blur my vision.

Age 21 to 24:

I struggle for two years, but never stop painting.

Then I land my first big opportunity.

I hold my first open gallery and sell some of my art.

I meet the love of my life,

We marry, rent an apartment, and decide to adopt.

A sweet, little family of three.

A whole new world of adventures awaiting us –

Lily, Arvind, and me.

Seven: At 800 ft. and falling when I shut my eyes and brace myself.

Age 25 to 27:

Lily started walking.

We decide to drive to the mountain-side to celebrate.

Our destiny awaits at the crossroads with the red, danger sign.

A truck hits us before we could apply the brake.

Our car is thrown off the mountain road.

We’re falling into the fog below.

The window starts raining shards of glass,

To bathe us in our own blood.

I hug Lily close to my chest.

My husband sleeps peacefully in his seat.

He drools on the pillow usually, and today he drools blood by the buckets.

The lilies on Lily's head have turned red for some reason.

Maybe they weren't lilies at all. But crossandras.

My babygirl is alive and well.

I've shut my eyes to welcome death.

At the foot of the hill, my face smashes against a rock,

In gruesome peace, I rest, after seven seconds ran slow enough for twenty-seven years of my life to flash by.

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