I was five months old when I first met Death. I was in a stroller, kicking my little legs around while my mom pushed me along the sidewalk. I had a teething toy grasped in my chubby fingers, and I was gnawing on it, getting saliva all over my skirt. Then my mom gasped.
I turned my head to the street, and lying right in the middle of the asphalt was a cat, limp and unmoving. Death was hovering over it, a figure shrouded in dark mist. He lifted his head, and although Death had no eyes, I knew he was looking right at me.
My mom whispered “poor thing” and kept walking. I looked away, still chewing on my toy.
The second time I met Death, I was six years old, and my grandfather was in the hospital. My mom was sitting next to his bed, clutching his hand with tears in her eyes. The white fluorescent lights were too bright for the occasion, and I was almost relieved when Death arrived. The darkness cooled my vision, providing a respite from the sadness and grief. We looked at each other, and I felt a comforting touch on my shoulder before he disappeared.
I saw Death more often after that. He would come to me whenever I felt down, always seeming to know exactly when I needed him. We wouldn’t talk, but he was a reassuring presence at my side, a reminder that I would always have a friend with me, no matter what happened.
When my best friend moved away, leaving me with empty spaces and a lonely spirit, Death was there. When my first girlfriend dumped me for a guy, telling me that I was just an experiment and coloring my heart blue, Death was there. When I was stressed about college applications, pulling at my hair and chewing my nails into blunt stubs, Death was there.
He was a storm, taking away lives and leaving destruction in his wake, but the winds and rain would cover up my damaged pieces, leaving me impossibly warm and giving me an excuse to keep going. We didn’t have a lot in common, but we managed to form an indestructible bond.
When I first met Olivia, I was twenty. We were in the same college lecture, seated two spaces away from each other and dozing off in our chairs. When the professor called us out, worried about our wellbeing, we looked at each other and chuckled, mirth dancing in our eyes.
She pulled me aside after the lecture, and we went out in search of warm drinks, snowflakes decorating our coats and biting winds pulling color from our cheeks. She ordered a hot chocolate and I ordered a black coffee, and we got to know each other amongst soft jazz music and twinkling lights.
And from then on, we were inseparable.
There were some things about Olivia I would never understand. The way she would leave the toothpaste tube open after brushing her teeth. Her confrontational nature. Her hatred of fish. How she didn’t care about anyone’s opinion. How she wanted to travel the world. We were opposites in every way, but somehow, even after all these years, we just clicked. She was a force to be reckoned with, and I loved her all the more for it. Nothing would stand in her way. Not even Death.
But Death was always there. He reminded you that you’d never be alone, that you’d always have him, even in your darkest moments.
I was forty years old when I saw Olivia for the last time. We had had twenty years together, twenty wonderful years, but it wasn’t enough. It would never be enough. We were in the hospital, and the fluorescent lights burned my retinas, the memory of white sheets and tear-filled eyes replaying in my head. I knew how it ended, with dark mists and cold bodies, and I wished I didn’t.
Death was by the wall, lingering in the corners of my vision.
Olivia’s fingers clutched mine, and she was so beautiful I found myself grateful for one last moment with her. Because although she was gone, Death would always be there, a comfort, a reassurance.
Inspired by this prompt.