Dying To Live

  • 04 Nov - 10 Nov, 2017
  • Annie Zahid
  • Fiction

He noticed Jesse’s fiery red hair as soon as it entered his peripheral vision and looked at him over Cork’s shoulder. He was answering the questions Cork was asking to fill out his form when Jesse felt his eyes on him and turned to look.

Recognition flashed in Jesse’s eyes almost immediately even though their last meeting was years ago. He turned back to the person he was talking to and Damian could tell by his body language that he was trying to wrap up the conversation he was having. Damian smiled to himself, feeling foolish for being anxious about this meeting. Jesse was a good person.

Standing at a distance away from Damian, Jesse smiled and waved hesitantly trying to figure out if Damian remembered him too. Damian grinned and waved back at him. Now more confident and ever-friendly, Jesse walked up to him and clapped him on the back.

“Long time no see, friend! Wha… oh, sorry,” Jesse stopped talking when he noticed Cork was glaring at him for interrupting her. He gave a lopsided smile and stepped back, his hand coming up to rub the back of his neck. When Cork had left, Jesse walked up to his old friend and looked at the bandage wrapped around his head.

“Still tripping over thin air, are we?” Jesse teased, referring to how clumsy Damian was in his high school days. “Good God! You look exactly the same; maybe, a little bit taller.”

“You haven’t changed much either, fire-hydrant,” replied Damian, using the nickname Jesse had acquired for himself, thanks to his vibrant hair.

Jesse laughed.

“Seriously though, what happened?” Jesse asked, inspecting Damian’s head.

“I slipped on the bathroom floor.”

“Sounds fun,” Jesse replied sarcastically.

“Not as fun as pouring hot coffee all over myself the first thing in the morning,” Damian took a jab at Jesse by bringing up that one time Jesse had accidentally poured coffee on himself right after his morning shift started at the cafe they both worked at.

“Now that’s just an unfairly-low blow!” Jesse said, but he was laughing.

After a few more minutes of light-hearted small talk, they decided to meet up later to catch up properly. Even though Damian knew that he couldn’t just ask Jesse why he wasn’t dead, and that he would have to rekindle this whole friendship before asking him anything about his past, he was still disappointed. His sister’s life was at stake, so his impatience was completely justified.

Damian flagged down a taxi cab after walking out of the hospital. He had brushed Lexie off when she had offered to drive him to the hospital. He felt extremely guilty for worrying her like this. Thinking back to his meeting with Jesse, he tried to ease some of his own guilt by telling himself he did this for her. Falling head first wasn’t the ideal or brightest idea; it wasn’t even purposeful, but it did the job.

The next day

As per what was decided the other day, Saturday afternoon found Jesse and Damian at the local diner. After their last meeting, there was next to no awkwardness and they talked as if they hadn’t ever lost contact with each other. Even to this day, Damian still remembered how he had felt when the numbers had appeared on Jesse’s wrist. Now, he was elated to find out that his friend wasn’t just alive, but he was living a happy, contented life.

“I mean,” said Jesse, “things aren’t perfect and I do have problems in my life. But I’m living a life better than most people I know and a life better than what I had always imagined for myself, so there’s that.”

They talked for hours. The two friends did not have any type of formality or discomfort between them. Damian decided that now was a time as good as any to talk about what he wanted to.

“Oh, I almost forgot…” Damian said, masking his anxiety, “I heard you were in an accident a while back. Is that true?”

“Ah, yes! It was a long time ago,” confirmed Jesse.

When Damian didn’t say anything and continued to look at him, Jesse realised he expected him to continue.

“I survived,” Jesse said, trying to annoy Damian.

“No way, Sherlock! I never would’ve known if you hadn’t told me,” Damian said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Jesse grinned and continued, “It was a hit and run. I still don’t know who it was. It was at the intersection in front of the Officer’s Mess. I was on my motorbike and the signal had just turned green. There wasn’t even that much traffic but I was still following the law and only started driving when the signal turned green. But this car came out of nowhere, breaking the traffic signal and hitting me so hard that my bike immediately toppled over and I along with my bike skidded across the road and crashed on the signal pole.”

“Yikes! I’m so sorry,” Damian said.

“It’s okay. Like I said, it was a long time ago. Besides, I get to tell people I came back from the dead,” Jesse said jokingly, but he wasn’t lying.

This piqued Damian’s interest and he asked, “Returned from the dead?”

“Yeah, apparently I died and came back to life. I told you, I have a lot to thank God for.”

“That’s... wow...” Damian laughed nervously. He was at a loss for words and his thoughts were racing a hundred miles a minute. “What was it like? I mean, what happened?”

“I remember I blacked out after hitting the pole. When I woke up again, it was because Joshua was screaming at me to wake up. And upon waking up, I saw him sitting beside the nurse in the ambulance. Then it is all a blur of white lights and darkness till I finally woke up in a hospital bed.”

Upon hearing this story, Damian choked on the sip of water he had just taken. Jesse gave him a knowing smile and apologised while thumping his back.

“Joshua?!” Damian expressed his incredulity, “Your brother Joshua?!”

Jesse nodded and Damian stared at him with wide eyes. Joshua, Jesse’s brother, died years ago. Way before Jesse and Damian had even met.

“That’s scary and amazing at the same time,” Damian said after a couple of minutes had passed, and Jesse nodded in agreement, staring off into the distance.

Damian felt strangely guilty and steered the conversation towards more mundane topics, like high school reunions and best cheeseburger in town. However, his thoughts were still creating a storm in his mind.

to be continued...