It is the color of death, the temperature and sound of an utterly peaceful death. The purple smoke blowing towards me is threatening to envelope me, and everything I know or will know, and someday I will want to fall into it. Someday, I will want the cool, light purple smoke to blow coolly over my stiff and aching body and carry me away, into its ever peaceful kiss. It understands me just to the point of where I want it to, and gives me the individual anonymity of one who will eventually die. It is barren but full of life.
Creaking ice and thundering air matches the soul departing – both breaking off and becoming one. Death is a caving iceberg, losing one’s iceberg identity, floating in water. Freshwater enveloped by salt and cold, breaking apart and reforming. The music, the heart song, breath allows the cleavage of body and spirit – a Band-Aid peeled gently off by a mother’s thin fingers. The horizon line hides as the snow and sky collide, the definitive point, the last breath. It is subtle, but it exists, for there is life one moment and death another.
Bahpa was breathing and then he wasn’t.
His heart beat and then it didn’t.
He knew my name.
Does he still?
There is no pain in this peace, nothing that is anything other than how the last breaths should feel, the last peals ringing out across the barren terrain, empty land, cold nothingness. I am cloaked only in my wanderlust, which I will shed in incipient lavender steam. Nature’s almost straight lines and imperfect geometry sweep across my periphery. The crashing ice, music, heart watches the blemish on the horizon, purple smoke crawling across this lifeless organ, this tundra, this shrine to almosts and alwayses. And the lavender grows, staining my life purple, seeping down my esophagus into my lungs, stealing through my bloodstream, finding my heart with a flourish, lifting me up and away. Swept across the tundra, I am consumed, I dissipate, I abate. And when the purple darkens my vision, I am blown back into a forging yellow light and the melodic strains of a flute.
Alone, I sit on this cool white cube, alone I whisper ‘Bahpa,’ and think about broken radios we never fixed. Alone, the horizon swallowed him. Alone, I too will cross that subtle line of last breaths and last ‘should’ves.’ Alone, we face the purple smoke, but in this aloneness we are not lonely. Autonomy has been surrendered, and my hair, skin and marrow dissolve into this smoke.
A collective breath.
A oneness unattainable in life.
There is no time, there are no calendars. I no longer have taste or smell, just the muted colors that can seep through the eyelids of my soul, the floating touch of wind through vanity. Vanity pulses and vibrates before the heartbeats drown it out. It is my soul I watch, this barren scape, this purple smoke. And barefoot, my chubby and wrinkled baby feet, I wiggle my toes into the generous nothingness, the warmth of the coolness, the empty fullness.
Amelia Nierenberg, Age 17, Grade 11, The Fieldston School High School, Silver Key