Project 365: Day 324 — Legacy

Disappointment. Everything Gazala had ever hoped for had finally led up to this moment, writ large on her face — disappointment. The doctor must have mistaken it for shock, for he, in an attempt to be empathetic, said in a cautious voice, “I know it must be a huge shock for you! Use all the time you have to grieve.”

She looked at him blankly. But nothing could console her. She didn’t care for the Stage 4 cancer he had just informed her of. It was its nature she worried about. Every person worried about dying in the most horrific way possible, especially these days. Countries were at war. Riots were erupting. Then were normal deaths too. People who got on a plane or a train and never come back. There were those who died in their beds, while watching a cricket match. Last month, her octogenarian neighbour died of a heart attack while squatting in her Indian-style toilet; one of her last wishes remained unfulfilled — to have her son install a Western toilet she had loved at a hotel they had visited. Still it was a death wasted, in her opinion, if she passed away while she passed her stool. Her granddaughter put it quite eloquently — it was like one way her waste was being expelled and the other way, her soul.

But she was to die an ordinary death — hooked up to wires, fluids going in and out of her in different ways, blood transfusions, losing hair. Of course, her family would spare no expense in getting her treatment. With zero hope for survival, her only hope was to go out with a bang. You see she had failed. All her life, she had seen every member of her big fat family go out with a bang. Her father had choked while laughing uncontrollably, while her mother died when she received blood from the wrong blood group. Her brother, who would have been ninety-three had he lived, died when someone wanting to kill themselves fell on him. Her uncle, who never married died of an infection when he had peeled off half his flesh scratching himself. That last one was natural, given the fact that he rarely ever bathed or changed his bedsheets.

There was an aunt who died of hiccoughs, a grandparent who had too much gas, a niece who was sacrificed in a religious rite or a distant relative who had jumped into a river in South America without reading the signed that warned people about piranhas. Her daughter was kind enough to have created a family tree online with each deceased member’s ‘strange death’ listed next to their name. She had taken a prinout and taped it to Gazala’s wall.

Strange deaths were a fairly common phenomenon in this family, a legacy that she had hoped to fulfill. Except now, she was counting down to the time she would die in the saddest possible way, surrounded by family in a hospital bed with flowers and mourners on display.

So she took matters into her own hands. She phoned her old lover Russi. The partially deaf, Russi accompanied her onboard a cruise. She would die on that cruise and dear Russi would be with her. She didn’t know how long she had then but she supposed it wouldn’t be too long drawn.

As it turns out, the hard of hearing Russi was quite entertaining since he was always taking speech out of context. She liked his company. He would be a babbling brook by day and a loud snorer by night but he was the best company she had ever enjoyed. He had gone a little senile so he often lost track of conversations and kept talking about taking a dip by the pool. By pool, of course, he meant the deep blue sea. He had taken to bringing up Titanic every now and then lately. At first, she wondered why, but then she remembered that Russi was the one she had watched Titanic with 17 years ago. One evening while they were on their stroll, she had a moment of sudden inspiration.

She suggested they pose, like Jack and Rose, at the edge of the ship. So they climbed the bars on the edges of the ship. Slowly, as slowly as their frail knees could manage. Then they held their arms out together while kissing each other — a la Titanic.

“For all his going cuckoo, he’s still an excellent kisser”, she thought.

A ship hand spotted them and froze with a look of incredulity. It didn’t take him long to recover, and he screamed —

“Oy! OY, OY! You old geezer, what you doin’ snogging that old hag?”

The noise startled them and as they tried to steer their balance, they tripped and fell over the edge of the ship. They must have gone under the fans of the ship or else there wouldn’t have been a bulk of red mush around the sides of the ship.

Somewhere, as she was being crushed by those fans, for a tiny, infinitesimal moment, Gazala’s soul danced as it celebrated her wonderful, bloody, morbid ‘beautiful death’ .

She had fulfilled her legacy.

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