A short essay about life and death and the lines in matter that define them.
The room would have settled in quietly, atoms sinking to rest quietly around the dozen or so bodies. Only the little space below each pair of nostrils would move, syncopated little flurries of energy, in, out, in, out. Its like that at the end. Shavasana. Corpse pose. You lay on your mat and feel the matter heavy on your skin, all the energy you collectively built and created during the session suddenly still, and weighing you down, sinking in like the lead of the apron you wore when you fractured your fibula in high school and had to get it X-rayed.
And then someone gets up, displacing the air around him and letting it push out around his body, tipping into the space surrounding the next person, and the next, the next. One by one you feel the bodies leave the room. You keep your eyes closed and feel the swirling puffs of air as they walk by, a whisper on your cheek, your toes. All the little pieces of energy that had sunk down to the floor, that surrounded their resting bodies now gusting off their movements and clashing into yours, a perfect storm.
The week before, you watched a guy die in the local Walgreens off of Fell street.
It was just a Tuesday evening and you were just on your way home and stopping in to grab something–ramen, or eyeliner–and there he was, having a heart attack on the rubber mat inside the glass sliding door marked EXIT as you walked in. There were three or so people around him, pumping the chest of his massive body. You could have turned around and left, but you just walked right in and straight to the back of the store where one of the Walgreens employees was crying at the end of the aisle. You looked at her and felt your own eyes well up, your heart beating too fast. Gratuitous, unnecessary beats you would have gladly donated to the man lying on the rubber mat in the entrance. You stood there and looked at your feet between the reading glasses and bandaids.
You don’t remember what, but you bought something. Perhaps you felt you needed to, because what kind of sick person would just keep walking in when she didn’t actually need to buy anything. Who would just waltz on by while someone was dying if she didn’t have some urgent shopping need.
He was a local. He came every day. Every day.
The woman at the checkout tells you, wiping tears with the back of her hand.
You buy whatever you buy with a somber face and eyes wide and horrified at your own audacity and the world’s frailty, and keep your head lowered as you leave the store through the sliding glass door marked with a backwards ENTRANCE.
Later you think about the yellow plastic sheet they had pulled up over his obese frame when you walked back out, the sheer amount of space his person took up. He was still there.
His cells were still knit together in the particular composition he was, the matter and cells of energy that made up his own body still pushing back against the ones that were just settling in around him.
But unlike yoga class, you know he will never rise up again. His mass will never push aside the little particles around him to swish around and fall away into other people, other energy, other life. Its like that in the end. Shavasana. Corpse pose. We’ll each lay on our own rubber Walgreen mats, or wherever it is we happen to fall, and as the energy begins to settle in heavy, weighing down into us, the clear line between our own particular composition of energy, and those free agent particles from outside blurs, they mix, and melt into each other. If someone were to take an X-ray, our outlines would vanish.