i’m dying in six minutes, but death is the last thing on my mind right now. lying on the bed in the transformed bedroom in his mansion, headphones on, he looks like eddie the head. the illnesses had come quite early and progressed rapidly. in the space of three years he transformed from a strapping 6’2’’ hunk to a vegetable on a bed he has laid on for the last six months. he has paid to die at home. he can afford it. he is rich beyond imagination. he has almost everything … i have seen everyone but her – that was to be expected. he is ready for death, he can smell death. death has been with him for three weeks now. together they had gone through the last rites of putting everything in place for today except one task, to find a song to play to her when she comes – she would come. he laid listening to music. his sweating hand is resting on the ipod, finger ready to press stop when he hears the right song. curiously, none of the songs i have been listening to reminds me of her – i cannot recall any music that does.

the room smells of death. he smells of death. as the months passed, his death-smell has become offensive. rancid. musky. the smell of a wild rat. but it all ends in five minutes. he coughs hard and winces in deathly pain. he lifts his head to breath – his lungs rattle. he remembers reading somewhere that music has the ability of creating a sense of immersion – it places you in the perspective of that which is observed, the ambience and the activity. how come i cannot recall any song that reminds me of her? he remembers reading somewhere also that music is a strong marker of events, moods and emotions. music encapsulates ideas. did i not feel for her? the thought scared him. could i have been with her all this while without feeling anything?

he rolled his eyes towards me, ! smiled at him and he winces a smile back. ! raise four fingers to indicate how much time was left before ! take him. that did not bother him. he did not say anything. he does not say much. he has not said much since they parted, but ! know my indication of how much time he had left before he dies did not bother him. he has gotten used to my presence. he thinks a song to me …

thirty-nine (39) candles burnt out on a cake  
each representin’ a million mistakes
the last one still burns, there’s a wish i can make
this time i’m getting’ it right
       
so i close my eyes and i take a deep breath
and i promise myself in the time i have left …[1]

he knows how to use music. he knows music communicates meanings that are incommunicable via words (alone). i cannot remember dedicating any song to her. ! lean close to him:

‘remember richard wagner?’ he rolled his eyes away from me. ! can hear the eyes move in their sockets like dice on a croupier’s table. ! can hear his labored breath like a character from amnesia: the dark descent. remember what he said? that “music speaks out of the very thing which word speech in itself cannot speak out … that which, looked at from the standpoint of human intellect, is the unspeakable.”’[2]

i cannot remember how many times i said that to you. he thought back to me. ! smiled. we hardly spoke … she was always complaining about one thing or another … why did i not just play songs to express what i felt? did i feel anything for her? was it because we did nothing worth remembering? i am losing my patience. his mood swings have become alarming in the last seven days. i am going to die in three minutes, and i cannot remember any song that reminds me of her or what we did …

he wanted to die listening to music … he had requested that when he could still write. the legs went first, then the left arm, and gradually, one by one, he lost all muscular functions – except in his right finger. his illness is a curious one – it is a debilitative hybrid. so, even though he suffers the inability to acquire new memories and has difficulty in recalling recently observed facts … why can’t he remember things from their past? my job is not to remind him … ! only come to take them back when their time is up. the illness may have caused his paraphasias but the decision to stop speaking was voluntary. many think the debilitative hybrid is the culprit, but i died the day she left. no, his mind died the day they met. he coughs again … his throat is dry and itchy. he wants to play a song for her, to tell her what he couldn’t say.

i am losing consciousness. i take a deep breath and smell death. the smell of decaying onion. i am in a dark empty room with high undefined ceiling. i look up. i see another form – like a jellyfish. it is floating above me. i have seen it before. it is beautiful. it has been watching us for six minutes. i start to lose consciousness. i am staring at the jellyfish – it assumes my face. it is smiling at me.

‘goodbye’ it whispers.

where have i seen it before? i start to remember. i can hear the music. the memories are flooding back. the songs are playing all at once, quick. a song for every moment we shared. i press stop, the music won’t stop. i’m getting light-headed as i watch the jellyfish float away. i press stop, the song continues to play. my head is swooning. i am falling into an abyss. people are gathering by the bed-side. pandemonium. the jellyfish is floating away like a kite in the winds. ! hold up my hand to indicate it is time to go. the jellyfish is getting away from me. we need to arrive together. she walks into the room. the song starts to play. i press stop, the song stops playing. i hear the strains of the song in my head. my soul is gone. she has come – the one i could not remember by music. i press play. i listen – baby since the day you came into my life/you made me realize that we were born to fly[3]

i feel cold. i am going numb. the lights start to go out, one by one, all six of them. everything shuts down. silence. she removes the headphones from his head. puts them on and hears her song …

Copyright © Fani-Kayode Omoregie 2014

From my collected short stories – Gravity of Desire

[1] Rucker, Darius. (2008). While I Still Got The Time. Learn to Live.  Nashville, Tennessee: Capitol Nashville Records.

[2] Wagner R. (1964). Orchestra’s power of speech: analogy with gesture , Dutton, New York: (Original work [The Artwork of the Future] published in1849)

[3] Legend, John. (2005). So High. Get Lifted. New York: Sony Music.