Shades of Orange

BY C. ABES

They weren’t kidding when they said your life flashes before your eyes

when you die. Like a movie reel, I can see the scenes of my short existence

rolling past. Childhood to teenage years, with a brief excerpt of adulthood,

until I see myself stepping out onto Pine Street.  In third person, I can see that

car coming from miles away. There’s the crooked path the man took from the

dingy bar off Main that’s permanently shrouded in darkness from the grime on

the windows. The screech of the tires and the cacophony of car horns as he

wavers precariously between lanes. The stale scent of cheap beer on his

breath as he screams at the empty passenger seats. The rough pavement,

gravel digging under my nails, as harsh as the reality that my unwritten

biography would have such a boring ending.

What they don’t tell you is that your life actually flashes before your eyes more

than once. My piercing scream as I see the headlights bearing down on my

just barely blossoming life blends seamlessly with my first wail in this world; the

sad revelation that I had to exist now. Ashes to ashes, as it were. My film reel

is speeding up now, and as the scenes flash the colours blend and blend into

one- orange. I can pin-point different shades as the moments of my life pass. I

see the golden orange of my dog’s fur, like silk between your fingers if you pet

it one way and a dense fluff if you go against the grain. He had perpetual

morning breath and not enough shame to refrain from panting directly in my

face, but a soul as vibrant as his coat. He radiated happiness, and at the age

of seven my only ambition was to be as content with life as my dog. A few

years later, there is the glow of the bonfire my friends and I had the night of

our high school graduation. How nice it was to see a warm hue of orange

dancing over every one’s smiling faces rather than the sickly illumination of a

screen. The auburn smell of wood and useless notes that we set on fire stuck

longer than we did and followed us on our separate ways; it lingered on our

sweaters, nestled between the threads. The orange eventually went up in

smoke and drifted to the clouds with the melodic laughter of that night, hushed

confessions, and the nostalgic stories that managed to make it past the heavy

lump in my throat. The embers faded but not in our eyes, because we were

young and we were ready for a new adventure and…

My heart stops, or at least my chest clenches as the ghost of a beating

heart catches. In this scene I can see the end of his cancer stick, the addiction

he picked up when he couldn’t write anymore and he didn’t know what else to

do with his hands. A tobacco romantic, I loved him dearly. Pen ink was

swapped for minor burns that added uneven hills to his palms rather than the

soft valleys of his life lines that I used to trace with the tip of my finger. He

coughed like his lungs were frail as moth wings and the smell of old smoke

preceded his arrival; he said he liked to assault the nose first before he could

insult the being. Fast forward to his funeral. A faded orange match box hits the

dirt at the bottom of his grave with a soft thump. The wind whistles between

the few people that attended and creates a symphony to break the heavy

silence. Somewhere, someone whispers “I’m sorry” but their weak-willed

condolence barely pierces the white noise in my head.

My life has been cast with a hue of orange. I can see the varying tones; the

stages of orange of infant autumn leaves, the warm orange of a fire, the

searing orange that bursts from the end of a cigarette, and many beautiful

sunsets with hints of orange working harmoniously with the other colours that

the sun made on her palette. Infinite shades of orange shaped my life, and as

the film reel begins to slow I can see them fading like the dimming of a candle.

I take a last breath of smoke, swallow the iron taste lingering on my tongue,

and now that the asphalt has softened into a smooth bed for me I let the fading

lullaby of sirens sing me to sleep.

The candle goes out.

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