The Immortal Marigold
I died a good fifteen times before I hit twenty. Eight of those deaths happened before my seventeenth birthday. I was reckless, but I learned my limits quickly. A failed attempt to lift a pack of Marlboros. A late night wandering through a junkyard inhabited by stealthy hounds.
Once I landed wrong after climbing a massive fence on the outskirts of some Podunk town. Both legs were a mess, bent all wrong, but I had a pocket knife. I cut my own throat and woke up at dawn, my legs reset and the scratches from my climb mended. That knife had been my only friend until I met Santiago.
I had stowed away onto a train car and wanted to try jumping to another train to make it to San Diego. Santi was one car ahead of me, peeking out as the other train slugged toward us in the darkness. At least it seemed to slug–I hadn’t learned that oncoming trains look slower than they are.
I saw his silhouette in the light of the train instead of the moon. I howled at him to hype myself for the jump. I wasn’t afraid of dying. There was no failure in my life, only a string of chances dissolving toward the horizon line. But every death has its own sensation.
Guns were easy. Sometimes cars and knives were. Fists and dogs were not. I didn’t know where the train lay on that spectrum of pain. Santiago pulled my mind away from wondering what the tracks might feel like on my skull. He turned my way, and the intense light of the train kept him silhouetted. I imagined he was handsome, heart faced and white like James Dean, except I would be the one to die in a crash. I blew him a kiss and jumped.
It was my damn shoe that got me killed. I timed the jump wrong and hit hard. For a second I hung onto the edge of the cab door before my laces caught and the gears ate me. I didn’t die instantly, but it was too much to feel. I heard wet and crunching sounds as the tracks. I was gone, and then alive again by dawn, alone in the oncoming sunlight.