My Second Death

by Farida Samerkhanova

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Steve was sitting on the bench in the park and did not seem to notice anything around him. All suicidal people are like this. Separation from his girlfriend felt like the end of the world. I was sitting beside him. He neither saw nor felt me.

People should not want to die. I died in the fall of 1974 in the Soviet Union. Now they call it Russia. I was a student and lived on campus. The campus was ten minutes away from the University. I could make it in five minutes if I ran.

In Ukraine he used to be Stepan. His girlfriend has just been deported; her refugee claim failed. First they took her to jail. Then they put her on a plane. They sent her back to Israel. She had lived for ten years in Canada. He could not stop the removal. No money to hire a lawyer. He would have followed her, but he was not eligible for travel. He was desperate as only very young people could be.

When I died, I had just finished school. I came to study in a big city from a small remote village. I did not speak Russian. I only knew the language of my fathers. It was so hard for me to study, but I was doing my best.

The sun touched the horizon. Steve headed to the subway station. What was on his mind? The best thing for him was to have a good drink. I had never had alcohol in my life, but I saw in the movies that people drink when they are upset. They say it helps.

The deputy dean was very obsessed with discipline issues. His people searched students’ rooms for vodka. We did not have drugs at that time, but students liked wine and vodka.

Steve was a handsome man. His girlfriend was lucky. I had never had a boyfriend. I was seventeen. I had never been kissed. I thought that maybe I could fall in love with Steve. He stood on the platform looking at the rails. Trains kept coming. He was thinking. I can perceive human thoughts, but not always.

Only big cities like Moscow and Leningrad have subways. We had buses and streetcars. There was a streetcar line on my way from home to the University. If I ran, it was two and a half minutes from home to the streetcar tracks and two and a half minutes from the tracks to the University, or vice-versa.

Steve’s hands were shaking. He was scared. He was sweating. I knew what he was up to. He was standing at the edge of the platform. The trains emerged from the arch, moving very fast. Streetcars in my city also run very fast.

All of a sudden Steve saw me. I knew he did. His eyes were open wide with surprise. I know I looked funny in my old-fashioned clothes. No one else could see me. Others passed through me, as if I were made of air. He knew I was dead.

The subway trains rattle like streetcars. Metal against metal makes a screaming sound. I was halfway from home to the University, running as usual. I knew the deputy dean was at the entrance with his notebook, registering those who were late. Afterwards the notes would go to the student council. If I were late for class, I would not get my scholarship. The screaming sound was softened by my flesh.

I threw myself between the wheels and the rails. It felt exactly like thirty-five years ago. Before I died again I looked at Steve. Now that he saw me disfigured he would not jump.

He would go home and Skype to his girlfriend. They would figure out what to do. When I was alive, we did not have Skype. And computers were as big as a wardrobe.


Copyright © 2010 by Farida Samerkhanova

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