I sat on the front porch with Death
and shared whisky.
Death has a rep for terrible taste
in booze but all things considered,
I took the glass and choked it down.
Not horrible, not great. Sometimes
mediocre is the worst option
but being the only one available makes it
the best option as well.
Afterwards we shared a joint. Mine, of course;
Death can’t roll to save a soul
and my reputation for that skill is known in Heaven and Hell.
Death settled into the chair
and took a larger pull than was strictly
polite, but arguing makes no sense
when you argue with Death. (Before this all
becomes “Princess Bride” parody,
understand how serious this was
underneath the smiles and proffered drugs:
I was drinking and toking with Death
as if it all hadn’t been that for my whole life,
as if I didn’t know what might be at stake, though I did.)
Buzzed and worried,
I asked Death for a momentary reprieve — not for myself,
but for some random person. I wanted to tell myself
that I’d made some difference for someone
without regard for who they were. When Death
nodded and said it was done, I swallowed the drink
and the burning, dragged deep, fell asleep.
Someone didn’t die because I’d had that drink,
I told myself. Such a wasted life as I’d had,
I had to justify it at least a bit, even if I’d been in a fog
the whole time. Even if I didn’t know
that the saved person was worthy. No one’s worthy
enough, really. It’s all a drunken plea
to stay alive for each of us. I didn’t do anything,
really, except hope it would work to my credit
to have done something not for myself. It’s what
every drink shared with Death is,
of course. A bargain. A deal, a commodified prayer
with indeterminate answers. Fire swallowed for heat,
chased with a hope for no scarring.