He never gets used to the prick, the little sweet sudden agony. It, all the time, catches him unaware. You would imagine he would be used to it by now, what with his lifestyle and the attendant need to do this often.

Then the wait. It is the wait that kills you. It will be months before the ghosts of choices past are laid to rest. It is the wait, for the colours to change, for the portentous red rainbow. Life is suspended in those hues and those moments drawing out with no seeming end. Time in that place is truly an illusion, stretching further and for longer than anywhere else.

They always ask if he has done this before. He says yes quickly, willing the dance to go along faster. He controls his shaking and sweats the cold smelly sweat of fear. He talks too much too fast, filling the mournful and efficient air with inanities. In that place, words are a dubious refuge. He guesses they know a veteran when they see one.

With his recent recklessness, he fears he will be caught on a side of the colour lines no one is ever ready for. He tried, half-hearted, to mitigate the fear by telling himself he was already across. It half worked. Nothing has yet happened to prepare him for what it could mean, finding himself on the other side of the paper bridge.

Sweet-salty sharp ephemeral life seeps out in small drops that are gathered tenderly. In seconds stretching to eternity, the drops will give up their secrets. Today there are none. After he is cleared, after he is implicitly given permission to dare fate again.

But, for how long? He senses someday a dark thing will come to light, one he and no one around him is ready for, that will render his world to shreds. He keeps the morbid reflections to himself, promising himself this is precautionary, not prophetic. It is not yet time. He prays the rushed prayers of an unrepentant sinner that that time never comes.

He cannot help but think there are worse fates. But, like many things in his life, this is just a thought and not a warming one. The smell of death still hangs over him. He cannot even bring himself to name what it is lest he conjures it to life.

He walks out already lighter, almost flying, thoughts of what could have been and what could still be pushed deep into the parts of his mind reserved for such things, the things of tomorrow, the worries that almost never come true.


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