After the heart stops, there are seven seconds of brain activity left.
Seven seconds. Four hundred and twenty milliseconds.
And in these last fleeting moments, the brain replays the moments of your life it remembers most, as if to make the ceasing of existence easier.
I saw you.
Seven seconds. I saw the imprint of your skeleton – the arc of your shoulder, the curve of your collarbone, the angles of your throat. I saw my fingers tracing hard lines of muscles and veins mapped across your arms. I saw the stretch of freckle-dusted skin between nose and eye, and how I would examine your eyelashes through half-closed eyes while your lips moved against mine, and how you tasted of salt and fresh rain.
Six seconds. I saw your hair, dark as the empty sky at 2am when we sat on my rooftop, drunk off cheap wine we found hidden in my brothers wardrobe. I saw your eyes, green and reckless, like how you spun me around too close to the rooftops edge, and how our laughter should’ve woken the neighbours. But I swear to god, I saw stars in those eyes.
Five seconds. I saw camera flashes, are-you-really-taking-a-photo smiles and the-wind-screwed-it-up hair. I saw your inability-not-to-dance-right-now mood immortalised in shots I never deleted from my phone. I saw the afternoon you sat perfectly still as I leant over your body, camera pressed to my face, capturing the curve of your chest and counting the freckles on your arm, the strangest expression on your face that might have been love.
Four seconds. I saw late night drives, headlights and streetlamps, glowing skin beneath fluorescent lighting as the city blurred to yellow and white. I saw the steering wheel between your knees, your hand in your hair, and the cigarettes you found in the glove box. But even as your arm dangled from the window, cigarette between your fingers, wind and smoke on our skin, you never once thought to wonder who had left them in your car.
Three seconds. I saw forced conversation attempts dissolve into painful silence. I saw bruise-like shadows beneath my eyes and the smashed glass you’d find lining my pockets, bottles hidden in my car and the lingering smell of smoke. I saw mascara-stained sleeves tugged over my wrists and shorts laid aside because they didn’t cover the scars anymore, and I was too numb to be surprised when the bruises blossomed beneath my skin and the apologies poured from your mouth.
Two seconds. I saw your face, pressed in on itself, your eyes wide and scared and demanding answers I had buried deep in my lungs. I saw the first time I saw you cry, the imprint of my palm scarlet against your cheek. I saw myself throw up in the kitchen, the echo of a slammed door suffocating the dark-soaked air, my parents’ footsteps upon the stairs.
One second. I saw your eyes, dark and empty as a lake in the early hours of winter. I saw the freckle-dusted skin between nose and eye, your collarbone through your T-shirt, the tremor in your hand as you ran it through your hair. I saw your stillness – like you had never danced before. And when you told me you didn’t believe in love anymore, I saw exactly how I had broken you.