"I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
- Steve Jobs
A minute and a half after Aleksandr Belikov died on the operating table, Bon Iver started playing over the hospital radio. "Skinny Love."
In this case, death is defined as a sudden cease to all functions that are responsible for the upkeep of a living, breathing organism, thus turning it into a non-living, non-breathing non-organism. On the Wikipedia entry for death, the main picture is a giant, eyeless skull, gazing into the void of your soul. That skull belonged to someone, once. Maybe not Aleks Belikov, but someone. Maybe someday it would be Aleks Belikov.
Initial decomposition of the handsome Russian teen, the glorious thief who had never so much as seen a high school diploma but still knew tons of ###### about tons of ###### that a lot of college graduates didn't know, that decomposition would take about twenty four hours to start. His smooth white skin would go first, maybe his hair afterwards, that dark, soft hair that seemed to change styles biweekly.
Decomp was a tricky process, mainly because no one wanted to watch it happen, and the people who might want to watch had already abandoned poor Aleks anyway. His mother was somewhere in Murmansk, clean, as Aleks had always hoped for. Rebekah Fell and Christine Marie were standing out in the waiting room, hoping for some news. Aleks was good with names - probably one of the best - but at the end, ninety seconds before Bon Iver started playing on the hospital radio and zero seconds after his heartbeat ended its slow drum-and-bass rhythm through his body, Aleks Belikov hadn't known a single name or face in the room.
He'd been alone, and now, ninety seconds later, he was still alone. But ninety seconds later, nobody knew where exactly he was alone at.
Through the tinny hospital loudspeakers, Justin Vernon continued his sad chant, a melancholy falsetto and scratchy folk guitars that did nothing to ease anyone in the waiting room or in the OR.
"C'mon, skinny love, just last the year..."
The brain can survive for up to four minutes without oxygen before it finally finishes shutting down the last neurons going through the confines of its purplish-pink fleshy ball. Consider it the body's closing time, a last call. Anything it wants to do, it has to get done in those four minutes. Seven minutes, if the temperature is cold enough, because the brain takes more time to batter down the hatches if it's particularly cold in the body. At the second time of death was called, Aleksandr Rene Belikov's body temperature was a 97.4 degrees.
He'd always had a low body temperature.
For about three weeks, a story had floated around the Internet of a woman who had been in a coma for six months, about to be unplugged from life support. The night before her husband was to pull the tube, "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele had come on and the woman had tapped her fingers. Then there was the story of the little kid who had been in a similar situation, except the plug had already been pulled on him. And Chris Brown had come on.
And through vocal chords that hadn't rasped out a word in a solid three weeks, the little kid asked, Please.
Someone change the radio station.
Music was funny like that. Music was a manifestation of the soul; every strum of a guitar string was a communique to a higher power, every note and voice crack from the worst American Idol contestant was still a note sang with all the person's heart. Everyone who ever sang too loudly and too obnoxiously in the car, said they were joking, they were full of it. Because music is like that. It has a way of making us loud, and obnoxious, and annoying, and it makes us hate each other for all of about two seconds before we start laughing and then we bond. Because that's what music is, when you get down to it. It's love.
And it's our soul.
So as Justin Vernon crooned on for two minutes, Aleksandr Rene Belikov's brain went to scream Last call! before pausing, lifting up its metaphorical finger. And it listened to Justin Vernon croon on and on, listened to his pained, beautiful falsetto and vocal delivery. And the finger went down slowly. Last call never came.
In time with the folksy, wintery, beautiful drums, his heart pumped once, like a foot clapping against the floor of a car. Then again. Then a third time.
"My, my, my. My, my, my. My, my."