April 7, 2016
I clearly remember the moment I died. When I saw my lifeless body, beyond peaceful, inert, on my bed, I first thought I was dreaming. Then I noticed the details. The color of the hardwood floor, a shade darker than pine, a subtle sheen, random flecks of dust. The knickknacks and keepsakes on my mahogany bookshelf, on the top shelf, the beer stein from Austria, photos of Beverly and Amy, my daughters, each graduating from UVA, Beverly in '92 and Amy in '94. The rosary I'd received at my First Communion, cheap plastic black and white beads, white crucifix, unused for twenty years—I don't know why I kept it so long. The heavy black coffee mug that was a gift from Gwen, my wife of ten years, who died at thirty-two of an aneurysm, with a quote from Wordsworth: “Faith is a passionate intuition.” I'd tried to find faith after her sudden departure but my faith was as dusty and neglected as the mug.
Dreams were never so detailed, so colorful, so vibrant, so complete. This was no dream. This was a new sort of reality. A reality without blood, without breath, and somewhat surprisingly, without smell or sound.
I was surprised also that I could still feel. Not in a tactile sense, but in a “heart” sense. Obviously, I had no heart, no brain, no flowing life through me, and yet I still had thoughts, memories, feelings. What was life then, if not physical cells and chemicals and interactions and iterations? Perhaps life was awareness, I mused, and my awareness, if anything, seemed more real, more concrete, than when I was minutes or hours ago alive. Time was different, too, I noticed. Slower. More deliberate.
It's been eleven days since I died. It seems like months, perhaps years. There's no one to talk to, no one sees me, I make no sound. I have no need to sleep, nor to eat, no job to go to, no vacations at the beach or in the mountains, no day trips to museums. It's as if there exists some invisible barrier about ten yards from my property line. If I knew how to make sounds, to cry in the night, to moan or sing or laugh such that people could hear, I'd amuse myself and perhaps the time would pass more quickly. Ironically, I find faith now that it seems to be too late. Perhaps this is my version of hell. I'm stuck, mute, longing for something beyond this house that's been my home for thirty-five years. I've memorized every inch.
Perhaps I can teach myself to fly. I wonder if the invisible fence surrounding the property encloses the sky above. Or perhaps I can somehow teach myself to interact with objects, to somehow use the energy that must be my essence to affect the physical.
A thought occurs to me. I haven't tried to fly. I haven't tried to make a sound or practice telekinesis. I simply assumed that I was a ghost and that without a body I could do nothing but hang around my old house, my old haunt.
There's a sweet aroma drifting this way. I hear the sound of a lawnmower, a few houses down my street, down Pine Street. Is this a memory? Imagination?
I lift my arms as if I'm Superman and launch skyward. Holy shit! I'm flying!
I glance back and see my house growing smaller. The beige shutters melt into the yellow siding. The house is a nondescript geometric shape, among dozens of other nondescript geometric shapes. A moment of panic. What if I can't stop?
I stop. Just like that. I look down and see the landscape unchanging. Like a a view from Google Maps on my computer, only without the drawn colored lines of the streets and roads and without the text labels. Suddenly, I feel powerful. Suddenly I know there's nothing I can't do.
In an instant I'm back in my living room, sitting on the couch. Time no longer holds me captive. I watch as the sky outside the window darkens, then lightens, then darkens again. Two days in four seconds. Time lapse photography by a simple choice. I'm invincible. What would I like to do? Who would I like to haunt?
Dawn. I haven't thought of her in years. My first crush. Second grade. At the time I thought I was in love. I wrote her love poems. I carved her a robin, painted it blue. Could I find that little statuette? Could I find Dawn and give her the gift I never had the courage to give her, read her my love poems? Would she even remember me?
Gwen. My ex-wife. Was she still here, somewhere, hanging out in the world? Could I somehow call out to her, supernaturally, mystically? Would she hear me and find the way? Would I feel in my missing heart the tightness when I gazed into her lake blue eyes?
Frank. The fucker fired me without cause. I scared him. My vision was too big for his comfortable little car lot. I wanted a Chevy franchise. I wanted to expand to a second lot. I wanted to be paid for my efforts and my results and my vision. He wanted to stay small; that was all he deserved in his minuscule view of the world.
Beverly. My perfect daughter. Not really perfect, I know, but perfect in my eyes as only a father can see. I'll find her and mend the fences. I'll admit to being the shit that only she knows I was. I'll apologize for not breaking the chain, for following the example of my own dad, for being a hapless drunk and a bitter fool.
Suddenly I feel weary. I need a nap. I haven't slept in weeks. There are too many colors, too many sounds, too many memories. I'll find the light, and make my way to the next existence. It's time.
Somehow I know, it's time.