An afterlife in dreams

Come back. Even as a shadow, even as a dream. — Euripides


I can’t sleep at night. I sleep during the day. I turned life upside down. Right side up was killing me. At night I am ‘the ghost who walks,’ like my boyhood hero The Phantom. The cat walks with me. Together, we are night prowlers. I am a ghost in hell waving my gun at demons.

So I sleep during the day. Only in daytime, in dreams, does life return. The best dreams come during the day. Today, I was with S, the 21st day of the month. It was cocktail hour in the living room of our hovel and we were drinking. She was smoking a cigarette. I lit one up too.

“When did you start smoking again?” she asked me.

“After you died,” I said. “I started drinking more too.”

“I didn’t know that was possible,” she said with a wry smile.

“I didn’t care, you know.”

“I know.”

I told her I had opened up one of the cartons of cigarettes she had left unsmoked and lit up. That first drag was like a draught of a life lost, and found again, I told her, the life we shared, drinking and smoking, just having each other, a couple of misfits living in the living room.

“I know you hate sentimentality,” I told her, “but I just want to tell you, thanks for looking after me all these years.” She didn’t say anything so I continued. “And I’m sorry for the times I didn’t treat you right—”

She stopped me there and said: “And I you. You know what you call that? Thirty years of marriage.”

I told her I loved her, not missed her, because she wasn’t dead. We were as alive as ever, smoking and drinking in the living room. I leaned over to kiss her.

I woke up. It was five o’clock in the afternoon. Cocktail hour. That’s when the profound sorrow hit me. She was dead. Cocktail hour would be without her tonight as it has been for three years and four months of nights to this day, the 21st of the month. But in that dream… in that dream we were together again.

Dreams are the door to the afterlife. The best dreams come during the day. Night dreams brought out the demons. Which is why I stopped keeping my gun in the bedside drawer. One of the demons. Bound to use it. And that would end all dreams of S.

We would both be in oblivion. No memories, no life together. As long as you’re alive there’s an afterlife.

So now I read through the night and sleep during the day. To be with S.


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900 days

LIFE IN THE SURREAL ZONE

Nine hundred days plus. I couldn’t believe it. I had to punch in the numbers on the calculator several times before I figured I was right. It always came out the same — 923 to be exact. Two and a half years.

Two and a half years ago the wail of the death screamer stopped in the driveway. Medics rushed in with all their gear. Voices of urgency. I stood on the other side of the bed. The gurney was wheeled in.

Cut to hospital room, ICU, two o’clock in the afternoon. The steady beeping of the life support machine. Her hand still warm in mine. Reality ebbing away. Time slowly stopping. And then all at once. The hand turned cold. The monitor flatlined. I heard the words, “We did all we could.” I was in the room and I was not in the room.

Back in the death house, the real inexorably became the surreal, days dissolved into darkness, the nightmare came back with the light of day. Day after day. Nine hundred days. As far as I can see, that will never change.

Millions of people in the world believe in an afterlife, be it heaven or reincarnation. Actually about half the world’s population, close to four billion people. Amazing number. Nonbelievers say dream on, we’re all going to oblivion.

THE DISADVANTAGES OF HEAVEN

If you end up in heaven you’re stuck there forever. Like being on a cruise ship of fools that never docks. What if you want to get off? Get away from the relatives and acquaintances you couldn’t stand in life. Heavensayers believe all will be bliss and everyone will love everyone. Forever and ever. That sounds kind of sickening. Like piling twenty-seven teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, or watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ over and over and over. Give me reincarnation over that — at least you have the element of surprise.

On the other hand, oblivion could be cool, a whole lot of peace and quiet. The only regret would be that Oblivionites would have no memory, no recollections of the good times.

Be that as it may, wherever we’re going, we’re all going to the same place.


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S. for save my sorry ass

A year ago I set out on the road to God. Renata de Dios was my guide. She was a messenger from God. There was a storm. We lost track of one another. I turned back. I went back to my house, the ghost-ridden lowly bungalow.

When I was on the road to God I imagined meeting S. again. In some sort of after-life. The inexpressible joy of that. How blessèd it would be to believe that. This is what Renata de Dios believes. This is what she hoped I would believe. But my mind shut down. The message was not getting through. Brain invaders had cut the receptors like phone wires.

So, I was alone again. At night, in a purple haze, I called out to S. in the dead room, formerly known as the living room: Can you hear me, honey? I’ve been trying to contact you. But the lines of communication must be down. Maybe the storm knocked the power out. I want to talk to you. There are so many things I want to tell you. I want to apologize for one. Some of the things I said…

I know what she’d say to that: You know what you call that, William? Thirty years of marriage. 

So why am I still beating myself up? I’m guilt-ridden by nature. That’s probably why I can’t get through to God. My mind is blocked by a lifetime of storm damage.

That’s why I needed S. S. for save my sorry ass, S. for save my miserable soul, S. for sanity, S. for spaghetti with delicious meatballs she used to make with her mother’s secret recipe.

But this is not about meatballs. I forget what this is about. Something about phone lines being down. Did we have a storm? I heard the roaring wind fly by the window. The lights went out. I couldn’t see in the darkness. I couldn’t see the road to God. 


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