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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Thank you Rod Serling

How to save the life of a lonely widower over a long, solitary ‘holiday’ weekend

Imagine, if you will, a widower living alone in a bungalow in Upstate New York. He is going out of his mind with thoughts of his dead wife. He doesn’t know if he can survive the long weekend. Then, purely by chance, he turns his TV to the Sci-Fi channel, where he discovers a marathon of continuous, nonstop episodes of The Twilight Zone.

The award-winning series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, was created by Rod Serling, who wrote more than 80 of the 156 episodes. Rod Serling was a man of brilliant and unlimited imagination, sadly a chain smoker who died in 1975 at the age of 50. [Rod Serling was a U.S. Army paratrooper with the 11th Airborne in World War II who saw an unforgettable amount of death in the Philippines — but that’s a story for another time.]

Let us return to our lonely widower in the bungalow in Upstate New York, where, incidentally, Rod Serling was born and died, respectively, in Syracuse and Rochester, New York.

The ever-bereft widower (it’s been three years for godsake!) spends the entire weekend — how many days? two, three, he doesn’t know — watching back-to-back episodes of The Twilight Zone, consuming countless shots of gin and becoming swept up in an other-world of ‘reefer madness.’ He truly, and as far as he knows, enters The Twilight Zone.

He becomes the lonely astronaut marooned on a distant planet; the writer who can bring people back to life by describing them to a tape recorder; the bitterly unhappy actor who becomes the blissful character he’s playing in a movie; the loser who can stop time with a magic stopwatch…

And from watching these episodes, our widower — anti-hero, madman, loser, alcoholic, solitary inhabitant of a planet that in his case is the planet Earth — comes, in an epiphany-like haze, to the startling and possibly life-saving conclusion (at least for the time being) that if he cannot be with his wife in reality because she is dead and unreachable and always will be since oblivion is an unreachable destination, then he will be with her in his own gin-soaked purple haze now known as — thank you Rod Serling — The Twilight Zone.


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Aboard the Grief Train

A PROGRESS REPORT

This being a true account of my journey on the Grief Train, not to be confused with the Gravy Train which is actually a boat — but I digress; to get back on track with the Grief Train, a treacherous journey across suspension bridges of disbelief and barren prairies of purgatory, mountain passes between Heaven and Hell and sheer drops to Oblivion.

A word or two about the passengers. Several of them are firm believers who firmly believe they will be reunited with their “loved ones” in Heaven, that their soulmates, companions, spouses, spice, merely went to a wondrous place ahead of them, a vacation to end all vacations, whereto they will follow when the time comes and they will live happily ever after forever and ever, ah men, and women who believe — not that there’s anything wrong with that, ha-ha, in fact everything is right with it if you rightly believe, but to which I, a tad too bitterly, tell them they have no right to be on the Grief Train which is for hopeless cases who do not believe in Heaven and the Trinity of the Father dead of cancer at fifty and the Son a suicide at twenty-three and the Holy Spirit of 80-proof whiskey in the Godhead of slow death who know they will never be reunited with their loved ones and are firmly in the grip of unadulterated raw grief that clearly warrants a ticket on the goddamn Grief Train.

And now we come to the conductors on the train. I can only speak for myself and in the case of Myself vs. The State of New York and the Kingdom of Heaven, a few stand out as standing by me, and as Fate would have it, they are as far flung as can be, namely, or rather initially, E in Michigan, sister of lost soulmate, J in Canada, K in Florida, K in Australia, B in Niagara Falls, and R in the Carolinas, the latter, alas, abandoned me and rightly so as a hopeless case of unbelief and self-inflicted emotional pain. Of the others, K in Florida is a fervent believer in God and Jesus and Heaven and Hell, while J in Canada is a firm believer in the Here & Now, and Grass not God on High, and the Animals of the Earth who also don’t go to Heaven.

That’s about the extent of it, from Sydney to New York, the boundaries of my existence on the Earth, on many planes and trains before I boarded the Goddamned Grief Train. (I have gone full circle, how do you like dem apples, Mr. Editor!)


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