I haven’t posted a story on here for a while. This is something I wrote in August based on a dream that I fell asleep to a few nights. As always, if you like it, please let me know in the comment section down below. Happy Friday.
I remember being in an accident. There were the bright lights, followed by the sound of metal on metal and glass flying everywhere. My final thoughts were, “This can’t be the way it all ends for us.”
My wife had just turned 50 and we had gone out to celebrate. She was in the seat next to me, our hands clasped while belting out the lyrics to one of our favorite songs. I looked lovingly at her for a brief second. I couldn’t believe I’d gotten lucky enough to be here to celebrate her 50th birthday with her; any birthday really. She was so beautiful. Our life was not perfect, but the last eleven years of our lives had been filled with every emotion imaginable: the pain of losing loved ones and the joy of seeing our first grandchild born, the hope for adventure and the disappointment of having to let the other down.
I glanced back at the road. Then it happened. I tried to get out of the way and when I couldn’t, I turned to make sure my side took the brunt of the damage.
Afterwards, I remembered being woken up by someone calling my name. I opened my eyes and bolted upright. I knew then I was dead because I was looking down at a broken body with tubes coming out of it in every direction.
Someone came to stand next to me. Turning slightly, I realize it was my mom, or someone who looked like my mom. I didn’t speak for several breathes, gathering my thoughts. My mom died when I was a teenager so the shock that she was here now hurt.
“So this is it?” I asked, looking back at my broken body.
“For what it’s worth, you had a great life.”
I scoffed. “How would you know? Have you been ‘watching over me?’” I put air quotes around the last words. I never believed in angels although we had debated a few times over spiritual versus religious beliefs. I smiled, remembering our last one. After eleven years together, there isn’t much you haven’t talked about.
My mom looked at me then. “Yes,” is the only word she said.
Suddenly, every negative emotion boiled up, but I clamp it down. There was no point in hashing out old hurts because I knew that’s what would happen. Even yesterday, when I celebrated my 39th birthday, I wondered what she would have thought of my life, my sweetheart, and our very mismatched family. I never told her I was gay and as open as I remember my mother being, part of me still always wondered if she would have accepted my relationship.
That’s when I noticed my wife sitting in the chair next to my prone body. She’s in tears and I can’t comfort her. Whatever cuts she may have gotten from the accident are bandaged pretty well.
I sighed. She’d been in this pain for three days. I hated seeing her hurt for more than a few hours. Anytime she was, whether emotionally or physically, I made sure we either talked about what was going on in her beautiful mind or I tried to make her more comfortable physically. Some things, like when she hurt her ankle again, I couldn’t do much about. She’d been pushing herself so we could do things I enjoyed together. Now, I couldn’t do anything about her pain except wake up.
I moved towards my body, and my mom puts her hand on my shoulder to stop me. “You can’t do anything for her. She will find a way through this herself, for herself.”
“No!” I scream. “She’s not strong enough for this. I’M not strong enough for this.” Tears are in my eyes and I drop to my knees, my mom’s hand still on my shoulder.
“You need to get up. We’ve already lingered to long here.”
I felt the air around me stir. When I looked around now, we were in a white corridor with doors on either side. Rising in shock, I’m hurt at how she just took me away from everything. “Wait,” I started to say. She was already walking away from me. I looked at the people walking around us. Some I knew; others I didn’t. Everyone was dressed in white robes and sort of glowing.
Mom walked up to a window. She gave her name and mine to the person behind it. I barely heard the voice behind the counter, but I bristled at the sound I do hear. It’s a voice from the past, one I hadn’t heard in a very long time. I wanted to jump through the glass and hug him. Instead, I just stared.
“Welcome to the end of life,” he said in his matter-of-fact voice. A friend had died earlier in the year from an allergic reaction to some food his wife had made for him. We all said It was a crap way to go, but when you’re allergic to just about everything, it happens.
“P.K.?” I asked, still not registering that any of this was real.
“In the flesh,” he joked.
“Well, management thought you should have someone you knew to talk to when you got here. They picked me because, well, let’s face it. You didn’t exactly have many people you would have stayed to talk to now did you?” He laughed. “They sent your mom to get you because they didn’t think you would bolt if she was there.”
“What do you mean by ‘bolt?’”
“Well, you are one of the ones who rarely wanted to stay here. Hell, there are days I don’t really want to be here either. It’s too much like real life.”
“No buts. I’m going to show you to your new place; you can even decorate it…”
He may have kept talking, but I wasn’t listening anymore. I looked at the people, at the corridor. There was too much white and it all felt surreal; I felt sick. So I did what I was did when facing something I didn’t understand: I bolted.
In the end, there was no point. I couldn’t find the exit no matter which way I turned. Eventually, what I found was an older woman sitting on a bench alone. Hesitantly, I sat down with her to catch my breath.
“You can’t get out, although it seems like you really want to.” Her comment was a statement more than a question. She looked at me then. She reminded me of the grandmother from Moana, wise but playful.
I scrubbed my face with my hands. My heart knew she was right but my mind wasn’t ready to accept it.
“Then what do I do?” I asked her.
She smiled that grandmotherly smile. “You wait.”
She looked at me curiously. “For as long as it takes.”
Tears started falling. The lady scoots closer to me. I smell something familiar and sob. I let her wrap me in her arms as I weep.
“I’m so sorry,” I say when I can finally take a breath.
“Baby, it’s okay. I just wish you would have stopped running long enough to look around.”
I sniffed and wiped my face. “So what all did I miss?”
I listened as she told me about the dog she replaced me with. “She was so spoiled. She went nearly everywhere with me.” She told me about how every year on my birthday, the kids came home, no matter what they were doing. Their wives and kids would join them and she’d have a house full of love, even if only for a few days. She got so see our grandkids grow up, get girlfriends and boyfriends, things I missed as I was running around looking for a way back to them. We laughed and held each other like we had never been apart for more than a few hours, not twenty years.
“I’m sorry I missed all of that,” I finally told her.
I kissed the top of her head like I used to and just savored the feel of her in my arms again.
“Would you change it?”
She sat up. It was an old argument we had been having when we were hit. “No, but…”
“I wouldn’t mind going around again.”
I hug her. “Me either. Pick a place for us to meet and I’ll be there.”
She hugs me back. “What about Ocean City on my 25th birthday?”
“That sounds like a plan.” We kiss on the bench there in the white corridor…
…Then I am kissing the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on again. We had been dancing. I pull her up from a dip.
“I’ve never felt that way before,” she says to me. “I’m Chelsea.”
“I’m Kaitlyn,” I tell her.
She laughs. “Well, Kaitlyn,” she says as she wraps her arms around me, pulling me closer to her and looking up into my eyes, “what are your plans for the rest of my life?”