Hospital. This is a no-brainer with the white tiled floors and televisions hanging from platforms on the walls. In one room, I hear a woman screaming in agony. Nurses try to shut her up as they rush around the room, claiming that screaming and cursing at them will not help her pain. I poke my head in the door and see stirrups. My initial thought was right; the screaming woman was giving birth. There are nurses all around staring at monitors and looking for items to help the poor woman in labor. There’s no husband or father in the room. I’m not sure which is more painful: the giving birth part or knowing your child is being born into a fatherless life. I’m certainly glad I never had to experience either of those situations.
The next room is calm and serene and darkened by dimmed lights. I look inside this room to see another elderly woman listening to the screaming going on in the next room. I walk in. I realize that this is the first human interaction I will have since my afterlife began.
She smiles at me and it’s obvious that this woman is dying with her deep wrinkles and sense of euphoria in her eyes. Her hair is woven of platinum strands and hangs heavy from her scalp. Her hair seems to have more life left in it than her body. I brush my fingers through her silver hair and she speaks.
“What I wouldn’t give,” she says. I lean closer to hear her and pull up the flower printed hospital chair next to her bed. She grabs my hands with her cold and thin fingers. If I didn’t know any better, I would swear she was hanging on to me as hard as she could.
I find that I can’t speak here either, not even in my own memory, so I just listen. “What I wouldn’t give,” she repeats, “To have given birth in my life.” I stammer back in my chair. I feel as though this woman just confessed her lifelong wish to me. She smiles again, closes her eyes and lets herself go. I wonder if she will experience what I am experiencing. Her hands go limp and I place them at her sides, the smile still on her lips.
In the next room come the screams of a newborn baby, wailing away as her lungs breathe in oxygen for the first time. Life and death all in the same moment. Am I not supposed to be able to see angels and reapers now that I am dead? I saw no one come by and show off the holy light to the woman that sits before me, nor did I hear an angel’s choir welcoming the baby into the world.
I wonder if the woman in front of me was passed into the newborn next door. Is reincarnation all part of the big plan? Where did that theory ever originate from anyway? I imagined the woman floating above her body and slowly passing through the wall into the next room, losing all memory of who she was and then reborn into a whole new life. How come I wasn’t reincarnated? Where is my next chance to do life over again?! Anger takes over and then I realize I must not be allowed to have physical emotions for I am rushed back into the cosmic bliss where my ankles are throbbing.
Feeling the stiff sensations in my ankles and feet, I wonder if this is one of those cruel jokes where I’m still alive and I’m undergoing some operation. I think I may have read a book like that once, where the person under the knife was being tortured slowly through an autopsy. But that would mean that society would have to pronounce them dead. I push the thought aside and try to remember how it is that I have died.
Was there a terrible accident? Was I happy in life? Why can’t I remember?
A cigarette inhaled slowly then let out in a long drawn out breath. A cup of coffee in front of me, a dark cup of coffee. Trying to remember if I even enjoyed coffee in life, I take a sip of it and the hot mix of dark coffee and sugar pour down my throat accenting my cigarette. This is wonderful! Was I a smoker in life? The cigarette in my daydream says yes, but this also feels like the first time I’ve ever had one. I inhale again enjoying the calmness it brings to my body. I’m sitting outside, the air is cool but only with a windy brush against my skin, otherwise it is comfortable. There is water running nearby like a stream or small river, I can feel it, taste it even. The sun is high and does its best to heat up the ground below. The weather though is of no concern, at least not while I have this cigarette and cup of coffee.
If I wasn’t a smoker in life, I can now see how people would become so addicted to them and quickly. For having never smoked before, at least not remembering to smoke, I do not cough with each inhaled drag; it becomes second nature to me. And before I know it, my cigarette is down to the butt and my coffee cup is empty.
I stand up to stretch after realizing my cigarette is gone and my coffee cup empty. Hands stretched to the air above me, back arched, it feels good to actually feel something. However, I cannot seem to lower my hands, my elbows locked into a position above my head. The stretched muscle starts to ache while my back is still arched.
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