I never imagined my afterlife to be like this. I suppose I never really imagined my afterlife at all. I didn’t believe in such things. Dead is dead, right? But then I died. And I ended up here.
It was horribly disorienting at first. I had a vague recollection of recent events. Arguing with my wife. Storming out and speeding way in the car. A blinding, grinding accident. After the accident, an awful stillness followed by blurs of motion — a crowd of onlookers, paramedics, ambulance, doctors — but all wrapped in an eerie silence. Then I was floating, looking down on my dead body and the debris from the efforts to save me. And I was cold.
Suddenly I was here, wherever here is. Floating in a house I didn’t know. Observing the daily activities of a family that seemed at once utterly foreign and familiar. Like deja vu. And still I was so cold. I thought perhaps a nice cup of tea was what I needed. But tea, like everything else, was beyond my reach. I couldn’t touch anything.
Gradually it dawned on me that the woman was my wife, but not. Her hair was different. And her clothes. But the way she moved, talked, laughed, all the same. She had to be. And with kids we never had. Then I saw her face peering at me from a wall of photographs in the front hallway, looking much the way I remembered her. Before we fought and I sped off to meet my fate. The love of my life. Here was her life on display. A few childhood photos. Her big brother. Her parents. Her wedding photos, but with some other man as the groom. And then the kids. Their kids. As babies, toddlers, and the little darlings they had become. All as if I had never been in her life. Sort of like some alternate parallel universe. But she looked happy. How many times had I told her that I wanted her to be happy?
Over the next few hours I watched what was apparently a typical afternoon unfold. The kids played in the yard. She made dinner. The husband came home. They kissed. He held his arms around her for a while as they watched their kids through the window. He called them in. Got them washed up. Listened to the details of their day while they ate. He did the dishes while she got the kids cleaned up and tucked into bed. He watched a game on TV while she read a book. And they went to bed.
And all the while, they never sensed I was there. It was creepy. For me. I couldn’t make any sense of it. Why was I here? How long would this go on? Was this even real? Damn, what I wouldn’t give for a cup of tea. Or a drink of anything for that matter. I couldn’t feel anything other than the continued, gnawing cold. And a growing sense of dread.
I found myself in their bedroom when the house was dark and still. He was spooning her and they murmured softy to each other. She arched her back and — oh, god. I didn’t want to watch. But I couldn’t turn away. The writhing of her body, the timbre of her moans, the slight glisten of sweat that covered her. All these are familiar to me. Or they used to be. And now she is with another man. They shuddered and melted into a glorious puddle of intertwined limbs and gasping breath. I wanted to be anywhere but here.
I’ve lost track of how many days and nights I’ve seen play out like this. Not all exactly the same, of course, but all with a common theme. What might have been. All I can do is watch. I am this close to heaven and I can’t touch it or turn away. I’m in hell.
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