Open to page 147 of your hymnals. There is nothing to sing there for the words of promise once found there have withered and faded, carried off on now toxic winds, so hold your breath or whatever heaven you imagine will be too soon be approaching at a speed exceeding imagination.
You don’t remember how you got here, things happened around you when you weren’t paying attention but, you say, what can you do about it, it’s not your problem so you are happy to let someone else deal with it, you are sure it will be dealt with if you stay out of the way, do nothing.
So while you are blindly waiting perhaps you can join the others just like you, in your final prayers.
From the heart of the inferno Dante and Lucifer grow bored waiting, waiting for the ferry while Charon stops for lunch yet again at a Greek diner in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. They take up a game of catch tossing Molotov cocktails, raining fire onto the brimstone, setting the Styx ablaze. Each knows this is not necessary, for necessity is a creature of heaven and there is no room for the extraneous here in the realm of forgotten souls. We watch from deep within a nightmare of our darkest memories, certain that heaven must await us, or purgatory if that is how our fate is to finally be written. The angels dance on the ceiling waiting for the precise moment to break Morpheus’ grasp and drag us back to our reality, to continue our dance between heaven and hell.
He had been there for days although he’d stopped counting since it didn’t ultimately matter. He would leave when the time was right although he had no idea how he would know when that moment arrived. Some things you do on faith he assumed, and this had to be one of those things. He wasn’t sure why he came but he knew he had to be there, And he knew that the cave provided him shelter and there was an allegory hiding deeper in.
They are arranged like so much ill-stacked cordwood, pressed against walls that are indifferent to their presence. They watch the double doors leading to the examining rooms with trepidation, wanting to be next, wanting more not to be here at all, knowing that the options are none or fewer. He isn’t bothered by it all, this is old hat to him, he knows them and several of them know him by name. He will no doubt be here again and that does not worry him, for here he knows he will walk in and walk out, and too many of the alternatives are far less pleasant, some he is certain involve simple pine boxes or ceramic urns suitable for a mantle, but none of his family have fireplaces, and he would hate to get lost for eternity amid the toys and tchotchkes that so utterly define their lives and homes. While others continue to stare
at the doors, he hears his long dead grandmother whispering to him, “remember, pain is God’s gentle way of reminding you you’re still alive.
It hardly seems all that long ago when we were immortal, when we measured our days by the number of dares we undertook, each with its own level of stupidity which we took, mistakenly, for courage. We are older now, we would like to think far wiser as well, but the line between truth and illusion is thin and almost impossible to discern. We now measure our days in open rooms with small clusters of neatly arrayed chairs
and the odd table piled with magazines that have faded with time and disuse, occasionally a fish tank where it is hard to tell who is less interested we or the fish, but they, at least, aren’t waiting for the nurse to call us, take our vitals and say in a shocking display of honesty, “the doctor will be with you eventually.”
They stand impatiently in line chattering, giggling, tittering like so many schoolgirls with secrets they promised to keep to their deaths and have to immediately tell a friend. “Did you hear about Letitia?” one says, and goes on to say she shared her journal with several other girls in the eighth grade. It goes on like this incessantly as the barista, working alone as always, gathers their order, places it in trays so they can carry it back to school. We wait patiently, trying to decide What grade Shirley might be in, whether shall be suspended again for mouthing off to the hall monitor, and how impatient the other teachers in the lounge must be getting waiting for their counterparts to bring back the morning coffee.
He waited patiently in the queue until, after two and one half hours he approached the battered metal counter. The young, bored woman, chewing at her gum asked the usual question, have you looked hard for work this last week? I stood in many lines, for hours on end in my battered old shoes, that is more work than you can imagine. Each night I would soak my feet for hours in the small sink hoping the swelling would go down. Each morning I would find another line or two, if they moved quickly, but at the end of each they would ask the same question, what skills do you have and I would tell them there are few better than I at standing in lines, and they would sheepishly smile and thank me for my patience and that is why, again this week, I ask that you stamp my book so I can stand in the other line and wait patiently for my check which I can take to the small bodega waiting calmly in line to cash it to buy what canned goods are on sale. Then I will take my cans and carefully line them up on the kitchen counter, and marvel at how patiently they stand in the queue.
He cannot be certain when he lost it. He isn’t even sure where he lost it. He knew he had it, had it for years, and then, once when he looked for it, it was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t all that upset at the loss. It was more that it was familiar, that he was accustomed to it, not that it had in intrinsic or extrinsic value. In fact, he had already replaced it the moment he noticed it was missing. Still he couldn’t help but wonder where it had gone, and why he hadn’t noticed its loss at the moment it occurred. Or had he? But ego could be like that, and it was comforting to know the replacements were stacked up and waiting.