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Let the Angels Sing
A tongue that’s dry as paper swells inside my mouth, and the putrid smell of alcohol fills the small car. I grip the steering wheel so tight enough that my knuckles glow white, and my chest heaves as drunken shallow breaths escape my chapped lips. My physical being executes the proper movements somewhat but my brain seems to be one too many steps behind. With every second I become more lost, the speedometer’s needle climbs higher. These rural dirt roads pose as my personal race track. My breath continues to come out ragged and I feel a painful pounding echo throughout my head, the ringing in my ears becoming more and more unbearable. I reach down, my hand fumbling for the bottle and soon the cool glass and bitter whiskey consumes me. The empty bottle fits back snug in the cup holder and with my eyes shut in pure pleasure of the cool intoxicating poison running down my throat quenching the eternal craving. I lick my lips, scouring for the last drop but when I look up a pair of deathly bright lights has consumed the windshield, illuminating the car, blinding me.
Feeling limp as a rag-doll and as empty as my pockets after a night at the bar I use a hand to shield my eyes from the intensely bright fluorescent lights. My eyelids are heavy as led and I fight to hold them open. With much effort though I manage to keep them up, bringing my hands to my face I let their worn callused surface rub my stubbly cheeks. Sitting up is painful, heaving my exhausted body up is torture in of its self, for a second I feel my bare empty stomach churn. My hand flies to my mouth but seconds later the wave of nausea passes. Once I had gained control of my body I look around this room. It has no windows and the walls were only a blank canvas of white. It was engulfed in an eerie silence, the only noise being the consistent beep of a medical machine slicing through the air like a knife to butter. I rub my head and flinch as the pain is severe. I try to take a deep breath but my lungs feel as though they have shrunk; only allowing short pained breaths to fill them. When I look up again there is a nurse standing over one of the machines, adjusting something or another. Her stance is relaxed and her white uniform triggers something calming inside of me. I feel my shoulders drop and suddenly breathing becomes slightly easier.
“Where am I?” My voice comes out more aggressive than intended and her small frame flinches under the harshness of my tone. Yet I feel no remorse, only the ever rising panic and rage, like mercury in a thermometer. Timidly she turns around and offers me a small smile, for a second my body relaxes just a little bit. I could tell her kindness was genuine and it radiated deep from inside her, faintly her pure goodness reminded me of my mother. She comes over and adjusts the IV tube that snakes around my body; her hands are small and cold. All of a sudden I feel my body release a burning tension; the angry rage seeping out my pores. My shoulders relax and my breath intake fills my lungs full capacity. Like a wave to the shore, calmness floods me.
“Mr. Jackson, you’re in the hospital, you crashed your car,” she shifts uncomfortably and continues, “Your alcohol level was three times above the legal limit,” though her words sound gentle, her eyes screamed disappointment. Without another word she leaves the room; only until the squeak of her sneakers had faded did I allow a tense breath to escape my lips, one I hadn’t realized I had been holding in. A strange feeling twisted at my gut, a feeling I was unfamiliar with. But when the reality of her words finally set in, I realized it was shame. Sighing, I crash back onto the firm pillows and fall into a guilt-ridden slumber.
Sometime later when I’ve awaken, there is not a hospital bed supporting me or clear medical tubes restraining me. But sweet hymns envelope the air and pure sunlight shines through intricately beautiful stained glass windows bathing the huge church in golden sunlight. I sit upon a plush red velvet church pew and for a moment I lose myself in the sweet melodies. From somewhere a voice that’s carried throughout this lovely church is speaking deep from her soul; for it was like an entire lifetime of beautiful music straight from the lips of an ingenuous child. Her voice was pure, seeping with emotion, exploding with passion; she seemed to be serenading the angels of Heaven themselves. My eyes scan the church for the owner of that voice but the sanctuary appeared to be empty. Tentatively I stand up and begin to walk down the aisle, my hand grazing the smooth tops of the wooden pews; surprised my step is light and easy. Not the step I usually possess after drinking. I reach the alters’ steps and suddenly feel a pair of warm hands on my back. Whipping around, my eyes greet a pair that is gentle and somehow familiar. Brown hair cascades around this man’s shoulders and a beard of the same color shrouds his face. His long white robe is elegant and sweeps the floor, very much similar to one I wear.
“Where am I?” This time my voice is frail and afraid. Unlike the nurse this man possessed this aura of intimidation yet I could not specify what was intimidating about him. His smile is gentle and inviting as he guides me over to the first row of pews without a single word.
“Well where do you think you are?” he asks with a voice sweet as sugar. It was a voice that gave me goose bumps, but one that I could talk to forever. I knew I was in a church but it was one that I had surely never been to. It was quite nice, clearly a famous church but the name escaped my mind like the suave criminal after committing a felony. I search my mind as if to trigger some recognition of this church or that hospital, but my mind was as blank as the walls that confined me the hospital room. I’m squeezing my eyes shut as if to make him less disappointed in me, disappointed that I couldn’t answer his question. Suddenly though like a ton of bricks it hits me. Where were the other sick patients? Who brought me here? Why was I in a church? The sudden flood of unanswered questions leaves me more confused than ever before, all I can do is look at him helplessly. He simply raises his eyebrows and smiles gently. For the first time I felt vulnerable; so lost like a small child. When I open my mouth to speak he simply reaches out and grasps my hand.
With his worn gentle hands conformed around my own shaking pair he leans forward and says “Ted, just think,” his voice possesses a sense of urgency, “Just stop and think,” he now stares at me with a face shadowed by disappointment; a look I had been receiving my whole life. I simply stare back at him, recoiling from the sick feeling that I didn’t know all the answers.
“Tell me about your car,” at the mention of my prized racer red Ferrari, I felt my heart tug. I think about his question reveling in the feeling of getting to sit behind the wheel in sleek leather seats. I close my eyes trying to recall its sweet scent and suddenly I am in the car. However I am in the passenger seat, a place I don’t usually take residence to. When I look to identify the person driving I see a more drunken and reckless me trying to control the car while he gulps down bitter whiskey. I was surprised when I tasted the burning liquid run down my throat. His eyes are wild and he is clearly oblivious to the blinding lights that are quickly approaching, without hesitation he reaches for the bottle for another sip. As I think about all the things I would change now I realize I can’t change anything, all I can do is watch my drunken self starve the bottle of its last drop. His muscles are tense and the smell of burning rubber fills the small car. As he realizes what is happening he grips the steering wheel with incredible force and I can do nothing but sit there because it’s too late for both of us. Squeezing my eyes shut, I wait for the blow.
I felt as if my eyes had been closed for an eternity but when time passes and no blow occurs I hesitantly open my eyes. My head is heavy and I can feel that my eyes are puffy from crying and my body is limp. I was lying down on a road that appeared to be paved with gold leading to a tall, ominous pair of gates. My body is shaking with uncontrollable sobs and I realize that the man is no longer with me. I sit up and pull my legs up to my chest, feeling sad and afraid. The lights, the whiskey, the spine shuddering reality of this all was becoming too much. For that was not a hospital because there was no hope of saving my body. The church however served as a slap in the face. It shook my shoulders, questioned my morals, dug up shameful memories, showed me the true self of Ted Jackson thatI had always been too drunk to take notice to.
They say dying can be the most therapeutic form of closure, giving you the ability to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made throughout your life. As I sat in the car, my car, the only love I ever had in my life I realized the upmost pettiness my life carried. Most men my age had wives, and children; They had they’re accomplishments. There I was, the Ted Jackson who was being dragged through the mud of life. I had no children of my own, or a wife, or even a stable girlfriend. When I sat in the church, being serenaded by that sweet music I realized it was the last sad song of my sad life. Perhaps though that it was an opening song to something better.
As I heave my body up of this road of golden cobblestones, I take in the beauty and realization of this palace in the clouds. Standing before the gates of Heaven themselves, I suck in a sharp breath, in complete awe. With every tentative step I recall the face of every person I ever hurt, every horrible thing I’d ever done. I think of every reason I should be damned into the fiery pits of hell and the thought scares me so much. Mentally I give a thousand apologies and think to give many, many more. But with every single apology, a little trickling of forgiveness fills me. Beginning at the soles of my feet that are carrying me closer and closer to the gates, up to the ends of my hair which stands on end at the feeling of love that intertwines with my veins, conforms around my muscles, and seeps out my forgiven pores. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, the thought of hell drifting farther and farther out of mind. For someone like myself who was never too keen on the facts of religion, I felt my arms being thrown open in pure appreciation to the forgiving spirit of the Lord himself. For every second of my life living was spent being scorned and looked upon shamefully, overall deemed to be one of a lying sinning terrible person. However I gave thanks to these experiences for they made me realize how cherished life truly is, with all the knowledge I had been deprived of I felt it overcome me now. I open my eyes to see the gates open and with a step forward I take in this beautiful feeling. With the step of a soldier on the battlefield, I run into Heaven with open arms as a soldier in the Lord’s army.