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I hadn’t really put much thought into what it would be like when I died.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t expected to die, to have my heart stop beating thirty-one years in life. Or maybe it was the fact that there wasn’t much time to think about it. Or simply that I didn’t care.
Either way, from what little thought I had put into it, I didn’t expect this.
Its funny how old people in retiring homes, go on about death with knowledge. They’re not dead yet, I had thought, on the few occasions to visit my mother.
How do they truly know what’s going to happen? What makes them that much wiser than the rest of us? Just because you grow wrinkles, doesn’t mean you grow wiser really, does it?
But the strange thing is that on some level, they are sort of right.
It is strangely peaceful.
Well, my body is. I don’t think my mind is at rest. My mind’s on the clock on the hospital wall.
I guess it’s funny depending on how you look at it, I’m dead, I have been for about three minutes now, and I’m thinking about how late I am for work.
Of course, I know it’s stupid. I doubt they’ll care that the dead guy is now exactly five minutes late for work. Still, it’s bothering me like crazy.
I love my work; because it makes me feel something, it gives me this drive to make things happen, to fix things, to solve them.
I guess if you were some psychologist you’d say it was to do with the fact that outside of work all I really did was mess things up. And, yeah, I guess that would be true.
Work to me is sort of like a second chance. That’s why I love it.
It’s my only second chance to make things right in life. I liked my colleagues calling me ‘Jerome, the unchallengeable,’ it made me feel worth a small something, and it’s the only thing I can take pride in.
It was. It no longer is. It’s past now, not present.
Another odd thought. They keep on flowing through my brain now. Since I’ve been dead I’ve been linking these things together, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. I can see the picture of my life now, instead of having the pieces scattered across the board like I did when I was alive.
~An odd thought~
Work made my life worth living. Now it’s killed me.
I’ll walk you through it, how it killed me. Like a story. How it really was, not the way I thought.
It seemed a simple mistake but to the man it meant more than that. It meant everything, because he had so little left.
He had missed the bus; it seems so stupid, really to die over that.
You could see in his eyes that power driven hope, the hope that there was a way, a way to still succeed in this one thing. The man was weak, that was clear, but his suit and tie stood out as if to say the opposite.
You could see the pain in his eyes, the crumble of memories of shame calling up on him. There was no way this time he couldn’t give in to them; they were the stronger part of him.
So he let them flow through, what was there left to do, anyway?
The bus was gone, the opportunity had vanished, what was left to his day? What was left to his life?
Of course, there was one thing, one person, but not always do we count the things we love the most in our darkest moments.
Then suddenly, the memories slammed into him. Slam. Until all that was left was the blow afterwards.
The blow of his broken marriage, the blow of the disappointment of those around him and the blow of the little attention he gave his daughter, was too much take. And though this was taking over him. Though the harsh memories were strong, that power driven hope he had to start with had not completely gone away.
Yes, that power driven hope was there, but this time it was dampened with irrationality. Just because it was using all its energy to beat the memories.
So he ran out into the road. He ran blindly to his death. It’s odd, isn’t it? He was running from the parts of his life he didn’t want to remember and in turn just ran to death instead.
And just in those last moments, before the van hit him. He saw her.
I told you, it was stupid. Well, it’s stupid now.
It really wasn’t to me at the time, it made perfect sense. If I ran fast enough, I would get to it, I had to; it was all I had felt I had left.
Being dead now, it’s clearer than being alive; I realize who I have there for me, and who always would have been there truly.
Poppy, my daughter would have been there.
Where is my ex-wife with my beautiful child?
Where is my seventy-four year old mother?
I’ve been dead for a half hour.
Where is everyone? The only person there is the student nurse chewing bubble gum, headphones still in place; even she isn’t fazed by my death.
My mother had me when she was forty three. She was quite old to have a child, but she had wanted one with my father for a long time, and when she found out I was to be born, she was really happy. My father, I thought was the perfect match for her. He was lazy, laid back and never liked to get into things. My mother was the complete opposite: hard working, sometimes interfering and would always plunge first into everything she did. I thought they were perfect for each other, because I could only imagine my mother getting angry if any man tried to help her.
She raised me as she did, and she was a good mother, just as she planned. But my father was not a really good father; he was always just this strange man in the living room front. My father is dead now, and I only found out then that my mother hadn’t been happy with him.
‘I loved him,’ she had told me. ‘But it just wasn’t enough. I cared and did everything for him, and he didn’t do the same, and you need someone to just be there for you at least sometimes. That’s what everyone needs.’
I didn’t want to be like my father. I wanted to be a perfect father, one that could teach, and one that could be a perfect husband too. I shared the same dream as my mother did, when she was my age.
Then I met Melanie. A beautiful art student in love with her life and making art, she was perfection, she was somebody I wanted to care for, she was somebody I knew I was going to love for the rest of my life. And after we got married we had Poppy. The child I had dreamed of. It seemed perfect, and for a while I know it was.
But it didn’t stay like that and to be honest I can’t pick out one thing why. I think it was lots of things. Things that piled up, until it was too heavy to carry anymore and had to be let go. So it was and Melanie left, along with Poppy.
The dream was broken and it wouldn’t piece together again, but I should have seen that though damaged, a new dream could be picked from it, not the dream I had had for so long, but one still like it.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t learn from it. Like my mother, I couldn’t envision a family with the pieces of it broken.
So she didn’t leave my father, and she pretended it was picture perfect. Melanie could however. She saw a better place with us out of marriage but still a family within that. And I should have too, but I only saw the first dream and couldn’t part myself from that, so just stopped trying altogether.
That is where I failed. That’s the most enormous mistake I have made with my life.
That I stopped trying. If I had just tried a bit harder, I’m sure a lot of the stuff would have changed. I’m not even talking about being with Melanie, I mean I loved her so much, and yes, if I were given a chance I would change it. But I’m talking about Poppy, because maybe Melanie and I weren’t meant to be together, but Poppy sure was meant for me to love and care for.
After they left, I found my job; maybe I never truly enjoyed it. The loss of them, the sudden coolness and echoes of my feet in the hallway, left a hollowing emptiness inside me. Maybe it was just a distraction, to distract me from the unfeeling pain that made everything muffled and dull.
It worked anyway; it distracted me to the extent that I became a work addict. It kept me going. I didn’t want to stop; it buried the feeling of missing my family.
So I didn’t, and here I am.
I wished my daughter, Poppy, would come sit beside me. I wished her mother would too. I wished my mother would come as well.
I’ve been dead for forty-five minutes. Nobody’s here.
I’m starting to wonder now. Will I go somewhere? Or will I stay in my body, recalling my days?
I don’t want that. That would be too painful. Maybe the superstitious stuff was rubbish after all, maybe I’ll just be in my body forever, regretting every moment of my life.
So this is it. My sad fact.
I’ve never touched anyone in my life.
I’ve never made anyone’s life happier just by being in it.
I thought I might have, but its plain obvious now that I haven’t.
I’ve been dead fifty-five minutes now. Even the bubble gum chewing nurse has noticed no-one’s coming. This was how I’d pay for messing up my life, I’d have a bad after life too.
But then the white doors swing open, and that sudden swoosh is omniscient; I sense something’s on the other side.
Poppy, Poppy, Poppy, Poppy.
She holds her mother’s hand, and breathes ‘Daddy,’ under her breath. The word is filled with sincere sadness. My mother follows in afterwards.
Poppy reaches for my hand.
She holds it so tight; I swear I can feel it in my soul.
She knows I’m not going to wake up; she’s a smart kid, but that doesn’t stop her shaking me.
‘Wake up! Wake up. Now,’ she demands with her bossiness, which only makes her cuter than it was ever thought possible.
I would if I could. I’d do anything to please her, but it just wasn’t possible. I was stiff, but seeing her face made my limbs melt into gooey happiness, pouring like the aftermath of a volcano.
It’s a beautiful sensation, purer and more fulfilling than the ones when I was alive.
‘Did you just find out?’ my mother said. Her voice was dry and raspy as if she’d been hanging her mouth open and all the liquid had dried out. A meek nod was the only reply from my ex-wife, Melanie, her face unusually blank. Empty.
A card was on the bed side table. A picture by Poppy, more beautiful than the countless ones she’d drawn before.
It was of me. And her, holding hands.
It was sickly ironic that she’d chosen to draw that in school; whilst I got run over by a van. She’d seemed to realise there was no waking up. That I would stay with my eyes closed forever. Poppy reached to my ear and surprisingly I still got the tickly feeling in my bodiless soul..
‘I love you,’ she said.
The simplicity of this sentence never fails to touch anyone.
This was how I wanted to end things. With my small family, my mind finally content.
I was rising, rising above the white hospital room, above the earth and sky, and then I stopped. Blinded by happiness and contentment, I stayed there. I had been wrong before.
Poppy will always be touched by me; I have made a small, but beautiful part of her life happy, just by being in it.
And that is all I’ll ever need to know.