My phone rings and I see Alyssa’s name pop up. A small groan escapes my lips, but I answer anyway. That’s what a good friend does right?
Alyssa speaks before I can even mutter a greeting, “Katie! I know it’s your day off and I know you said you really needed some “me” time, but I really need you to come with me today! Pleeeeaaaseee?”
The whine in Alyssa’s voice makes me sigh with resignation. She’s getting married in three months and has been on a rampage to check things off her list. “What do you need me to do?” I ask.
“Meet me up at the outlets; I think I found the perfect ties for the guys to wear for the big day. I’ll take you to lunch after, my treat!”
I tell her I’ll meet her in an hour and get out of bed to get dressed. I had really been looking forward to just spending the day relaxing. Work has been crazy and I just need some time to de-stress. I can feel myself getting slightly irritated at the idea of giving up more of my time for others. Why can’t I just say no?
“Stop it,” I tell myself, “You’re only doing this because you’re jealous.” I start to whine to myself in my head, why can’t I be selfish? I’m 32 years old and, as the saying goes, ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’. At this point I’d just be happy with finding one nice guy.
I walk out to the car, continuing the conversation in my head. “I’m a nice person,” I reason, “I have a ton of friends on Facebook. That has to count for something, right?” I stop, see my reflection in my car window and realize just how pathetic I sound to myself. Really Katie? A ton of friends on Facebook should equate to true love? I shake my head and get in the car.
I’ve been on the road for about twenty minutes, it’s really cold outside and my car has finally heated up to the point that I can turn the heat down a bit. I turn up the volume on the radio, my favorite song is playing. Mileys voice drifts through the cabin of the car, “drive my heart into the night, you can drop the keys off in the morning”. Her haunting voice sends me into a daydream about Josh and my heart aches just a little.
Our last conversation was still fresh in my mind. He told me he loved me but that he couldn’t see us growing old together. A week later, he was already seeing someone new, and even made it “Facebook official”.
There it was again, damn Facebook. I think I just need to deactivate it and back away, I think to myself, still daydreaming. Suddenly I am snapped back to reality as my car hits ice and I begin to slide.
Everthing begins to happen so fast and I can’t control anything. My car picks up speed even though I’m trying to hit the brakes, I see the concrete bridge approaching and there is nothing I can do. I try to prepare myself for impact, reminding myself that if I brace and tense up I could hurt myself more. I have hope, my life isn’t flashing before my eyes. This is a good sign right? I hear the sickening crunch of my car crumpling against the bridge, I feel nothing and everything goes black. Miley’s voice is the last thing I comprehend before everything is gone, “I thought you would be there when I go…”
I awake to a warm, sunny day. I look around me and see clouds.
Wait, what? Clouds? , I think to myself.
“Katie,” a voice behind me says. It’s so melodic that a wave of calmness passes through me. I turn and see a man in a white robe with long white hair and a beard. He appears to be holding a tablet of sorts with several names on it. My name is currently at the top of his list. Could this be Saint Peter?
“Am I in heaven?” I manage to get out.
“You catch on quite quickly! Most people assume they are dreaming or that someone is playing a trick on them since they swore they were going straight to hell,” the man replies.
“It’s a bit cliché, don’t you think?” I reply. “I mean really? Clouds, white robe, long, white hair? Of all the things people talk about when it comes to heaven, God and religion and they get this right?”
“It’s different to everyone. This just happens to be the heaven you think of. Thanks for that by the way. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when I have to give the news to someone who thinks of me as a cute little baby in diaper with wings. Cherubs have to be the most annoying thing out there.”
I chuckle at the idea of this man dressed up like a baby, then when the visual hits my head it makes me shudder. “So Pete, if I can call you that. What now?”
“What no begging, pleading, trying to convince me that it wasn’t your time? And Pete’s fine.”
“Would any of that help?”
“Then why bother?”
“Good point, in answer to your question, ‘what now’ is up to you. It’s your heaven.”
I think about this. I always assumed when you went to heaven, all the questions you had in life would be answered, or it wouldn’t matter and you’d forget all about it but quite frankly, the questions of who killed Jon Benet and did OJ really do it still bugged me. I open my mouth to speak but Peter cuts me off, “You make it into heaven and that’s your first thought?”
“I guess not,” I say. “Okay, how’s this. Is life predetermined? Like when I was born, did God already know that I was going to die at 32, single with nothing but a wailing mother to remember me by?”
Peter looked past me into the distance; he scrunched his brow and pressed his fingers to his temple. “No one ever asks me this and I like it that way. Your life is not predetermined by any means. God knows what’s going to happen to you based on decisions you make. So it’s kinda like you have free will but he still knows. Please don’t ask me to explain it any further than that. It’s complicated.”
“So what you’re telling me Pete, is that if I had done what I wanted to do this morning and ignored Alyssa’s phone call, I would still be alive. There would be no “Final Destination”-like death spirit trying to kill me all day because this was my day to die.”
“Precisely,” was all Pete replied. He began to walk away, rather hastily. I yelled out, “Wait! Pete! Wait!” and he stopped and hung his head. He knew something and I was going to figure it out. Maybe there was a loophole?
“Pete, can you show me what my life would have been like if I hadn’t answered the phone? Please?”
Pete sighs, turns around and says, “Do you really want to know? Wouldn’t it be better to not know and then not have to be faced with the possibility that you didn’t lead the better life? I can make you forget all that. You can live up here blissfully unaware of life on Earth and rest your soul in heaven, like the rest of the folks up here.”
“I’m not like the ‘rest of the folks’ up here Pete. I want to know.”
Saint Peter sits down and swirls the clouds beneath him to open up the sky below. He motions for me to sit beside him. I see myself lying in bed, reading, just like I was the morning of my death. And so it began….again.