Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Conversation

I had a dream. In it I died. Not sure how, but I was headed up to that Dinner's Club in the Sky. You know, that special V.I.P. place we all hope we can get into when we keel over. When I arrived everything had this golden look to it. I could smell lavender but could visualize no purple. I saw these two massive gate doors that looked like they were for elephants. The gates were intense to look at with all of it's shining gold bars. I had never seen anything like them before. They were either specially made or they were found at a really gaudy garage sale up in the heights. You know, Bill Gates territory. Anyway, there were a lot of people there just sitting around and waiting. I wasn't sure what for. The glare from the gates was so intense that I could barely make out the figure of an older man hunched over behind a tall podium. I walked up to the man. He looked like he was in charge.

"Excuse me sir. Could you tell me where I am?" I politely asked while putting a hand over my brow to create shade.

"1,0.... 24," the man called out. His voice was cracking, tired, horse, and sounded like he needed water.

"What was that you said?" My eyes were finally starting to adjust to the light as I lowered my hand.

Time seemed to stand still as he reached for a glass of water on top of the tall podium. His slow and elderly frame finally reached the glass and he took a long drink. I could hear every gulp as it went down. He then cleared his throat and said much more clearly, "1,024".

"1024?" I asked.

"Oh yes, is that you?" His eyes opened a little more as he looked down to see me.

"Uh,... no I don't think so."

"Then you will have to wait your turn," he announces in a big booming voice as he turns his head to what appears to be a book on top of the podium."

"Well, when is my turn?" I wondered.

"Did you take a number?" His look was as condescending as that of a postal worker.

"What number?" I asked.

"You must take a number if you want to be called upon. You'll find the ticket dispenser over there by that apple tree." His long fingers stretched out across the golden horizon stirring up amber dust as he pointed the way to a tree with golden apples swaying in the distance.

I walked over. I pulled a piece of paper that had a number on it. 10,164 is what it said. What number did he just call out? OH MAN!

"Pssst. Hey buddy. I'll uh.... I'll trade you that number for a ssshorter one," this voice whispers from no where. The voice had a hissing sound to it.

I looked to the left and then to the right. No one. I start to walk off and I felt this tapping on my right shoulder. I turn around and there was a snake hanging from a tree branch just staring at me.

"I can get you a better number," said the snake. He keeps looking from the left to the right as if he were making sure no one was watching. "I have plenty of low numbersss over here. You look like hard working Joe that could ussse a break. Why wait? You heard what number he called out. YOU sssaw what number you pulled."

The offer was tempting. I hate waiting in line. But... I don't know... this snake looked shifty. I mean what if that old guy isn't going in numerical order and the snake gives me a number that has already been called? What if I'm next! I looked around. There are thousands of people sitting, standing, and just waiting around. And I just got here. The snake is probably trying to screw me over. But maybe he is a good snake. Yeeeeah right. Who am I kidding. It is a talking snake. Those are the worst kind.

"No thanks," I said, "I'll just wait."

"Sssuit yourssself kid. There are more and more people that come this way by the hour. By the minute. By the sssecond. That number you have in your hand maybe more or lessss depending on how you look at it. So I would way my optionsss a little more carefully if you want to get to the podium to talk to old St. Peter. If you catch my drift."

"St. Peter! Where am I?!! What's going on here?!!!" I feel alarmed even though I already know what has happened.

"Oh, no one told you?" The snake twisted and curled up playfully like a fishing bait trying to catch a whopper. "You poor silly sap. If you are here then you couldn't possibly be there. And if you are not there then that must make you exxxtinct, exxxpired, or sssimply removed from another reality all together."

"You mean... DEAD!"

"The very end of life'sss punctuation my friend. You are nothing more. But at leassst you are not DOWN there. Well not yet anyway. Quite frankly you don't look like you cold handle it. St. Peter reads your review and discusses with you your optionsss."

"Options for what? Is this a job interview?"

"Immortality of courssse." The snake stretches himself over towards me. "Everyone must passss by here to get to over there, or Down there, or where every there is for you. Everyone mussst answer to sssomebody for the life they have lived. If you didn't, then you wouldn't be here. You would already be sssomewhere elssse." the snake manages to be grinning at me the whole time he is talking. I want to smack that sarcastic sinister smile off his face.

I needed to walk around. I had a lot to think about. "Look I gotta go. I need to walk around a bit."

"That'sss probably a great idea. You are going to be here awhile. Get to know the placcce. We can talk busssiness later. Before you go, perhapsss you could take a long a little fffood fffor ttthought. Hungry? You gotta try one of these golden deliccciousss applesss. Go ahead take one with you." An apple rolled down the spine of the silky green hanging snake right to the top of his head. He leaned his head in with the apple on top just like someone's hand offering you a gift.

"Like I said before, no thanks." The light surrounding the tree was growing darker compared to that of the podium. It started to feel cold in that spot under the shade of the golden apple tree. The asp had stopped smiling. I simply walked away.

I must have been there for what seemed like days, months, and even years. The tired old voice called out number after number. No one talked to each other. It was like waiting in line at the D.M.V. just trying to renew your license. One by one a person would approach the towering podium and speak with the St. Peter. Some had long conversations with him, some short, and for a few the golden doors just opened allowing the lucky ticket holder to pass through. Most everyone was allowed through the giant golden gates. The gates looked new and sparkled but sounded like rust and grinding metal every time they open. It sounded like a huge vault door when the closed.

"10,163," a voice boomed out waking me from a half dazed delirium.

A little old lady stood up and walked over to St. Peter. It was one of the longest discussions at the podium, but I was alert and anxious because my number was next. She was finally permitted to pass. The grinding gates opened once again. When they finally closed I was ready. But St. Peter didn't announce the next number. It was like being at the bank when you get all the way to the front to see a teller open and then they put up a sign in their window that says "out to lunch" and you just have to keep waiting. Then... finally it happened.

"10,165," the voice boomed.

"All right! Fina... what a minute!" My number was 10,164. There has been a mix up. I hear it again.


"Excuse me, excuse me," I rush past a man trying to approach the podium while texting on his cell phone and juggling his brief case. "You skipped over my number! You missed 10,164. That was my number. I have been here for a while now and I think it's my turn." I was out of breath by the time I reached St. Peter.

"No. No mistake. There is no 10,164."

"Yes, yes there is. I have it right here in my hand." I show him the ticket.

He squints and looks at it. Then wads up the paper and throws it over his left shoulder. "Doesn't exist."

"But it is right there. You were holding it in your hand."

He has a sour look on his face. Obviously St. Peter doesn't like to be corrected. I'm guessing I'm not earning brownie points here. "NAME," he demands as he thumbs through his big book.

"Keith," I said as I start to look for my I.D. but I realize dead people probably don't carry that with them when they die. It is doubtful that anyone really gets carded here. "Keith Lee."

"Middle name?"

"I don't really give that out."


"Look, can't you look in that book under my name and the date I arrived. I can give you my social security number."

The big guy sighed out of weakened frustration from having to deal with people like me for centuries. "Very well then. Keith Lee. Keith Lee. No that's not you. Keith Le... oh yes. There you are." He closes the book. He writes something down. "10,165."

"Whoa, wait a minute! What about me?"

"You are not suppose to be here. So you can not really be here if you are not suppose to be here."

"But I'm here! I'm standing right in front of you! You can see me. So I must be here."

I'm trying not to panic at this point.

St. Peter looks at me for a moment. "Not according to the book. The book says you should still be on earth. So THAT is where you are."

"WELL, the BOOK is WRONG!"

"SIR, the BOOK is never WRONG! It clearly states that KEITH W. LEE is still and occupant on the planet earth. The fact that you are here probably suggest that you are lost."

"AHA! So you admit that I AM here."

"No. I admit that you are not where you should be. Lost, confused, finding yourself, or any number of circumstances could apply. Your physically being here has no baring on the issue. Now if you will excuse me and please step out of the way. I really must continue. There are so many people to see."

"Step out of the way where? Here? Over there? Somewhere else? Where do I stand to get out of the way if I'm not even HERE TO BE IN THE WAY IN THE FIRST PLACE!"

St. Peter slams his hand down hard on the book and looks at me sternly. "If it is not your time, then you can not be here now. If you should not be here now then you are wasting my time."

"Am I dead or not?" I calmly asked in hopes of trying to regain control.

"I can't answer that. What I can say is that when people pass away they first have to come by here. And here is not there. If you are suppose to be there then you have seriously taken a wrong turn."

"Well is it possible that I have died and I should have gone to hell considering that hell is DOWN there and not here or over there? Should I go check? Where is that place? Can you call someone and find out, please?"

"It is very hard to reach anyone down there. They have a high turn over rate. I wouldn't recommend it. Besides if you were suppose to be down there then you would have been collected already. They are always looking for people."

"Well do you have a waiting room? Some place I can go and figure things out. You know... what's that place called... Purgatory?"

"Sir, Purgatory is not a waiting room. It is a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before coming here. You are not dead, so you can not go there. Besides it is full right now."

"Full! With who?"

St. Peter looked embarrassed. "We have several people from A.I.G. Financial in there right now."

"Oh. How is that going?"

"Not good. They think Jesus is going to come through with a bailout package for them." He looks off in the distance as if pointing the way to Purgatory.

The answer throws me for a bit but I come through quickly, "Well then should I just sit here on the corner until I figure things out?"

"I'm afraid not. There is no loitering here," as St. Peter points to a sign on the gate.

I look around and see a man hunched over deep in thought. "What about that guy in the crazy Elvis Presley jump suit? He has been sitting here for a long time now. Even before I got here."

"That IS Elvis Presley, and he has permission to be here. He has some questions he still needs to answer. He just needs a little time to search out the answers."

"Well, why can't I just sit here and think?"

"BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSE TO BE HERE!!!!" St. Peter has clearly lost his cool by this point.

So had I. "I'm tired of this run around! What is going on? Just answer me. What am I doing here? For that matter what am I doing? What was... is life about? What is death? WHAT IS ANY OF THIS?!! Did I not do enough to justify my life so I'm not allowed to die now?"

The tired old man for the first time put on a slight grin. He stepped down from his alter. He fished around in his pocket and retrieved a chain. As he slowly pulled on the chain a pocket watch appeared. The surface was worn and had lost the luster it once appeared to have had. Not the typically item you would find in a place of riches. He opened the watch up and held it in front of me.

"Can you see the hands?" he asked.

There were millions of hands rotating. Billions of clocks inside this pocket watch. Some fast and some slow.

"Focus on just one pair of hands and tell me what you hear," he said.

It took me a little while but I finally focused on set of hands.

"A heart beat. I can hear a heart beat." I answered.

With every tick there was the sound of a heart beating. He then pointed to a pair of hands.

"Watch and then tell me what you hear," he said sadly.

The hands slowed down as well as the sound of the heart beat. Then the hands stopped. There was no more beating sound. The next sound was that of St. Peter closing the pocket watch. I was so intensely looking at it that he startled me with the sound of the watch quickly closing.

"It was her time. She will be here soon. Yours was still ticking. It isn't your time," he said with a faint and nurturing smile. "Go back home. Enjoy the time that you DO have."

I felt water rolling down my check. "Home? Home? What am I suppose to be doing there? How do I make a difference?"

"I'm sorry but I can't tell you that. That is confidential and classified information," he said with a smile. "What I can tell you is that you have time to figure that out."

"Can I ask one question and get a direct answer?" I asked.

St. Peter thought for a moment. You could see his emotions betraying his logic as his face relaxed and eyes opened wider to say, "Yes".

I walked over to Elvis. He was sitting on the ground just staring. He was lost in thought when I broke his concentration. He seemed surprised that someone had walked up to him. I thought for a minute about the question I was going to ask. Was it even worth asking? Then I decided that every question in life is worth asking.

"Why did you do it?" I asked. No introduction. I just jumped into the question. "You had everything. Why would you take those pills? Why end it the way that you did?"

Elvis looked at me as a child being scolded. Then his eyes shifted and he knew the answer to my question. He looked back at me and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He couldn't speak. He was fighting back the tears in his eyes. He looked away and then put his hands in both his hands and cried.

"Why would you ask a question that you already knew the answer to?" St. Peter's voice came from behind me.

"I just wanted to hear someone, anyone say it," I answered back.

I knew the answer all along. When given every opportunity in life we often squander it away. We exploit our riches and bathe in our ignorance of thinking that who we are far more important than the world around us. In the end we realize that if we don't contribute to a cause other than our own ego we begin to fade away only to cave in on ourselves. There is a reason why we are born. There is a reason why we live. There is a reason why we die. There is a reason to everything.

I woke up. I wrote this dream down as soon as I could so I wouldn't forget it. I thought long and hard about the meaning of this dream. I want to make a difference in this life time. I want to know that I left HERE in better shape than I had arrived. I also realized something else very important about myself. In the future I should never eat Blue Bell's Pecan Pralines 'n Cream ice cream 30 minutes before bedtime.

No comments: