Anyone who came to visit me knew that it was my last day. They - my friends, relatives, came to the house to see me and say goodbye. They all knew I was dying. I was perfectly aware of it too.
My wife’s father spoke, “Let’s pick up Father Matthew.” My wife cried, and I felt her threw herself to me, trying to hug my vegetable body. My body wasn’t moving. I was quadriplegic for 4 months, as the doctor said; till I totally lost control of everything. I couldn’t even open my eyes. It felt as though my eyelids and mouth were sewn shut as I struggle to open them. Physically, there was nothing I could do. Before my body became thoroughly deteriorated, I remember how Lucia carried me to the bath every time I needed to use the toilet. Each time was embarrassing and I loathe those moments. Privacy wasn't the only thing I lost, but also my pride. It was a very dreadful feeling in the beginning. So dreadful that every time she’d carry me to the toilet I wished I was dead. That’s the last thing a man would ever want to happen; to need someone to wipe his ass, and hold his penis when he needs to pee... it's something that I could only hope would never happen to anyone close to me.
But it wasn’t all that bad. Those moments also made me realize how genuine her love for me was. And I loved her even more. “Lucia”, I said, “please don’t cry. I hate it when you cry. You must realize you look ugly when you cry.” And I continued, “Don’t let any moment take your beauty.”
“Please don’t go George”, she continued to cry. “I’d do anything to keep you with me. Lord, oh please!”
She didn’t hear a word I said.
I knew how she felt. I knew she loved me, and imagining myself losing her would make me cry the way she did. Oh I loved my wife. My beautiful wife.
My wife was a great believer of God. I wasn't. She had always wanted me to go to church. I remember going with her a few times. I did it for her, not for anyone else; definitely not for who she call her God. And that’s just one of the many things that we didn’t agree about. We had plenty, but I won’t discuss it with you. You know, some things are best kept between husbands and wives. What I want to say is, we had a lot of differences in likes and beliefs, but nothing could change the fact that I loved my wife. I loved her so much, and I didn’t want to die and leave her behind. I could not stand seeing her cry. But the universe, or should I say, her God, had his own way of arranging things – like me dying that day… something that she didn’t want to believe her God would permit.
“I will be gone soon Lucia, but I will always love you.”, I told her, without opening my mouth. I was talking to her, in my mind, hoping that she’d hear me.
I couldn’t open my eyes but I knew I was surrounded by the people I loved. At times I wanted to tell them I was fine, and that I was happy to see, or rather, feel their presence, but my mouth would not allow me to speak.
“You will not die, George! You are staying right here, just with me!” my wife, Lucia, talking to me. I said, “Honey, I can feel I don’t have much time remaining. I will be leaving soon. I love you so much. How I wish you can hear me.”
Half an hour passed. Only thing I heard was my wife’s crying.
“Father Matthew is here”, my father-in-law said. And Lucia cried harder and hugged me even more. “No!!! My George is not dying. God will save him!” She hugged me firmly… like she’s ready to attack anyone who’d dare to take me away from her. She was begging God not to take me. She was crying to God to save me.
I never believed in God. The absence of proof is the proof of absence. I wanted to tell Lucia to stop crying. There was nothing we could do.
And as I expected, her God didn’t hear a word she cried. I was sad for my wife. Things and events that were already planned by the universe is inevitable. My death was bound to happen. I was ready.
A little moment after the priest said his prayers for the dying, I died. That was the signal. Lucia cried even harder. But I could no longer feel her skin against mine. Her hug was, numb. For a few moments, I was just lying there, eyes still closed, thinking if I were really dead. I opened my eyes, which I was not able to do for a month, and a strong beam of light shone from above, it was so strong it hurt my eyes so bad; like the sun when it pierces my eyes when I look at it directly. I thought, at first, that it was the light that people talk about. Well, I was wrong. It was the light bulb on the ceiling that was blinding me. Took me a minute for my eyes to adjust to it, and I moved my head to see my wife crying.
I moved my eyes inside the room and found everyone - my family, friends. Some were crying. Some weren’t showing any emotion at all, but everyone’s eyes were fixed on me, and my crying wife.
It was a very strange feeling. My back, which had been sore for many months of lying in bed, could no longer feel it. I felt airy and light-headed as I rose out of the bed. I felt I was separated from my body; I really was. My body looked frozen in the bed. I tried to lay down again in hopes of returning to my body, but I failed. “I'm dead.” I looked at my wife, Lucia, burying her face to my chest while trying to pull my body up by my shirt. I almost wanted to cry. No, in fact, I did cry. I didn’t feel tears in my eyes, but I knew I cried.
While to the world I was dead, I can find no words to eloquently describe the experience. My feet was on the ground, but I felt so light I couldn’t even feel my feet touching it. It was something beyond this world, and cannot be described sufficiently in worldly terms. Then, a brighter light came through the wall in our room. “This one is what they’re talking about. So it’s true after all.” I thought. I was waiting for someone to appear. Maybe an old man with thick, white beard, wearing all white. You know. The shit people say when people die. Yes, the light was real. I saw it. I was looking at it for 2 minutes, or maybe longer, without blinking my eyes, but nobody showed up. The light was getting brighter and brighter, but it wasn’t hurting anymore. My eyes got used to it quickly. I looked at my wife who was still crying. Then, like an old photo losing it's colour, fading, everyone started to disappear... like a thick smoke slowly losing it’s shape… until they’re all gone.
That was the last I could remember of the day I died.
I felt as though I had disappeared and some magical force carried me to a place where nothing was visible but bright light. The silence was deafening. 35 years I lived on earth but I never felt so alone. Never thought I’d experience it afterlife. I didn’t know where I was but I perfectly knew I was dead. My mind continued to function, like now, as I was able to think about what was happening during that moment, but my senses were all gone. Thus passed the time, till I heard a man spoke. Sure thing, I was glad to hear a voice. Who knows how may hours, or days, I was floating in that cosmos, alone.
“Your name?” The voice said, who I assumed was talking to me.
“Who are you? Where are we?” I reluctantly asked.
“Your name?” the man asked again, louder, and was indeed demanding an outright answer.
I was looking around, trying to catch a glimpse of the person talking to me when I answered his question. “I’m George, and I think I’m dead.”
“Of course you are! Hahaha…”, the man laughed, as though I threw him a very funny joke, then he paused. The man sounded he was trying to stop himself from laughing, and continued, “Take a seat, George.”
I was about to tell him I couldn’t see a thing, when the room we were in started to become visible. I saw a white cabinet standing a few meters to my right. It was full of books. I was trying to read the titles as I walked towards it till bumped into a steel chair.
“Sit down.” The man offered.
“Listen,” I said, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t know where I am, but I really think I am dead. I shouldn’t be anywhere. I should be gone.”
The man sniffled, then paused, like he was thinking what he’s going to say or ask next. I remained quiet, waiting patiently for the man to answer the questions I threw him. I didn’t notice right away that a table was in front of me. It was also made of steel, and the fact that the table was painted white made it barely noticeable. I leaned forward and placed my elbow on the steel table and cupped my cheeks with my hands, just like what I used to do when I was still alive.
“You are dead, and you are neither in heaven nor hell.” the man said. “And I am God.” , he continued.
I then distinguished something like a human form at the other side of the long table. I didn’t say a word. I was waiting for the man, who claimed himself as God, to continue. And everything became visible. I saw his face. A man, who looked my father’s age, maybe in his 60′s. He had a long curly hair, a scruffy face with beard, wearing an all-white tuxedo. I was examining his face when he showed me a craggy smile. “You didn’t believe me when I said I was God, did you?”
I did not answer outright. “If you really are God, then you should know what my answer is.”
“Well, you're right. I knew that’s what you were going to say”, the man answered. “Let me see,” then the man waved his hand in the air, and got himself something like an iPad from nowhere. Didn’t see how he did it. He flipped his hand in the air, and the next thing I knew he already had that thing in his hand. “So you don’t believe in God, and you don’t believe in heaven nor hell.” the man paused again. “I honestly don’t know what to do to you. But you're right. You are dead. You saw yourself in the bed before you were brought here, did you not?”
“I know what’s on your mind and what's in your heart, but I want to hear it from you,” the man continued, “do you still believe God doesn’t exist? That I-do-not exist?”
“What’s the point of asking me that question?”
“I want to hear you say it.”, he said.
“Let’s get over this. Just do what you want to do, and take me to wherever you think I should go. As far as I know I shouldn’t be anywhere. I should just be gone.” I said.
The man gave me an honest smile. “Not that fast George. We need to settle this issue first. I am God and I know you know now that I am real, but you are ashamed that you didn’t believe in me your whole life, and now you’re dead you find yourself in that chair, and across the table, in front of you, is God. That’s what you have in mind. You can’t hide it. Tell me you believe in me and I will take you with me to heaven.”
“No I won’t.”
“You’re not real, and this is just a dream. You are just an illusion. That shit, that the old wise men fed the weak-willed and vulnerable, tens of thousands of years ago. The first of humans in this world sold us to that insane idea. They did it to gain control of the people, by forcing them to believe that something like you exists. I do not believe in any organized religion and I don't believe in you.”
The man was still smiling. “But you’re here now, and you’re talking to me, your God.”
“You’re nothing but a dream. I was dying, my mind wasn’t in its best condition when I died. How this is happening, I don't know. But I know you’re just a dream, a post-life imagination of my mind, and you’ll be gone after this and everything else, including me, will vanish, pffft! Like that!” I muttered.
“So you want to go to hell?” the man asked.
I answered, “I am not going anywhere. After this, you and I will slip away to nothingness. That’s the end.”
“Ok George,” said the man while rubbing his beard, like he was thinking of the next word to say, “what can I do to make you say you believe in me?”
“Nothing.” I said.
“I want to give you another chance George. Though you didn’t believe in me while you were alive, though you have some dirty little secrets… you were a good man, and you were a good husband to your wife. I cannot just throw you to hell. I’m going to ask you one more time, and after this, your next chance is after a thousand years. Think before you give your answer”, the man paused. “Do you believe in me, your God?”
“You know what my answer is….I don’t.” I answered.
“Your heart says otherwise.” Then the man tapped his device that looked like an iPad, and started writing with his invisible pen. I could tell he was writing something. Then he spoke, “You were a good man George, so I will not throw you to hell. Instead, I will give you another chance and take you back to earth, to help you realize my existence. But you must not forget that you are already dead. You will go back to earth, but you won’t live another life. You are allowed to watch over your loved ones, and roam around and do whatever will please you, but you will not be able to do anything physically. You cannot talk to people, you cannot touch them, and you will stay on earth till your next chance arrive, which is, errrr, after a thousand years from now. You may go.” The man smiled for the last time and then he's gone.
I didn’t get a chance to answer. Next thing I knew I was back in Manila, in the university where I studied college. Whatever brought me there, I do not know.
“You will stay on earth till your next chance arrive, which is after a thousand years.” That’s what the man I spoke with said. The man who claimed himself as God. I was wearing the same shirt I was wearing before I died. I put my hands in my pocket and realized it has money inside; you know, old tradition that our people do when someone passes away.
I tried to flag down an empty cab but the driver didn’t pull over. Oh well, what was I thinking? I am dead. Nobody sees me.
Thought of getting on a bus, so I walked to Park and Ride in Lawton, got on a bus and sat at the back row. People come and go, and just as I expected, nobody paid attention to me. I felt lonely, being ignored.
I reached home riding buses and jeepneys. The rides were free, of course. “So this is how it’s like.” I thought. You pay the full price when you’re young, get 20 percent discount when you reach the senior citizen bracket, and you get the rides free when you’re dead.
Our house still looked the same. I went straight to our room and found my wife cleaning. The room looked a bit different. The clock that I used to stare at when I was bedridden wasn’t there anymore. And the calendar that was hanging on the wall was for the year 2012. Two years had passed then since I died, I thought. I was just talking to that man who claimed himself as God, right after I died. It made me so confused I stopped analyzing. Lucia was cleaning our room. She opened the drawer at the bottom of the big cabinet. “Oh Lucia, you kept all my things.”, I said in joy, trying to talk to her. Inside was a box where we kept our pictures. She opened it and on top was our wedding picture. She then started to cry, and kissed me in the picture. Two years had passed and Lucia was still grieving over my death. It made me cry. I didn’t feel my tears but I knew I cried again. She missed me. She lifted the box where our pictures were kept while still crying. Below that box was another box. A box made of wood. Then I remembered it was mine. Nobody knew what that box was, not even my wife. “Don’t open that Lucia, no!” I tried to grab her hand but a strong bolt of electricity ran in my entirety just before my hand touched hers. For the first time, after the day I died, I felt pain. Physical pain. I didn’t feel my arse touching the seat when I took the bus, and that made me wonder what that physical pain was about. I tried to stop her again but the same pain pinned my whole body. So that’s what the bearded man meant when he said I cannot touch people, I thought. I didn’t want Lucia to open that box. That’s the last thing I wanted her to do now that I’m dead. I swear, I was going to throw it away, I swear, but the accident happened.
Lucia found my dvd and magazine porn collection inside. Women of different colours and sizes, all nude, fucking, showed as she flipped through the pages. Two years after my death, Lucia was still grieving, and while she was crying, thinking about our memories, she found my porn. She put everything back inside the box and burned the whole thing outside. She was hurt, and disgusted. I didn’t know what to do.
A year and a half past, and I was still there. At home. Lucia had moved on and found herself another man. They got married and stayed in our house. They slept in our room. They kissed and fucked in our room, in the kitchen, in the bath. I saw it all. Every night they do it. But there was nothing I could do. I’m dead, and Lucia, the woman I loved so much, had moved on. She had to, I understand.
Each day, I walked the streets of Manila aimlessly. One good thing about being dead is you don’t get tired. You can walk and walk, and walk some more, without getting tired. I don’t even have to eat or drink or sleep. I don’t get tired, but completely powerless. What they say about ghosts, being powerful, is bullshit. Huh, I could not even lift a needle. I can walk, stand, and sit, and go through walls but that’s about it. If I could die a second time I’d die of boredom.
In front of me now is a newspaper stand. Today's date is March 29, 2022. I don’t know where I’m going after this. Maybe go to the Mall of Asia and watch a movie. I'm flying tomorrow to Seatlle, Washington, ticket is free, you know.
The man who claimed himself as God said my next chance is after a thousand years. 12 years had passed. Pfft, like 12 years mean anything compared to a thousand years. I started to believe in God the moment I saw and talked to that man. He’s real. I was too stupid not to admit it. And this is the punishment; to be a ghost for a thousand years.
I still love Lucia.
How about you, what's your story?
Copyright © 2010, Yffar, All rights reserved