Finding myself dead in my easy chair had created a rather substantial existential crisis for me. What do you do with that kind of information? I mean, there I was, dead and bloated with a bottle of whiskey hanging from my stiff fingers and the TV flickering on and on. What was I supposed to do now?
Besides sitting here and staring at myself, that is. How morbid.
It was overwhelming. Sometimes so much so that I would find myself back at my door thinking I had just come home to find an intruder in my apartment. It took me a while to realize that's what was going on. I had to come to grips with my death over and over again, but each realization was a little easier, and those events were becoming less frequent. It's hard to go through that kind of trauma, especially when you have to relive it every time you begin to break down.
The worst part, though, was that I couldn't remember dying. Once I was able to get over... I was going to say "get over my death," but I wasn't over that. I don't think you can get over that. I was stuck in this room, now, with a corpse and, even if it was my own corpse, it was gruesome. If I could have left, I would have, but I couldn't move anything or affect anything. Everything was as solid as if it had been cast in stone. I couldn't even pry the whiskey bottle from my cold, dead fingers and, believe me, I needed a drink! It was the only thing I could think about other than my corpse.
My corpse and trying to figure out how I'd died, which I couldn't remember. Once I was able to focus beyond re-living the moment of discovering my body, I could remember leaving home for the bar a few blocks away: I remembered getting out of bed and puttering around with making coffee and eating something vaguely identifiable as leftover Chinese food. Opening the blinds and quickly closing them again, all of them, because of how bright it was and how much the light hurt my eyes. I remembered the splitting headache of my hangover. I contemplated turning on the TV but decided against it because that, too, would be too bright, and I didn't want any noise at all. Then deciding that what I needed was a drink and fumbling into my clothes and going to the bar...
That was pretty much it.
I didn't remember coming home again. Or turning on the TV, though, from the low volume, I must have still been suffering from being hung over and from being drunk. I didn't remember getting the whiskey, either, and I was only just realizing that I must have been a raging alcoholic. A breakfast of beer on cereal was pretty common for me, after all. But I couldn't remember how I died and wondered if that had been it.
There was a noise at the door and, as it opened, someone said, "It's not even locked." Then, "Holy Hell! That's a smell I'm never going to forget," and the door closed again. A few minutes later -- or hours, how would I know? -- two men came in with Matilda, my neighbor from down the hall, my only friend in the building.
Matilda was saying, "Of course, I knew it wasn't locked, but I couldn't just come in. That would be breaking and entering."
One of the men said, "No, Ma'am, that's not breaking, and you didn't have to come in. If you'd just looked in the door."
"But no one answered when I knocked."
"Because he was dead."
"Hey, how long do you think he's been dead?"
"I'm not the M. E., how should I know?"
"I've been knocking on his door for over a week."
I couldn't keep track of it all. Maltilda was crying. The men were looking around the apartment using sticks or something to poke at my stuff, and one of them was taking pictures of my body. It was enough to make me sick, and I gagged and dry-heaved and found myself back at my door disoriented and confused. Matilda walked straight through me as one of the men escorted her back to her apartment, and that made me feel even sicker but, still, nothing came out.
Somewhere in all that was happening another man and some other men came in. The first one poked and prodded my body and said his guess was that I'd been dead somewhere around three weeks, and the other men loaded me onto a stretcher and carried my body away. I felt like that should have made me cry or, at least, feel sad or a sense of loss or something, but I was actually kind of glad. I was tired of looking at my corpse.
Finally, I was left alone in the room; all of the men were gone. The TV had been turned off. The bottle of whiskey was sitting on the kitchen counter, and I still couldn't pick it up.
It was only then that I realized that I was alone in the room. Alone in the room! Again! And I couldn't get out. I didn't want to be stuck in this apartment that I'd died in. Stuck alone in this one room for the rest of my... life? Death? Un-life? I didn't even know what to call whatever kind of existence this was.
I think I went kind of crazy for a while, beating on the door and walls and screaming for someone to let me out, someone to help me, someone to do anything.
Even ghosts, or whatever I was, can get exhausted, I guess, because I woke up later lying on the floor near the door. There were people with weird equipment walking around the room, and Matilda was with them. She kept telling them that she thought I was still there and that she was sure she had heard me yelling to be let out. Then, at some point, she turned in my direction and looked... well, she didn't quite look at me, but it was close enough, I guess, and said, "It's okay, John. You can go now."
I blinked and looked at the open door. I looked back at her and she nodded. The other people milled about the room with their beeping and blinking equipment and talked in low voices about cold spots and electrosomethingorothers. I looked back at the door, and Maltida said again, "You can go."
So I did.
I walked out the door and into the world, and it felt like I had never been out in the world before. Like I was seeing everything for the first time. Like I was being reborn. Reborn without my addiction and without my bills to pay or, even, a need to eat anything. I walked out into the world and for the first time in a long, long time... I was happy.
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