There it is. That acoustic melody that reminds me of Spring, the gentle song that wakes me and briefly takes me to a memory that I never actually experienced. The memory is slightly different every day, but today for a moment I’m in an open field looking at bluebells. Tomorrow it might be sunflowers, yesterday it was daisies, but in every memory there are flowers. The sun is always hitting the field in the perfect place, giving everything a warm glow and I am always sitting next to Maria. Her hand is on mine, which is much more meaningful to me than mine being on hers. Then just as quickly as I enter the memory, I leave it. Every morning, my peacefully set alarm races the rest of the world to wake me, and it always wins for just a moment. I reach over to stop the song, almost knocking over an empty bottle of beer. The song has served its purpose just as a stray spark ever so slightly warms a cold night, then it falls and is consumed by the air around it. A warmth that wouldn’t be noticed by anybody else, but a warmth I depend on.
The morning routine is almost the same as it has always been, but this time I make an effort to check my mailbox. Three days ago it was my birthday. Fifty years old. I could’ve already told you that the mailbox would be empty but for reasons unknown I still check, and my disappointment is cushioned by my expectance of the outcome. I’m a divorcee with no friends and I haven’t spoken to my family in years, so I ask myself who could have possibly sent me a birthday card. The truth is I sabotage any good relationship that I acquire. Sometimes it doesn’t take long, sometimes it takes years, but eventually something inside me decides I don’t deserve the joy of a friend or the love of a family member and then I commit to hurting them until I’ve severed our bond. I’m usually the type of person who blames everybody else for the way my life is so today I must be feeling extra enlightened. Enlightenment seems irrelevant when one is unmotivated to change, in fact all it has done today is put me in an even worse mood.
During my walk to work I usually get lost in thought. The streets are usually empty at this hour, so my mind must just allow it to happen. It’s something about the rhythmic and robotic movement of one step after another, I just lose track of it until I don’t realise what I’m doing, and then I’ve made the full transition from the physical world to the world of my thoughts. I couldn’t tell you anything significant about these thoughts, they usually move at astonishing rates and one thought leads to another so quickly that I forget about the previous one. I’m only dragged back to reality by the force of another man’s shoulders clashing with mine. There’s something about the unexpected contact that makes me so much more sensitive to it, because I feel it through my whole body as if I’ve been hit by a car. It doesn’t take me long to realise what has happened and, ashamed, I turn around and apologise, but the man is staring behind me, looking fearful.
“Hello?” He calls out.
Immediately the guilt that had flooded my body sizzles into fear, as if a witch had dropped a special ingredient into a brew to make it change its physical properties. I turn to look at what the man is staring at, but there is nothing. The witch drops something in my cauldron of fear to turn it into confusion as I turn back to the man, but he is already walking away, shaking his head in denial. I call out to him asking him what he had seen but he ignores me. My logical way of thinking divides my confusion and I assume he must be the crazy one, and I decide to get on with the day.
It’s not long until I see Shaun, my coworker, smoking a cigarette on the kerb, facing the road. He is waiting outside the office for me, because my keycard stopped working weeks ago and the good for nothing company is still in the process of sending me a new one. I reach him with a smile, but he mustn’t have seen me yet. It’s frustrating when I encounter these situations, because now I’m at risk of frightening him by making my presence aware to him. I decide that the best course of action now is to clear my throat. Still nothing. I’m forced to possibly scare him by speaking.
No response. In fact he doesn’t even blink. Suddenly I’m reminded of the man I had bumped into earlier. He had ignored me too. I step onto the road and walk into Shaun’s line of sight. His eyes don’t focus on mine, and he doesn’t show any sign that he can see me. He checks his watch and looks down the pathway where I had just walked to meet him. If it made any sense at all, he’d probably be looking for me. He sighs and steps on his cigarette, then turns and walks to the office doors. All I can do is stand there, shocked and confused. If it wasn’t clear before, as I watch him enter the office without looking back, locking me out, it is clear now. It’s an answer that only brings more questions, but nobody can see me and nobody can hear me.
It’s a bizarre situation that I’ve never prepared for, and it’s so illogical that I need one final piece of evidence to confirm my suspicions. It’s at an hour of the day where more people are driving to work and on the main road it’s mostly trucks passing through this town on a larger trip, so that’s where I go. There’s enough light in the sky to see somebody walk onto the road, and there would be enough time to stop with ease. I’m not afraid of death, I haven’t been since Maria told me to leave twenty years ago, so it’s easy for me to step onto the road and wait. A couple of minutes pass and then I see a truck coming. I take a deep breath and wait for it to come closer, preparing myself for the possibility that my life could end in moments. It reaches a distance from myself where it should be slowing down, but it isn’t. It’s still carelessly hurtling towards me. My heart reaches a new low as I embrace death as it closes in on me, and then I remember. I remember just in time to dive out of the way. The truck starts disappearing into the distance and I’m left lying on the ground, breathing heavily. I remember last night. I remember being drunk and looking at old photos, photos of my life before everything turned sour. I remember tears trickling down my cheeks like rain in a drought. Last night was different. Last night I’d had enough. I remember swallowing a handful of pills and lying in bed. I remember feeling the same way I felt just moments ago, fearlessly staring death in the eyes. I remember dying.
I don’t know why I’ve been graced, or cursed depending on one’s point of view, with more time, but I do know what I want to do with it. What I need to do with it. That’s why I’m standing outside the doors of a house I haven’t seen in twenty years. The trees are larger, and the gardens are different. There’s a new retaining wall installed, and the house has been much more well looked after compared to when I left it. I’m not here to pay much attention to the trees though, nor am I here to compare myself to the man who replaced me. I’m here to see Maria. How is it that I can still be so afraid of seeing her even though I’m invisible? I don’t question the laws of these spiritual physics when I’m allowed to open the front door and walk inside.
There she is, as beautiful as she was when I left her behind. She’s awake and sitting at the living room table, a table I haven’t seen before, holding her phone. She’s sobbing quietly. She must know what happened to me. Now that I’m here all I want to do is hold her. I want to take everything back and make her happy again. Before my eyes, she finds the strength to stand and walk to the old record player, gathering dust, sitting on a table against the wall. She places a record and drops the needle on it. There it is. That acoustic melody that reminds me of Spring. The song we danced to at our wedding. The same soft, gentle guitar that I selected to wake me every morning as soon as I had the option on my phone.
I wonder if I can touch her, if I should touch her. I bumped into that man on the street and he felt it. I have nothing to lose, and seeing her now has given me the strength to overcome any fears I had of confronting her. I reach out and gently put my hand on hers and my palm is blessed with a warmth my body had forgotten. She jumps and finds a break in her sobbing to gasp. She looks in my general direction but her eyes don’t meet mine. Just as her warmth reminded me of her in a way I’d forgotten, maybe my touch reminded her of me, because it isn’t long at all after her initial shock that she stops sobbing and a new look dawns upon her face. Her lips are trembling with a sadness still, but they’re firmer, with the slightest hint of anger. Her eyes are still wet but are now asking a question. Her eyes are asking me why I am here, or why I left, I can’t tell. I don’t know how to explain to her that I’m sorry, but before I have any time to figure out, she lifts my hand and pulls me into an embrace. No metaphor could tell you how it makes me feel. No imagery could give you any hint of what I’m filled with in this moment.
Naturally, we dance. As she learns to dance with someone she can’t see, with every stumbling step I get more flashes of the field. Another step, I can see the flowers. The music builds and our dance becomes less clumsy. Another step, and I can see the sunlight. She buries her head into my chest and I embrace her in a tighter grip. Another step, I turn to see her as we sit in the field. She is older. We are older. Her hair is white and her face is aged. She’s happy, so happy. The song reaches its beautiful climax as Maria clutches my shirt, afraid of the end of the song. Another step, Maria and I are looking at each other. We’ve lived a full life and we are smiling. The song reaches its final few seconds. One last step, and we both are sitting in the warm grass, and we kiss. A bright light floods the air and a warmth fills me, and I know that this is what I needed. Now I know why I was graced with more time, and I have enough relaxed wisdom to know that my time is up. We disappear in the light.