The intercom system buzzes, crackles and screeches. “DeLaPaz, Misael. Please report to suite 701,982.”
Misael stands, walks to the center of the room, and cautiously places his right hand on the glowing blue orb hovering above the ornate golden pedestal. As the others in the chamber of the departed look on, he shimmers and vanishes.
An ethereal being holds open a white door and beckons him forward. “DeLaPaz, Misael. You have been judged as having led a good life. A one-year limbo period is required, and you are about to enter purgatory. During your stay, you will encounter only the best moments from your life.”
Misael hesitates before entering the bright white room. There is no furniture, no artificial lights, nothing but pure whiteness. He turns back toward the door as the otherworldly presence continues to speak.
“For the next 365 days, recollections from your life will appear in each of the four corners of the room. You may interact with them as you like. You’ll assume the human form from that time in your life, but you will retain the knowledge and memories from your entire lifetime."
"If you want to replace a memory, simply point at the corner and a new reminiscence will immediately take its place. Be warned. Once banished, the memory cannot reappear. That moment from your life will be lost to you forever.”
“At the end of the year, you must make a decision. You may either choose to remain in one of the four moments currently in your purgatory suite for all eternity or you can choose to be reincarnated. Understand the latter option requires you to shed your previous life completely; you will not retain any of the memories from your incarnation as DeLaPaz, Misael.”
“So, it begins,” the ethereal being whispers while slowly closing the door to purgatory suite 701,982.
Misael glances at one of the corners of the room and immediately, like a mirage on the desert horizon, he and his mother appear sitting at the piano. It’s one of his most precious memories. The day she taught him to play the beginning of “Forever And Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis when he was ten years old. Just the two of them at home on that cold, snowy afternoon huddling together on the creaky piano bench as she repeatedly shows him which keys to play while she hums the melody and he struggles to learn the song.
After watching her for a long time, he slowly looks at another corner of the room. It’s his wedding day. His beloved Lucia is in the middle of her personal vows to him. How beautiful she is! Misael falls to his knees and tears roll down his cheeks as he stares at the love of his life. The mother of his child. The soul mate he lost to breast cancer a decade ago.
He has no idea how much time has passed when he finally turns his attention to the third corner of the suite. The birth of his son Miguel plays out before him. Nothing could have prepared him for the love, the happiness, the unbridled joy of holding his boy for the first time.
Misael eventually peers into the final corner of the room. His first date with Lucia materializes. He’s just reaching out to hold her hand for the very first time. Oh, how vividly he remembers the tingle he felt, the wonder at knowing without a doubt she was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
Time loses all meaning as he watches these treasured moments from his life over and over.
After an indeterminant amount of time has passed, he gets up the courage to participate in one of the memories. He chooses Miguel’s birth and slowly walks toward the corner. He feels a rush of warm air as he approaches the scene and is immediately transported into the body of the version of himself attending the birth.
The feeling is unbelievable! He’s twenty-eight years old again. Nervous, excited, in awe of his wife going through labor and absolutely astounded when his son is finally born. He holds Lucia’s hand, expressing his love and kissing her until the nurse hands her their boy. They cry tears of joy and gently kiss the child’s delicate, perfect forehead as they share this miracle together. He's overcome with emotion when Lucia hands him the boy and he holds his baby for the very first time.
And then it starts over. The last minutes of Lucia’s labor, Miguel taking his first breath, his momentary solitude with his wife as the doctor and nurse tend to the baby, the elation as the boy is placed in his mother’s arms and his own ecstasy the first time he holds his son.
He participates in the memory again and again, but eventually Misael is drained by the intensity of the emotions he feels while taking part in Miguel’s birth and he returns to the center of the room.
He repeatedly becomes the Misael in each of the corners, rejoicing in revisiting these treasured moments from his life. He comes to understand he cannot change these events. They always recur exactly as they originally took place.
He has no idea how long he contemplates what it is like to truly relive these memories or how he could ever choose just one of these precious moments to be his forever.
He begins to wonder what other memory will appear if he chooses to replace one of the four current instances. He spends a lot of time thinking about whether he’s really prepared to give up any of these cherished moments.
After much deliberation, he decides to discard the memory of his first date with Lucia. With a lifetime of memories of his beloved waiting for him, he’s willing to give up the first time he ever held her hand.
Before he can change his mind, he quickly points to that corner of the room and the first date is instantly replaced by him carrying Lucia through the front door of the first house they bought together. The rush of emotions he feels is overwhelming. He smiles as he watches himself kick the door shut as he holds his laughing wife in his arms.
More time goes by as Misael frequently changes the scene in the same corner of his suite. He banishes his high school graduation party. Miguel’s first day of school appears and he relives the pride and trepidation of sending his only son off on the yellow school bus. Then it's Lucia’s fortieth birthday party as he surprises her with the diamond ring he simply couldn’t afford when they got married.
He can’t bring himself to give up any of the memories in the other three corners of the room. He continues to visit them as often as he does the current scene in the fourth corner.
As time goes by, Misael begins to realize the depth of emotion he felt when he initially participated in the other three memories seems to be fading.
His dread grows as he tries to decide if he’s revisited them so often they’ve lost the importance he always associated with them when he was alive, or whether it’s because he’s been casting other memories aside. The otherworldly presence warned him any memory he replaced would be lost to him forever, but does that mean every memory he’s discarded has diminished his feelings for his mother, his wife, and his son?
Is he erasing his sentiments for them by dismissing all these seemingly minor events that were truly integral to creating the bond of love between them?
As Misael continues his internal debate, the ethereal being opens the door. "DeLaPaz, Misael, it is time to make your decision."