He couldn’t come to terms with what had happened. This felt familiar yet strange. His loving grandmother stood there, smiling at him. Peace filled him. He felt it wasn’t his time yet. Then it dawned on him. A truck had hit him while he was rushing across the street to his office. He felt no pain. He looked down on his body and he saw no injuries. He seemed to be at the peak of his health. He has no questions, as human beings usually do. Just an unusual sense of acceptance. His grandmother was patiently waiting for him with a warm smile, as she often did for him. He was filled with the warmth of love.
His Grandmother seemed to realize that he was ready to talk, and started to talk before he could.
“It is good to see you. It has been a while. I am very proud of how you have grown up.”
The words tumbled out of his mouth before he realized he was saying them. “Where am I? Where is this place? I am so happy to see you! I have missed you.” He knew he was packing a lot in a few words, but it didn't seem to matter. His grandmother moved closer and her smile somehow was warmer.
“Search your memories. You know what this is and where you are.”
The words slipped out before he could think through them…”I am dead.” He said them with acceptance. “You have always been my guardian angel. In life and in death.” He wasn’t sure who was saying what anymore. He had never felt so connected to his Grandmother as he felt at that moment. He was glad that she was there..
She let the moment be, almost as if there was no rush, and they had all the time in the world. When the moment was complete she spoke…”Your situation is not usual. This is not where and how the spirits of the dead reach. This is because this could be your time or it may not be. You have a decision to make.”
“Does that mean I am not dead yet?” he asked.
“It means that you are caught in a moment of time, and what you choose in this moment will decide your next.”
Somehow he seemed to know what that meant, but he asked anyway…”What do you mean, Grammy?”
“It means you can save yourself if you want to.” Her words were not words, they opened up the world he knew from a different perspective. He could see his body lying there and his breath was still. His body was waiting for his will… to continue to support life or to give up. He could see his wife he loved dearly and his daughter. He had been careless that night, because he was betrayed. His wife was not who she was showing to him. The lies she was weaving was inconsequential. It wasn’t about extra shopping here or there or things she was telling their daughter. He knew she was bored with him and the marriage.was no longer what it used to be. She was his whole world, but he had come to realize that he wasn’t hers. He had walked in that night on a dinner she was having with her “friend.” They were intimate. She did not hesitate to lean into him. She laughed with joy that he had not seen in her for a while. He had not waited. He felt cheated and then in his mind he started associating all the signs that were there. She was a cheater he had decided. Marriages get boring. Having children is not easy, but that never justified cheating. He didn't want to know the details. He knew betrayal when he saw it..
However, this time instead of recalling it the way he thought it had happened, he was seeing himself being a part of it differently.
They had just gotten married, and her eyes were like stars. The whole wedding, their family, the music, the decorations, the grandiose food had faded in comparison her eyes. He was lost. Everything else was a daze. Happiness was so wonderful. They moved in together and after about a year, the comfort let them be easy around each other. He had gotten used to her love and even expected the way she did things for him. It was a delight that he had something more to discover about her after dating her for five years. He felt so secure in her love, in her giving, in her serving, that he slowly withdrew. His expectations grew. Instead of appreciating her for all she did, he would rebuke her when she would fail to meet his expectations. One day he invited his friends over. Usually he and his wife would check in with each other. It was an unsaid pact that one would not refuse the other. He texted her the menu his friends would like and the time that they would be coming home. He texted that he would see her at home.
“Where were you?” she asked when he reached home, visibly upset.
“What do you mean? At work of course.”
He could see her eyes widen, and her jaw almost dropped.
“I don't know what has happened to you…. “ the doorbell rang. He did not wait for her to complete what she was saying. “That must be them.” he said, well on his way to open the door. His colleague/friends walked in. He and his wife did talk. That night she was quiet. He was too tired and went to bed early after dinner. That is when and how it all started. It was the little things he missed. Things like asking her, appreciating what she did for him and thanking her for her love. It stopped in word and then in his deed. He slowly stopped helping around the house. He stopped making plans for them to spend time together. She kept up her end for a while. He would agree if it suited him, and didn’t agree if it didn’t suit him.
Why hadn’t he seen the disappointment in her before? Why hadn’t he noticed disappointments turn into sadness? Why didn’t he notice life going out of her? Why didn’t he notice that she was no longer around. She took care of our child, spoke the necessities and minded her business. I was happy, and in my happiness I did not see her break.
One day she walked up to me and said that she wanted to talk to me. I no longer liked talking. It seemed like such a chore. “Sure.” I said out of courtesy. She started to speak, and our daughter rushed in. She ran into my wife's arms crying uncontrollably. She gave her husband a look, put her child down and kneeled down to talk to her. “What happened darling. You can tell Mommy.
“I am scared…” his daughter said. “Annie lost her mother..”
Instead of panicking his wife calmed down even more. He was amazed at how she could do that. He had seen that side of her when their daughter first arrived into the world. His wife writhing in pain after a “C” section, screaming her head off at him, became the Goddess of serenity when she saw their daughter. She held her, cooed to her, fed her and put her to sleep. She made him the headless chicken the whole night and their daughter a princess. He could see the same calmness even through the dense fog of his selfishness.
“What do you mean darling? Calm down and tell mommy…”
“Annie’s mommy is getting a divvvoorce from her daddy. She has to choose whom to stay with. Her mommy told her she will be going away so she can stay with daddy as she loves daddy more. Will you be going away too?”
His daughter had noticed? How didn’t he notice his daughter?
His wife wiped their daughters' tears, looked straight into her eyes and said “Never.” She took their daughter by the hand and walked away. Why is it that he did not wonder what his wife had to say to him earlier. Their lives were separated. His wife started going out frequently. She brought new friends home. Sometimes she was willing to entertain his friends, sometimes she blatantly refused. He decided to talk to her about it one evening. Sometimes it was very embarrassing to explain to his friends and/or colleagues or clients about the situation and figure out other arrangements. If this could work then they would be a perfect couple as they once were. Why did he miss how misguided that was?
He saw her with a man speaking in his ear, holding a champagne bottle. The man held her at her waist leaning in to listen to her. Both of them seemed comfortable in the intimate moment. She laughed at what she said, her eyes twinkling with joy. The connection and the chemistry was palpable. He knew at that moment that they were more than friends. A lot more. When he barged in, his wife did not bother to deny it. She had nothing to say except “Don’t embarrass me… We have already talked about it.”
Is that what she meant when she said she wanted to see other people to keep her sanity for the daughters sake? He had said “what?” and she said you heard me. He had a presentation to complete. He was sure his wife would handle whatever that was. She was good at taking care of herself. Why didn’t he see tha
t his wife crossed all her boundaries for their daughters sake? Why didn’t he see that she decided that she needed to be happy to make their daughter happy when he was seething with anger at her betrayal. Why didn’t he see that he was as blinded by his own selfishness as he was blinded by rage when he rammed head on into a speeding truck?
“You have made a decision.” his grandmothers echoed over the chaos of his situation and emotions. “You have the door on the right which will give you a fresh start and the door on the left will take you back to your life. Mind you, you will be in pain if you go back.”
He knew that he would have to bear unimaginable pain and a lot of rehabilitation to gain a sense of normalcy. He will lose his job. He had already lost his wife, hopefully he had not yet lost his daughter. He only felt gratitude to his wife for bringing up their daughter the way she did. He walked into the door on the left. It was time to wake up.