Goodbye - Hello
I was just waking up but still caught in the remnants of a dream.
I was panicking. I was breathless. I was kicking and squirming. I was fighting some unknown force that held me captive but all I could do was struggle hopelessly.
My breathing was becoming forced as I battled to inhale but it was no use, I was drowning, I was suffocating, I was battling against some overwhelming power and could feel myself losing.
My heart was pounding heavily inside my brain as I gasped for life, the resistance in my arms collapsed, my legs became dead-weight and I felt life evaporating.
I tried one last act of defiance, I attempted to scream “No”… but only silenced followed.
My God, no, that should be my god, I never believed in a supreme being so there was no point acknowledging some intergalactic, ephemeral porridge as my Lord and Saviour now.
No, what I really meant was… my god when did I get so old?
I was looking down at my body from above. This grey-haired, wrinkly old man can’t have been me, I never saw myself as that. In fact, up until this moment I always thought I was doing pretty well for my age.
I wished someone would come and close my eyes. Those staring but empty green eyes, that had enraptured so many people over the years, were just pasty looking pieces of reflection, though now reflecting nothing.
My point of view changed and I was now standing next to myself, this was weird. I felt I could reach out and touch, perhaps rouse myself and get on with… with… with… well, er, something, I’m sure I was a very busy man.
Now I was closer I looked even older but at least peaceful. The dream (?) hadn’t creased my face any more than it already was, though I’m not sure I’d win any ‘Corpse of the Year Show’. No, I was definitely dead but found it strange I was still hanging around.
When I’d thought about death before, when I wasn’t dead, I anticipated that I wouldn’t know anything about it.
Now? Well I have to take in this sad, empty husk that was once me and in truth, I didn’t like it.
I stood at the end of the bed wondering when someone would come and discover my body. I didn’t envy that job to anyone because I remembered when I’d found my own deceased mother a good twenty years earlier. She’d died in her sleep, with a glass of her favourite whisky on the nightstand and as it was still full, I knew death had come rather unexpected. She wasn’t one to waste a good drink.
I remember how I cried as I mourned the loss of the only woman in my life. The tears I’d still shed… oops, sorry, used to shed… on the anniversary of her death. I wondered who would grieve for me?
For the past seven years, since my partner died, I’d become a bit of a recluse. I can count the number of friends I still have/had on, well, one finger.
Looks like I might be hanging around for some time… and still those empty green eyes were staring off into space… perhaps, with the power of my thought, I could close them?
Naa, it didn’t work.
I looked into them more deeply, trying desperately to see if there was anything left of me inside but, nothing was really there. I thought I’d caught a brief glimmer, a tiny spark, a glint of something… and then it started.
A shiver ran through my body. I don’t know why, I’m dead so shouldn’t be feeling the cold but I couldn’t ignore the strange tremor that filled my corpse as I searched deep into my own eyes.
It was like I was rewinding a film. A blur of images that I knew meant something but couldn’t make out what. Every now and then it would suddenly stop and for the briefest of moments caught some important aspect of my life. Although… not all those fleeting insights into my life actually meant that much to me. They were true but I couldn’t understand why they would stand out.
Like the first holiday I took with my partner, I was twenty-four, he was twenty two and we were on holiday in an apartment in Spain. It was his first trip abroad and was keen to explore. Whilst I sorted out our suitcases he went to do a bit of grocery shopping.
He was gone a long time.
Eventually I could hear some loud banging from somewhere in the apartments we were staying in. It was going on for quite some time and I wondered if someone was having a problem. I looked along the corridor but there was no one there and I could hear it was coming from directly above where I was standing, so, I walked up the stairs and looked along the third floor corridor. There… kicking the door of room 305 was my partner. He looked angry. I coughed discreetly and seeing me at the other end of the corridor quickly made his way back to our room – 205.
I was in hysterics that he had forgotten our room number, had banged on some poor holiday-maker’s apartment and had been swearing at the door as he thought I was in the shower and ignoring him. Later he told me that when he’d got to the little shop he realised he didn’t speak any Spanish so decided just to pick up the things he wanted and pay for them, that way he wouldn’t have to say a word.
Unfortunately, this also didn’t go as planned as he saw a small wicker basket with three French baguettes and decided to help himself only to be pursued by a little old lady, dressed in black, demanding her bread back, much to his embarrassment. So flustered was he that when another person asked him in perfect English about a shampoo he said he didn’t speak Spanish and fled the shop.
Once out in the street he’d forgotten exactly the direction the apartment block was in so had spent the best part of fifteen minutes searching for the place. Even then he wasn’t sure and the last straw was the fact that I wouldn’t answer the door to him… even if he was at the wrong one, it was my fault.
I chuckled to myself at the memory before the images started hurtling again and ended up with a toddler holding its mummy’s hand.
At first I didn’t recognise him at all… and why these silly little snippets of my life?
We were on a beach and the shy little toddler was facing the sea for the very first time. Dressed only in a nappy and plastic pants he furtively stepped into the cool water and giggled as he quickly retreated saying, “It cowld”
His mummy, my mummy was encouraging as she guided me once again to enjoy the first wave to lap against my tiny naked feet. I looked up at her smiling as she told me what a brave boy I was being. I liked her praising me as I paddled in the cool water, knowing mummy thought I was being very brave.
The scene changed and I was with my two elder brothers and we were making sandcastles, well, they were making a huge pile of sand into something they said would be a castle. I merely scooped up sand with my small plastic spade and poured it into my Mickey Mouse plastic bucket. I was naked and mummy was rubbing some thick creamy lotion into my body.
“Don’t want my baby boy getting burnt do we?” She smiled as I was covered in the sweet smelling lotion.
The sun was warm on my back as I sat on a towel next to mummy and my brothers built sand higher and higher.
I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I saw was mummy fastening me back into my nappy and plastic pants, pulling on a little Disney t-shirt and shimmying up my Mickey Mouse red shorts over the thick protection.
Those can’t be the only two thoughts left in my mind… can they?
Even as I recalled this… the memory of them began to fade… and I saw a policeman enter the room.
I heard him say to a paramedic that judging from the smell I’d been dead for quite some time. I saw the medic unzip a huge black plastic bag, which was soon to be my resting place. He did a quick examination of me and slipped down my pyjamas, noted I was wearing a soiled nappy and quickly pulled them back up.
“Poor bugger, looks like his last act was to shit himself.”
I’d worn a nappy for quite some time. Even when I wasn’t ill I’d taken some pleasure in wearing one again. I’m not sure if my brain was going, or if I was clinging onto something that I’d always had pleasant associations with but, I suppose it didn’t matter now. I’d enjoyed the last few months of wearing a nappy to bed whilst I could still fasten the pins. However, I wasn’t expecting to die when I did, so I’m afraid someone else would have to deal with it all.
I have to say I was surprised that the people who now occupied my room were so gentle, so considerate about my dead body… I hadn’t expected that. I don’t know what I’d expected and I suppose it doesn’t matter much now anyway.
I watched as I was zipped into my final resting place and that chill I’d unexpectedly felt earlier rippled down my spine. Well, I’m not sure it was my spine because I was suddenly transported into a warm, dark place. A throbbing sound was in my head but I could no longer see anything.
I suppose this is death. Nothing.
Actually, it was something but I couldn’t work out what. I hoped that there wasn’t going to be a pair of huge pearly gates and someone there with a check list. That would be most embarrassing.
I was getting restless and stretched but the sounds I could hear calmed me down and I settled into the warmth that now engulfed me.
I woke up and I was kicking, it all felt tight and squeezed and I wasn’t happy. My eyes were closed as I suddenly slipped from the comforting balminess into a much cooler environment. Now the noise was louder with people speaking and again I could hear the words “brave” and “boy” but not how mummy had said them.
Mummy’s taking me on my first ever trip to the seaside tomorrow. She has bought me a new bucket and spade and a new outfit. She smiles and tickles and giggles along with me and tells me this as I’m fitted into my night time nappy. She kisses me night-night. I cuddle my teddy and mummy slips in my dummy.
I settle down to the comfort of my cot and just as I doze off, relax as I fill my nappy. I like the warmth as it surrounds me. I like sucking on my dummy. I like cuddling teddy. I like mummy and daddy. I like…