More from the current novel…
My first memory of death is forever and mercilessly stapled to the pages of Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code. It’s what I was reading when my mother told me.
Now every time I open the book I hear the phone ring (distant) and the barely-registered footsteps of my mother answering. I can see, behind the pages, the awful barely-90s pastel pattern of the old couch (later to be shipped halfway across America, to become my college couch), the crystalline patterns of our over-the-fireplace art (a gift to my father from a friend), the sprawling pattern of our flowery living room rug. I can hear the shift in my mother’s tone. And then…
She put the book down. “Hm?”
“Alica, Sarah Blacke died.”
The news, and a complete blackout of memory. I’m told by my mother that I pulled the book back up to my face, said I didn’t want to think about it. I’m told that there were family members coming in and out all weekend. I’m told we went to see Ms. Blacke to offer our condolences. Perhaps we did. I don’t remember.
Alicia came to a week later. The haze lifted as she trailed her fingers along the pew of the church, sitting between her parents. The wood was impossibly smooth: that was the first thought to trail through her mind. It didn’t seem to be glazed or treated or anything, but it was impossibly smooth. And there was a candle burning somewhere.
As the blackout lifted her mind drifted around the room. She focused on the stained-glass windows. The shoes she didn’t remember picking out. The way her father was trying not to cry. The breeze on her face from a oscillating fan. Imperceptibly, slowly, it began to expand, and she became aware of her surroundings. The mourners, the arched ceilings… Someone she didn’t know was preaching about how life should focus on the destination, not the journey. About how nobody in their right mind paid attention to the commute, to the airplane ride, to the train trip. They remembered the vacation, or coming home.
Sarah, the strange man insisted, had finally gone home. This was merely her commute to a better place.
It is worth knowing that I have made several dear friends mid-travel. I once spent a massively enjoyable evening (and eventually morning) conversing with a Creationist, a Saudi Arabian Muslim, and an amateur theologian on a train. I met the Creationist because she was juggling fruit in the observation car. The theologian knew a lot about numerology. I was the only one in the group who believed in evolution, and the Saudi believed that women’s rights was still somewhat a thing of the future.
It was one of the most pleasant religious conversations I’ve ever had in my life.
We were all incredibly respectful of each other, and everyone got to ask questions they’d never in a million years be able to ask under different circumstances. This sort of thing happens nearly every time I set foot on a method of prolonged transportation, and is a huge source of literary inspiration.
I am of the firm belief that I seek out experiences like these solely to spite the preacher at Sarah’s funeral.