Welcome! Everything is fine.
The bold type greeting and affirmation stenciled onto the opposite wall – conversely a shout-out green on quiet toned egg-shell white … the gentle whisper of wind chimes … the sensation of newness … the décor stylings of a doctor’s waiting-room coupled with a contrary feeling of patience … the aura of serene peacefulness. All confusing yet strangely soothing.
“Jesse? Come on in.”
I’m ushered into an inner sanctum and gestured into a visitor’s chair, still comforted by her tranquil tones. Falling into past behavioral patterns I immediately adopt a wait and see approach.
Never volunteer information… unless and until you know the lay of the land.
I could make quite a valid argument for the former being my life motto. What can I say, I was a closed book. Or as an ex, with the distinction of proficiency in psychobabble had put it, I was emotionally unavailable. Air quotes enclosed, of course. She’d later graduated to calling it stunted. That time, shrill screech accompanied.
I would argue that I was simply cautious. Hesitant even. Not spineless, mind you. Although that too seemed to herald a difference of opinion amongst myself and the female population. One even went with the derisive adjective Pusillanimous, until the assumption of a negative connotation – it sounding like a comparison to female genitalia – registered. Speaking of… The comedic duo of Tom and Jerry rivalry definitely and defiantly wasn’t a kink of mine, so neither a pussy nor a mouse was I. A tad sexist I may have been but nowhere near the level of brazen, unapologetic misogynist. There I would be out-Trumped.
Okay, so GI Joe I was also not, and between you, me and the lamppost, Cowardly Lion was my favorite character from The Wizard of Oz. But that didn’t make me yeller-bellied! Read in Countrified Red-neck or Wild, Wild West alto. Either would work as both personified disgust at the display of fear or gentler emotions. The curse of toxic masculinity, which fortunately – or unfortunately, depending on which side of the excuse you stood upon – I was not evolved enough to recognize as a flaw.
Yeah, that ex had been a psych major. Or a major psycho. Take your pick.
Thus, the latter sentiment of my slogan is more a mellowing with age approach, I suppose.
Chillin like a villain.
Mellow fellow, not prone to bellow, maybe slightly yellow, am I.
Clearly one with an aptitude for alliteration.
Dr. Seuss is that you?
“Comfortable? So, hey, welcome. I’m Michael… err Michaela. Or Miranda, if that’s easier to remember? No wait, let’s just stick with Michaela. So. How’s it hanging, my man?”
“Still there, as far as I know. Thanks for asking. Oh… one question? Where am I? Who are you? And what’s going on?”
“Right. So, you Jesse Williams, are dead. Your life on earth has ended and you are now in the next phase of your existence in the universe.”
“Well that’s… unexpected.”
“Death is the number 1 killer in the world.”
“Right. Cool … Uh, I have some questions.”
“Thought you might.”
She retains her neutral expression but, although my name is not Harriet, I manage to Spy the slightest hint of amusement. Unclear whether it’s the witty flippancy of my delivery that moves her or her own jocular response to it.
“How did I kick it? I—I don’t remember…”
“Yes, um, in cases of traumatic or embarrassing deaths, we erase the memory of the event to allow for a peaceful transition. Sure you wanna know?”
I nod emphatically. If I’d had a headful of hair, instead of this bald beautifulness – wait, I still look like me right? I’m a handsome devil if I do say so myself… so sexy it hurts – the strands would be bobbing wildly in anticipation. I wonder at what level Freddy Krueger Trauma led to my demise. A jealous spouse perhaps? Or considering the moral de-evolution to Trump’s ‘Great White Amerikkka’, a jealous sibling-lover most likely?
Reading off her intake chart, “All righty. So you were at the gym for a non-workout workout and apparently a conscientious objector to the attitude that went with your ‘Too sexy for my shirt’ T-Shirt and one bitch-slap later started a train of events.”
I knew it! Am I good or am I good? The Green-Eyed Arrow strikes again! A bitter, resentful husband couldn’t stand his wife ogling all this. Not that I could blame her… you should see me without a shirt on. It’s kinda ridiculous.
Well, I was green-eyed too, when I needed to be – thank the whichever Supreme Ophthalmologist for creating color contacts – but obviously I mean Mr. Man and his metaphorical shade of suspicion. Or do I mean literal?
Does envy and jealousy actually physically manifest like jaundice, except lime instead of lemon?
See, I’m in touch with my feminine side! What other non-metrosexual knows that those could pass for green and yellow? Or join together in color matrimony like the rough end of a pineapple…
If that’s the case then Grandmaster Yoda wasn’t very enlightened in the sphere of negative human emotion, now was he? Whoa, with that reasoning the Star Wars Universe, and all 3 of its trilogies, would be totally thrown outa whack, causing a great disturbance in The Force. Or the space time continuum – no wait, that’s Back to the Future. The ripples would forever undulate, dispersing havoc amongst true-blue SW purists.
Anyway, props to me for the ole fitness ploy. I mean, the race for the attainment of peak physical perfection, or six-pack abs, is all really just a scam. Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
So I clearly don’t reference me striking anyone. Although… I did score a figurative bullseye, right?
Yeah, yeah, I know. Allegorical speech and I get on like a house on fire.
Come to think of it, I am royally pissed that some ass couldn’t control his woman and his temper and so here I sit, dead.
“The girlfriend of the woman you were hitting on was actually a body-builder. Big ups to you bro, coz you weren’t knocked out cold but on your journey to the floor you staggered into another club member setting off a chain reaction of sorts.”
Wait, what? Oh Shit… I’d fallen and couldn’t waddup?
“Luckily you managed to roll out of the path of falling weights and barbells but unluckily the resultant trajectory landed you under one hulking wrestler, who may or may not have elbowed you in the groin as she was helped up from pancaking you.”
Now doesn’t that just give new meaning to the word ‘ball-buster’?
“Oof. That’s how I died?” I cringe at the psychological mind fuck that the mental picture produces. Who knew that the simple inference of a shot below the belt could not only mimic phantom symptoms but also create a real impact? Simply from this retelling I feel my balls shrivel up in sympathetic pain, shrinking in on themselves. A psychosomatic loudness receding to a dull roar. And all this without even having a piece of sandpaper shoved into my crotch.
Zero out of 10, would not recommend – either the experience or the specter of remembrance. At least I’m dead, so I don’t have the worry over the prospect of never becoming a father. After all, Life is sexually transmitted.
“No, this was just the prelude.”
Was this joke place a gym or a ballet recital of The Nutcracker?!
“You were marginally saved from having a torn scrotum, but you brushed it off and pigeon-toed or was it duck-waddled – well some kind of bird maneuver – to the grocery store nearby, to get something to ice your testicles. While there you decided to stock up on your usual Axe Ego Dual Anti-Perspirant Deodorant and Body Spray, which had run out.”
Well yeah. The hype is real.
Everyone knows Axe stimulates women’s olfactory senses. Add bonus pas de deux – dance duet pun notwithstanding – simulating a pheromone cheat sheet and voilà… advantage trois.
Pardon my French, but there’s no accounting error here. Augmenting Axe and Au Naturel Pheromones with my fine ass self and oui, trifecta of a sure thing.
So sí, à la Française and I are on a seductive first name basis. I know just enough to get me into trouble.
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?
Wait… what’s up with this ADHD? Still. No Ritalin and my attention spams all over the place. And that Michelangelo, could she get a whiff of my Ego?
That Rogue Black can of Ego, a Dark Temptation… Instinct and Adrenalin, Provoke a combination to give the Signature Musk a Vice boost.
Nah… I a jus a rappin’, givin the fragrances a tagline. But of course, Ego is my one.
“In the parking lot your Ego was too heavy for the plastic bag – you shoulda gone with paper… better for the environment too – and when you bent down to retrieve the runaway bottles a long column of shopping carts, that were being returned to the shopping cart collection area, rolled out of control and plowed into you.”
“Ohkaay. So this is actually how I died.”
“No, sorry, there’s more still. This is the best part really.”
Say what now? Oh, she’s probably spinning the traumatic part of my death.
“You were able to grab on to the front of the column of shopping carts, but it swept you right out into the street where you were struck and killed by a mobile billboard truck advertising an erectile dysfunction pill called ‘Engorge-ulate.’ Ironically, it’s a product you were quite familiar with – although some things I just don’t need to know – and doubly ironic that the billboard took out the very appendage the tablet claimed to restore full functionality to.”
“What?! Engorge-ulate Bobbitted my penis!”
Little J snipped?!But I’m sure I would have felt his absence!
I start patting myself wildly, looking for the attachment, even going so far as to stand up and unzip.
“Whoa there. Calm down. Your body has been restored. The Full Package. Severed pieces all intact. Note to self: ask Alexa what’s a Bobbitt. ” I barely catch the last part as she murmurs it as an almost soundless aside. Something to do with a Lexus…
Added to that my attention concentrates solely on my pride and joy, Old Faithful, which paradoxically hadn’t been quite so true. Unlike Yellowstone National Parks highly predictable geothermal feature of the same name – Old Faithful: the erupting cone geyser that went off every 44 to 125 minutes – my natural jets had been reduced to a trickle. It was like those giant-ass firecrackers that looked fierce when inert but fizzled when lit. Prematurely ejaculated. No bang for the buck. Hence the need for artificial stimulation courtesy of an idiotic ED Specialist, Mayfield in 22.
It had gotten so bad that even my pick-up game had suffered. Discernible rockets in my pocket? None.
“Okay. Phew. That’s… I get it. Thank you.”
“Thanks to Engorge-ulate we didn’t even need to use a magnifying glass to find all the bits.”
“Wh—at?” I’m sure that at this point my sight orbs are engorgulated.
“Okay, enough said. Sorry.”
She doesn’t have to enjoy this quite so much!
“Yeah,” I clear my throat.
Move on buddy, nothin’ to see here. Well not nothin’ apparently…
“So who was right? About all this, I mean.” I motion towards her, myself and the big-ass desk that separates us. Obviously I presuppose the entire universe and its workings, but more importantly about who runs the world. And the afterlife. Aside from Beyoncé.
“Alexa for one,” she grins, lifting one eyebrow as if to prompt a similar reaction, then not looking very impressed at my lackluster response.
There was that familiar sounding name again. I’d thought she’d said Lexus before, but how could a motorcar, even one with all the self-drive technological advancements that rendered actual drivers superfluous, accurately predict this here after death? Unless… Or…? Nah, it couldn’t be… could it? I mean even though the tech had come a long way, Amazon’s virtual assistant – A.I. Alexa – wouldn’t be afterlife compliant, right? Maybe in a galaxy far, far away?
C’mon man, my leg has been pulled more than enough already. As have other appendages.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, the battle for Artificial Intelligence superiority had been heating up. Apple’s Siri vs. Google Assistant vs. Alexa vs. Microsoft’s Cortana. It was up in the air as to which was winning the virtual assistant race.
Seeing as I don’t get the joke, Michaela simply brushes the Lexie titbit aside and continues with her explanation as though nothing had been said in the first place.
“Well, let’s see. Hindus are a little bit right. Muslims a little bit. Jews, Christians, Buddhists. Every religion guessed about 5%. Except for George O’Malley.”
“Who?—who’s George O’Malley?”
What the… is the hereafter also dominated by pasty-faced white dudes? Of Irish – or is it Scottish? – descent? A rotund individual, no doubt.
One didn’t mess with Scottish people. They were temperamental… half temper and half mental.
“Well O’Malley was a stoner kid who lived in Seattle during the 1970’s. One night, he got really high on mushrooms, and his best friend Izzy said, ‘Hey, what do you think happens after we die?’ And O’Malley just launched into this long monologue where he got like 92% correct.” Michaela chuckles fondly at the recollection. “I mean we couldn’t believe what we were hearing,” she continues. “He’s pretty famous around here, like 007 – licensed to kill,” she winks. “Of course he’s no Elba or Connery. He’s a bit of an unassuming chap. A little round around the edges. But, he delivers. I would name my kid after him.”
Delivers? What delivers? Delivers Pizza? Weirdest segue ever…
“So maybe my biggest question, err, am I… rather is this…” My non-verbal cues seem to be firing on all cylinders, so while my voice breaks like a pre-pubescent teen, I give it a time out and mime the balance of that sentence.
Thumbs up or thumbs down?
No middle finger involved. Simple and clear. Anyone would get it… and anyone does.
“Well, it’s not the heaven and hell idea you were raised on. But generally speaking, in the afterlife, there’s a Good Place and there’s a Bad Place. You’re in the Good Place… you’re okay, Jesse. All’s good. You’re in the Good Place.”
I exhale, relieved. “Well, that’s good.”
“Sure – you betcha. Okay. Let’s take a walk, shall we?”
“Say, you wouldn’t happen to know if I came in with any bling? Or if your first responders picked up my man-bag?” Distracted, I gaze around me, searching. “No. I’m dead, right. Okay.”
Livin la vida loca.
I’d been tryna say ‘C’est la vie’ but I forgot the phrase and so long story short I shrugged and said ‘Livin la vida loca.’
With great remembrance though, comes great responsibility… to grammar-fy. Even if it is simply to my inner voice. Hence…
C’est la vie mon ami… Au revoir shiny.