I was in a bar last year with my friend Sam Michaels when he described to me this story he was writing about being dead, dying and turning into a ghost. His idea was that you, or a least his characters, stayed where they were at their place of death; eventually having a choice of going away with the grim reaper if they wanted; but his point was that many of them opted for sticking around, watching the world go by while no one living could see them.
“So in that case it’d be worse to die alone,” I remember saying.
Then we were talking about World War One, all those people hanging out in a field in
, although his opinion was that it’d be better to die with our loved ones in the same place. I think actually part of his book involved people in a old farm house dying of old age in their beds over the generations; almost the whole family tree living together except this boy who’d been knocked down by a car on his way home from school. He’d been just around the corner from the house with all his dead relatives, totally missing out on all the fun with nothing but a load of rabbits for company until eventually this other kid who’s like a pretty girl gets knocked down by a car as well and they live, or die happily ever after. France
Honestly I don’t remember too many details of the main story though ’cause this was only a side plot. And not long after this Sam was himself involved in a car accident, ending up with him being in a coma, not having a chance to finish the thing. (So far he still hasn’t woken up; but he’s not dead or anything and I’m sure he’ll be around to talk about it all one day.)
So anyway, last night as I was in the moment of almost falling asleep I started thinking about Sam all of a sudden, the story he’d been working on and just for fun began imagining my own adaptation. A possible scenario for my life, or death if it was true about the whole staying in one place thing.
In my version I was knocked down by a bus just outside the language school where I work. I immediately became a ghost observing all the fuss being made over getting rid of my body, the ambulance, loads of people staring, not staring; not wanting to see or be reminded how we’re all so damn fragile and of their own mortality.
Finally once it was over I was left standing in the middle of a busy surroundings outside the school, watching students on their cigarette breaks and then on their way home with it soon becoming dark. The number of people around dwindling into the odd drunk here and there; followed by the rubbish collectors in the morning, the whole day starting again.
Strangely there didn’t seem to be any other ghosts around as far as I could see, and also weirdly… well the next thing that happened was I started to get this really strong, almost absurd feeling of how the flowers that would’ve been put down the next day were really making me feel awkward. How they were a bit of an insult actually. I guess ’cause they were drawing attention to the fact that I’d been enough of a dick-head to allow myself to be knocked over by a bus I suppose. And people were looking, making comments on how a teacher had been killed in that spot.
Pretty soon though I had to start thinking of how I was gonna get used to being in such a situation, deciding that having a routine was a good way to stay sane. And being killed outside my old school didn’t seem so bad ’cause even though it was weird and a bit depressing how life goes on, like doesn’t revolve around me, it was kinda good too ’cause there was plenty to see; stuff going on; or a least I was picturing it to be this way.
I mean I could only catch snippets of conversations, small talk and the odd heated discussion. And as the dream took over there were couples who’d pass me by every day and generally familiar people on their way to and from work that I was getting to know.
Until one day what ended up happening was I saw my wife with this other bloke, far away, barely visible although I knew it was her. And ’cause I couldn’t tell what the other guy looked like, funnily enough I became more interested in seeing who he was than being bothered with the fact that my wife had moved on from me.
Following this I began to get a really strong urge to move from where I was, the frustration of being stuck in the same place becoming so intense that finally I woke up feeling the worst I’ve felt in a hell of a long time. I was even a little bit sick in the bathroom afterwards.
I felt so awful that just to recover I created an ending to the story of this angel coming down and giving me the choice of staying on Earth or being taken away; to heaven or wherever.
After smoking a cigarette and washing my face though I’ve gotta admit that I couldn’t decide for sure. I mean once you went with the angel that was it; there was no coming back or anything. And I remember being unexpectedly confused as to what to do ’cause staying on Earth a little longer did have some advantages; but there again I didn’t wanna have that feeling of being stuck again.
So that’s about it. No idea what the significance of all this was, save for the fact that I’ve thought a lot over the months about what it must be like for old Sam to be in a coma. Whether he’s finished the book inside his head yet, if he entertains himself by making up imaginary scenarios like I was doing last night.
I also wonder of course whether he’s really able to hear people when they talk to him. I mean his wife Maggie is convinced of it. But then again she would be ’cause she spends enough time down there telling him all and everything that’s going on with herself, the kids, her job; whatever she can think of to fill the silence.
She often reminds me not to worry ’cause she’s never mentioned us as being anything more than good friends still – funnily enough I feel at ease when she says this; which I suppose means that in my mind he actually does have the ability to understand her conversations after all.