Monday, August 13, 2007

You Are Not Dead?

My parents were traveling quite a bit and they were now staying with one of their friends. This weekend their plans included a Military ceremony to remember those who have passed on. I was on my way to see them. I had been driving for hours in an unfamiliar town out of state.

All the other drivers seem to be in a real hurry. Something was up. It was more than just rush hour traffic. There was some kind of panic, the kind you see just before a big storm hits. Everyone trying to get home or out of town.

In my hasty driving I realize I might be lost. Ah, a post office. I pull over and proceed to the counter. Everyone inside is rushing around like crazy. A nice man with his arms full of packages stops his scurrying behind the counter to ask if there was anything he could do for me? “I think I am lost. Can you tell me how to get to route 24?” He places the packages down and very calmly gives me directions. Apparently I am really not lost, I just did not see the route sign at the intersection. He asks me “Since things are getting way out of hand in this town can you do me a favor?” I really wanted to get back on the road but I ask “What’s the favor?” There is this little old lady just up the road and it is on your way out of town. Could you please see that she gets her mail. She has called every day expecting something to come. I think about it for a moment. I really did want to get going on my trip so I could see my parents before night fall. Then again, I could do something nice for someone else and it wasn’t really out of my way or anything. “Sure, I will take her mail to her.”

The man disappears behind the counter for a few moments then returns with a huge box of tied up envelopes, magazines and such. My goodness! How long has this woman gone without mail?! What is going on here that the mail is not getting through. Wow, I really want to get out of this town and quick!

Two men carry the box to my van and I am off to the little old lady’s house. She is not very pleased to see me. She gripes about her garden, the mail service, the thing she has been waiting to receive in the mail and I don’t remember what else. I clumsily lug the box out of my van and carry it up to her house while she grumbles lowly. She tells me she doesn’t want the box in her house. Instead she asked me to place it on her large front porch next to a grand white wicker chair. Glad to not carry the box any further I place the box on the porch. She was still talking and complaining and I wanted to leave. I did not want to be rude so I listened while trying to make my way back to my van. Eventually, she said goodbye and something about angry people and traffic. I hopped into the driver’s seat and away I went, back to route 24. My goodness she is a bitter old lady. Nothing like I expected. Still, hoped that whatever was going on in that town would blow over soon as she showed no signs of wanting to leave.

Ok, now I am back on the road and on my way. Wait a minute. I must have pulled out of her street going in the wrong direction. I am right back at the same intersection going towards the post office. Ugh. It’s alright, I tell myself, since the next intersection is route 24.

Several hours later I think I am in the right neighborhood. Nice houses, all large with two car garages and the greenest grass I have ever seen. One odd thing I saw on a lawn was a white wooden sign with numbers that slide in for ease of changing. It was like a gas station sign for prices but made from wood. Even the numbers squares were made of wood. Apparently these were gas prices and the gas station was an actual house! Where people really lived! A nice house, not some run of the mill old farm house in the middle of no where. The next street over I turn the corner. On the right side of the street is the house of my parent’s friend. Yeah! I made it and it is still day light!

I pull up in the drive way and a man comes out of the house to greet me. He is too young to be one of my father’s old military friends, must be the son. He is a bit shocked to see me but very cheerful. He quickly helps me with my bags and seems to know me. I have no idea who he is but I feebly play along as if I know him. He places my bags inside the door but does not invite me in. Not knowing what to think of this I pause and just look at his face. He shuts the door with both of us still on the front steps and says. “I cannot believe it is really you. Can you imagine how everyone is going to react when they all find out you are alive?” Um what? What did he just say? “Still alive? What do you mean still alive? Who thinks I am …dead?”

Apparently some time shortly after high school people thought something happened to me. I performed some courageous deed which resulted in my death. In actuality, I did perform the “courageous deed". My car was packed to the gills and I was moving out of state. This “courageous deed” happened on my way out of the state. Afterwards people started looking for me and assumed the worst. Believing I must have driven off a cliff or something shortly after doing my good deed they held a memorial service for me. An annual tradition to celebrate the heroic deed and mourn the death of a good Samaritan had started.

Still a bit stunned from hearing I “died” and puzzled as to the circumstance that lead so many people to believe I was dead, I sat down on the steps with the cheerful man. It would be odd to for me to sit down and chat so openly with a strange man but something about this man seemed a little familiar. I suppose we might have gone to high school together. Maybe he was one of the many boys who had a crush on me but we never went out. I would have remembered him if we had dated, wouldn’t I? He, on the other hand, was very comfortable talking to me. It was as if we had been great friends all our lives. Still, I had no idea what his name was or if we were really friends in high school. I decided to make the best of it, pretend I know who he is and just make it through the weekend.

He stands up, helps me to my feet and we enter the house. My parents and his are at the dinning room table eating dinner, laughing and carrying on the way the way old friends do when they haven’t seen each other in a long time. My father notices I have arrived. He wipes his mouth off with a very pretty white napkin and says to me “How does it feel …not being dead and all?” The whole table erupts with laughter and my mother says “You look pretty good for a walking corps!” and I laugh with them. Cheerful Man pulls out a chair for me and we join them. Trying to be funny myself I say "You know what's more remarkable than my coming back from the dead? Apparently the price of gas at your neighbors house is only $2.02" They laugh and explain the neighbor is a little crazy but thankful for the price of his gas.

After dinner the Mother of the house leads me to a bedroom upstairs where Cheerful Man has already brought up my bags. “There are fresh towels in your bathroom, extra blankets and pillows are in the closet over here. If there is anything you need just ask. Oh, feel free to raid the refrigerator if you get hungry in the middle of the night. You can even eat the cake. After all, I was bringing it to the annual service tomorrow…in your honor.” She giggles and then shuts the door.

I try to sleep but the eerie thought of my death and the pending service tomorrow was creeping me out a bit. Who is Cheerful Man? Why can I not remember this family’s last name? I resign telling myself that there is nothing I can do about the service tomorrow. Hopefully no one will have a heart attack when I make my debut from you know, rising from the dead. At some point someone will say Cheerful Man’s name and I will at least have a real name to call him.

When I woke up I felt like I had only slept for about 20 minutes. Due to the amount of daylight streaming in the bedroom window I knew it was late morning. The noises from downstairs sounded like everyone was heading out. I glance out the window to see my parents and our hosts getting into a car. I suppose they had some errands to run before the ceremony. I get dressed and go down stairs. There he is, Cheerful Man, asking me what I would like for breakfast? He made scrambled eggs and I try to slyly coax out of him information of how we know each other. I got no where with this so I would just wait until someone would say his name. It has to happen right? While we were sitting at the table he informs me there was a special visitor at my grave this morning. Great, like I want to hear more about my “death” and all. “It was Neil. You remember Neil right?” "Sorry, I cannot remember any guy named Neil. I remember a girl who’s last name was O’Neal or was it O’Brian?” He continues “No, no, this was Neil. You have to remember Neil. He was always following you around waiting to do any little thing you wanted. You just never asked him to do anything for you.”

Just then we hear a car pull up to the house and we rush outside to see who it is. First I see the Mother of the house (still cannot remember her last name) then a younger woman pops out of the drivers side and runs up to Cheerful Man. They hug and she looks at the Mother of the house who says “See! What did I tell you?!” The young woman looks at me and says “Is it really you?” With a tone of seriousness I say “No, I just came by to haunt the lot of you.” They all laugh and then the young lady says “Why don’t you and my dear brother take a swim in the lake before lunch? You will have plenty of time before the ceremony. Can you imagine the looks on people’s faces when they see you?!” Well, I guess she is Cheerful Man’s sister. Why did she have to call him “my dear brother?” Couldn’t she have just said his name? For that matter why didn’t anyone introduce us? I am now stuck for a whole weekend with four nameless people - Cheerful Man, Mother of the House, her husband and a sister.

Cheerful Man agreed that a dip in the lake would be a great way to pass the time. I put on a bathing suit and off we go to the lake. For some reason I also brought clothes to change into for the ceremony. That is not really odd but swimming with them in a black and white carrying case all the way to the little bit of an island in the lake, that was odd. When Cheerful Man and I reached the little island we collapsed on the shore. It was a long swim from the other side of the lake. I was still tired from lack of sleep the night before and with this long swim I completely exhausted myself. Cheerful Man was talking and I cannot remember what he was talking about but the sound of his voice was very relaxing.

I don’t know how long I was asleep but I woke up to water splashing on my face. It was Cheerful Man, already in the water heading back to real land. He called out “Better get a move on! We don’t want to miss your ceremony!” I pick up the bag with my clothes and start to swim after him. It was obvious I was not going to catch up with him. I was still tired and really I could do without going to this ceremony. My arm was getting tired from holding the bag with the clothes out of the water with one arm. I wasn’t half way across the lake when I decided I was far too tired to go to any darn ceremony. I put my raised arm in the water submerging the bag of clothes. There, now I cannot go because I have nothing with me that will be dry.

Then…I wake up. Yes, it was all a dream.
A dream. That would explain why no one had a real name. Weird though to dream about death and old high school boys I wouldn’t remember even if they had a name ... Neil. Wounder what the dream means? Oh well, I am being very careful today. The image of that headstone was pretty vivid.

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