Inevitability creates a strange calm and I can't remember feeling more alive. My first memory was of my wife's face in laughter. I don't remember what she was laughing about but it was contagious and I remember smiling. Next I remembered my daughter, Elsa, graduating high school. She looked so tall and beautiful and smart in her gown. Next I remembered my son Eric playing violin. He was so terrible! But he never gave up, never. Strange that I remembered that moment rather than his acceptance at Juilliard. Next I remembered my mother, dead now twelve years. It wasn't so much a visual memory as a tactile one: simply, her hugging me. Next I remembered my best friend. A pastiche of a thousand moments happy and sad and all in between. Next I remembered my father. I haven't seen him since I was five years old. He was standing at the gate. I asked him if I'd see him again. He said maybe.
I wanted to let you know I've read this, and I'm thinking. I want to have fully formed thoughts (hah! You'll wait forever, then. or at least coherent thoughts before I comment. It's very involving for a short piece. I'll be back.
This is a small revision. I considered modifying the original post, but, since people have been kind enough to offer to comment on it, I'll post this revision separately. One is not necessarily better than the other; I'm kind of experimenting. I was going to say that there were some "technical considerations" worth discussing, such as whether first person was better for this than third person, and/or whether present tense would be better than past tense. But I think with this revision some of the technical conflicts involved in making it first person have been resolved, and I think this revision tracks very well with past tense. Anyway. Thoughts welcome.
The lights were blinding.
Inevitability creates a strange calm and I can't remember feeling more alive. My first memory was of my wife's face in laughter. It was contagious and it made me smile. Next I remembered my daughter, Elsa, graduating high school. She looked so tall and beautiful and smart in her gown and that day the world became new as Adam. Next I remembered my son Eric playing violin. He was so terrible for so long! But he never gave up, never. Strange that I remembered that moment rather than his acceptance at Juilliard. Next I remembered my mother, dead now twelve years. It wasn't so much a visual memory as a tactile one: simply, her hugging me. Next I remembered my best friend. A pastiche of a thousand tiny moments flashed warmly, each individually felt, all felt in whole. Next I remembered my father. I haven't seen him since I was five years old. He was standing just at the gate to my mother's house. I asked him if I'd see him again. He said he wanted to.
I enjoyed this piece, Pax. My impression was that it was portrayed as written by someone who had a "near-death experience." The blinding light, images of loved ones, and memories from life milestones all made me think of the accounts of near-death experiences that I've heard about. Was the father "standing at the gate" supposed to be at the gates of Heaven? Is this the gate to the great beyond?
Or is this about a person who is near death and who is remembering his/her life?
Am I in the ballpark of what this piece is supposed to mean?
Interesting read, Brian. :-). The lights-coming-to-you-at-death was one of the intentional ambiguties, yes. It might be truck lights... or it might be the light that everyone talks about when you die (near-death). The "father at the gate" being God... I hadn't considered that possibility. Anyway, you are in the ballpark. :-)
I'll tell you -- well -- what was in my mind while writing it was that this guy is about to die in an accident, probably a head-on collision with a truck. He DOES die. He has five seconds of KNOWING he is going to die. What goes through someone's mind when they know they're going to die? So, that's what this is about. All of the memories can be taken more or less literally, in terms of what meaning they would have to the protagonist. All the memories are of people who had a tremendous impact on his life... family, friends... even his father, whom he hasn't seen since he was five. It was a sad memory, but it was nevertheless an important part of him and shaped him. I leave it up to the reader to wonder why the father never contacted the son after what may be presumed to be a divorce.
I chose the words at the end to be ambiguous with three different possible meanings that I can think of (perhaps others can think of more):
1. "I could not remember when the lights came to me," given that he was very actively remembering up to the instant that he "could no longer remember," could paradoxically mean that he has lost the capacity to remember, that is, there is no life after death and his existence simply ended. I guess one could call this a technical flaw of the story, in that, how can he be telling us in essence that he remembers having lost the capacity to remember? Nevertheless, I think the paradox works... but if others say it doesn't, that would be a valuable learning experience for me.
2. "I could not remember when the lights came to me" could mean that the lights he's seeing are truck lights; he has died, but there is life after death, and he's been spared the memory (after death) of the trauma of the actual accident.
3. Same as #2, but the lights were the lights that people say come to you when you die. As a corrollary, it may also be that when you die, no matter how you die, the manner of death is not important to your next plane of existence, so is not remembered; or if it is a memory per se, its relevance on that plane of existence is so inconsequential that one does not even think of (remember) it.
I hope it doesn't ruin it to tell you what was on my mind when I wrote it...
Sorry. I've been away and bogged down, Pax, and unable to have clear time to give this. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the idea. What would pass through your mind in the last few seconds you have? Especially if you can see it coming.
It puzzled me quite a bit at first because, like Brian, I thought it was about a near-death experience. Then it occurred to me that maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was truly the end. But, if that was the case, then who was reporting and, if the deceased was reporting, then how was the message being delivered to us? Obviously they couldn't write and publish it, so where did it emanate from? I don't even have a clue buried in here, somewhere, to suggest an answer for me.
I liked that each instance of memory was rounded out a bit with explanation. You were consistent with that and it made each character, as well as the protagonist, work well. I had a little trouble with the transitions, though. Your connecting word of "next" was a little too abrupt for something that, I would think, are thoughts that flow organically from one to the other rather than abrupt stops and starts of "next". Just an idea.
Interesting concept though. I enjoyed the read. Sorry it took me so long to get here.
Last Edit: Apr 22, 2009 2:52:52 GMT -5 by Georgina
Inevitability creates a strange calm and I can't remember feeling more alive. My first memory was the warmth of my wife. A million times in evenings as I came home into the kitchen she ran to me and kissed me. As the lights approached, the memory filled my mind. I remember the soft lingering touch of her lips. Gentle, needful passion. A touching of two souls long joined. I could remember the feel of the small of her back in my hand as she pressed herself into me. Her breasts nuzzling in.
In this, my wife was replaced with my daughter with dreaming's gentle urgency. We were outside on a hot summer day and a school band was playing boisterously. Many of those there were dressed in black clothes, as was my beautiful daughter. She pulls back, her joyful, tear-eyed face looking up at me. Ah, I remember where I am: The folds of her college graduation gown, cool despite the heat, against my skin bring it to me. It was the day I realized I was letting go of my little girl and releasing into the world a fully realized woman. A whirlwind of emotions and meanings spun through my mind, then as now. Only these words rise from it: We did it. We did this.
Violin begins playing in my ears, a solo. A solo in a quiet room that naturally had been going on for a long while. I am sitting quietly in my chair listening with rapt attention. It is a dark nondescript room and there are some few others there. I am not a big classical music fan but my wife is. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her head nodding almost imperceptibly, checking off the notes one by one. Without taking her eyes off of our son she takes my hand into hers. Love for her and my son come in a wave for me and I almost begin to like classical violin for its own sake. Calmly she sits, listening. Her nails start digging ever so much more into my poor abused flesh. After a while I shift in my seat and wonder if it will scar. I look over at the others who are also listening. Their faces impossible to read. Just as I think I am going to cry out from the pain, the recital is over. We all file out almost wordlessly. The following spring, he entered Juilliard. That's right! This is my son's audition recital. We -- I -- have never been more proud of him.
The lights come to me, and I feel nothing. In the arrival of the moment I cringe and almost cry out. I expect to feel the impact and pain but I feel nothing. Almost nothing. I feel... pushed, as through a bubble. I feel wrapped and protected and warm. I know I'm not breathing. It brings to mind what it must feel like to be in a womb. More: connection. Connected. An umbilical. My family is holding me here. Sustaining me here. I live in eternity in the moments that give me the greatest joy. When my last connection to Earth is severed -- when they all have joined me here -- we go on.