I’m not sure if this is real or fantasy. No I’m not trying to quote Queen. I’m just really not sure what to believe anymore.
I mean, Preacher Stewart says it’s probably because I don’t pray enough. Maybe I’d be full on if I was more religious or a better person or maybe if I hadn’t stolen that half a pound of ground chuck back in December.
God, it’s just so messed up.
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
Late last June, or maybe it was July, it’s hard to remember all the details, I was struggling, really struggling, y’know? Like too poor to eat anything but ramen noodles struggling. Like being too depressed about my finances to bother doing anything about my appearance struggling… Like standing on the edge of a bridge struggling.
But I got a job finally. It was a crappy little job waiting tables at some hole in the wall pub but after a couple months I had my regulars and they’d tip me decent and I was crawling out of the dark abyss I had been in. Damn it. I was doing it. I was really getting things sorted. I had enough to eat proper sandwiches and broccoli. Oh god, I missed broccoli. I’d buy a metric ton of it with a good chunk of my paycheck and I’d gorge on that stuff every night for the first couple weeks… Yeah.
Anyway, I was crawling out of this hole and I could see it. I could see that light at the end. I even got myself a boyfriend. He was smooth and easy going and exactly what I thought I needed. I mean, if I had looked at it objectively I would have seen it in a different light, but hindsight is 20/20 y’know?
So things are going good for another couple months or so then he up and leaves. Disappears in the middle of the night with half my wardrobe and the stash of 1500 dollars I’d been saving for emergencies.
God, I crashed so hard. The first day I kept it together, but after… After was a whirlwind of destruction and I couldn’t stop it. My entire paycheck got spent on pixie sticks and booze. (I will not touch pixie sticks to this day. Never mind I don’t eat. One thought of those things and I want to throw up. Violently.) I got fired from my job because I guess it’s kind of hard to employ someone who doesn’t show up for two weeks.
So there I was, back in the state I had been trying to get out of so desperately. You know what that does to your mind? I was back to eating ramen noodles when I could beg for enough change from people on the streets; and that was on the days I could get out of bed.
Then December came. God, those cheerful decorations everywhere, the holiday songs, people just smiling way too damn much. I shut myself in my room, piling blankets and towels and other crap over the windows and door to block out the sound of the outside world. I ran out of noodles. And then I ran out of booze.
I emerged on the 22nd of December like a cicada crawling out of the earth. I hadn’t seen the sun in ages so I guess it was a mercy it was overcast. My clothes were dirty twenty times over and I knew what I looked like to the people who walked past. I knew what I smelled like too. I didn’t care.
There was a butcher shop on the corner that had closed early. I knew the guy who ran it, sort of, mostly by reputation. He wasn’t a bad guy, just the sort to take the skin off your back if you crossed him. Anyway, I saw the piles of meat in the coolers and my mouth filled with saliva. You know that deep achy feeling when you haven’t eaten properly and you can feel it tug at your soul? At that moment the only thought in my head was how fantastically delicious a burger would be. I stared through that window for a good fifteen minutes then made a decision. I wasn’t going to rob the place. I was just going to take enough to feed my complaining stomach. So I went around back, smashed the lock and hauled out a couple handfuls of ground beef.
Now, I don’t know how a soul works but my theory, god, my stupid theory… It’s just, y’know how when you die you’re supposed to go to heaven or hell and you get whatever you deserve for eternity right? Yeah no. That’s not it at all. Because I have these flashes and I think this moment right here is what made that in me.
I was coming out of the alley and there was this kid. This kid, geez, couldn’t have been more than seven. And she was rail thin. I mean really freakin’ thin. She was wearing this poofy winter coat about two sizes too big but the wrists that poked out of those sleeves were bones. Just bones. She probably hadn’t eaten in longer than I had and here I was with my ill-gotten beef just staring at her. God, just staring at her.
I handed her the meat, told her to go home and cook it up and I think she was confused. I shoved it into her hands anyway and she finally got it. Making a smile that I swear could have lit up a thousand suns she ran back down the street and turned a corner.
It made me think y’know? I started to think about my life and how that kid was just happy with enough beef for a meal or two. I still hated my life. I still wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep the rest of my life away. But there was this spark of something else.
So at this point I could either go back in the shop and risk getting caught or I could crawl back to my room and forget it ever happened. The problem was that guy, the one who owned the shop, he’d returned while I was standing like an idiot not 100 feet away from his busted back door. He figured it out pretty quickly and I ended up here. I don’t remember what it felt like. I know it must have hurt though because I was black and blue for a month after.
Look, I know what this sounds like but I swear if I had a better explanation I’d tell you. It’s just, I get these flashes y’know? They’re like memories… No that’s not really right. They’re like I was somewhere else and then I just end up back here. I mean, you can call it whatever you want, heaven, paradise, but it’s this beautiful place. Just, god, beautiful and no one’s sad or hurt and it feels nice. It’s just really nice. And I know I died back there but maybe that one final freaking bad decision made up for, like, I don’t know, maybe twenty percent of my messed up soul.
Preacher Stewart says it could be better. He says I could get full on if I prayed more. I could stay there longer. I could get up to maybe fifty percent someday. That would be cool. Yeah, I could handle fifty percent. Split the time between here and there.
There was this one time I saw someone familiar. I think it was my gran but she was real far away and blurry. But I could hear her voice and she just wanted to sit me down and talk. I mean, I’d like to talk to my gran again someday. Maybe if I get to fifty percent she’ll show up again.
I’d like that.