The calmness of the early morning atmosphere is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Trees sing and leaves dance—Mother Nature watches. She sets the tone for the day—we watch her. As the moon fades, she embraces the dawn of a new day—a rebirth—something that many of us living are in search for. We tend to always look for the sign. We seek that shift in luck or that desire to reach for heaven’s bended ear. We speak through our actions—belief. We listen with our soul—faith. What happens to the speechless or the deaf? Who will speak or listen for them?
I open my eyes as my mind continues to drift. I’m surrounded by beautiful landscapes to my left and unappealing structures to my right. My mind drifts again. As I stare at multiple reflections of myself in a cracked window, various thoughts begin to scatter within my mind as if each image is thinking something different.
The sun is beginning to yawn. A crisp chill kisses the nape of my neck—I shiver. At this moment I can’t help but to feel desolate. The frigidness of the wind interrupts the usual warm feeling I’d get from my morning coffee. It’s far from the caffeine riddled pleasure I used to enjoy. As I continue to stand in line, my legs lose strength. I still reek of yesterday’s odor. My sense of smell is in a state of confusion. There is a fellow man behind me, whose breath smells of halitosis and mouthwash.
As I look in front of me, I notice a woman with three children. She is as dark as the early morning sky. Her paunch is displayed, overlapping the elastic of her sweat pants. Her eyes are puffy—underlined by dark circles. Sometimes a person doesn’t have to utter a word. You can read their story by their eyes. I wonder when people look into my eyes, what story are they reading. The woman looks as if she can’t be any older than my youngest daughter. It is hard as a man to stand in line for hours at a time. I just imagine how tough it would be if I had one toddler in my right arm, infant in my left, and a pre-school kid tugging on my pants leg.
There is some commotion going on at the front of the line. This must be a signal that they are finally opening the doors. The man with the pungent odor turns to me and says, “It a looks like they finally finna let us in.” I nod. He begins to wobble as if his legs are made of jelly. Still struggling to stand upright, his round head, covered with several strands of gray, begins to sway back and forth. His skin is pale—no tan. The neck of his untidy t-shirt is just as outstretched and wrinkled as his skin. I notice the tattoo on his right forearm which reads, This is the Army. “So you’re an Army man?” I ask as I turn my head opposite his to avoid his early morning stench. “Yes I am. Yes I am,” he replies with an expression that let me know he is about to tell me his entire life story. He places one of his stubby hands upon my shoulder. Patches of discolored skin covers his hand. Still wobbling he says, “I fought for this country. I risked my life for this country. Now I is a standing in line begging for scraps in this country.”
I immediately thought about my Uncle Charlie. He fought for a country that didn’t fight for him. He died in the Vietnam War. He didn’t necessarily have a physical death, but a mental one. Some say if you’re mentally dead you might as well be considered deceased, because you’re a lifeless spirit. I take another sip of my coffee. “I’m sorry to hear that sir,” I say with an absent expression. I hear a noise up front. I lean slightly to my left, adjacent to the beautiful landscapes, to see if the line is moving. I then shift a step to the left. I’m immediately blinded temporarily by a sudden strong glare. I fall back in place. “Happens every time,” the old man says. With a rather pitying look set on his face, he continues, “This is your first time—isn’t it?” I guess this is evident by my curious eyes.
“Yes,” I admit with a little reluctance.
“Well partner—everything you do in life was once a first,” he says.
It takes me a minute to understand the meaning.
More commotion peaks my interest and anxiety begins to set in. Why am I here? I ask myself. Better yet—how did I end up here? I look behind me, pass the old man. I see now that the line is longer than when I first arrived. I see an elderly woman with doleful eyes with a long scarf protecting her flesh. I see a man with pants soiled from remnants of Mother Nature. He’s holding a sign—Please Help. I see a boy with neat coils atop his head, dressed elegantly, and shifting from side to side with his boyish hands hiding within his pockets. I see another old man with a face as if it’s been dipped in ash. No teeth to give him a reason to smile. I exhale. I begin to think that I no longer belong here.
“Pride is something else,” the old man says to me.
Confusion is setting in. He begins to laugh a little. A bottle drops from underneath his sweater. He looks at me with a slightly grave look. “So, you’re judging me now?” I don’t answer. I conclude that his jelly legs are due to the almost empty bottle that now lies on the ground.
“This is all part of the script. We’re all actors in the movie of life.” he says. I turn around to avoid further conversation.
At that moment I hear what sounds like a band—nothing but horns. The woman with the three kids turns to me and says, “Looks like someone has received their wings.” I look behind me as if her words weren’t directed towards me.
“Yes indeed,” the old man says.
I reach in my pocket to pull out a folded piece of paper. I read to myself and mumble, this looks like the right address.
“Don’t worry son. You’re at the right place,” the old man says.
“What is this place?” I ask.
A huge smile spreads his round, now beatific looking face. “You’ve finally asked the million dollar question,” he replies. He again places his hand upon my shoulder. Our eyes catch each other. “Sir—I just need any spare change you got. My daughter is graduating today. I haven’t seen her since she was a baby. If you have it in your heart, can you spare me some fare?”
I immediately have a case of déjà vu. It can’t be, I say to myself.
He smiles and nods. “But yet it is,” he says.
“I remember you.” I say then continue, “I gave you one-hundred dollars that day.” I scratch my head. “That had to be more than twenty years ago,” I say. This can’t be true. “You look the same.”
He nods and says, “And what did I tell you?”
Remembering it like it was yesterday, I reply, “You said that I would be blessed beyond measures.”
He smiles and points to the front. The line has moved up. I walk forward. I turn around and look at those behind me again. This time more faces become familiar: The elderly woman with the doleful eyes—I gave her that scarf, the man with the ‘Please Help’ sign—I bought him lunch one day, the boy who was elegantly dressed—that is my old suit when I was a boy, the man with no teeth—that’s the guy we took Thanksgiving dinner to when I was just a boy.
The old man points forward. “You’re next in line.”
I close my eyes in an attempt to make sense of it all. Paranoia kicks in. I hesitate. The gate before me is made of pearls. Clouds acts as steps. “Am I dead?” I turn to ask the old man.
“Not at all,” he replies.
“What is this place? Who are you people?” I ask, frightened by the experience.
No longer wobbling, he says, “This is home and we are—the less- fortunates. When I told you that you would be blessed beyond measures—this is it.”
“But I don’t understand.”
“It’s your turn son. You are now a less-fortunate.”
“What does that mean?”
“All your questions will be answered when you get your wings. You will then venture earth to test the will and kindness of those who inhabit the world. Now go—accept your mission.” He points forward again and I disappear amongst the clouds.