I stared at the people. There were quite a number of them, so much so that I couldn't keep track of them all. There was that old Mrs. Perkins, that pesky woman who wouldn't keep her cats in check even when I asked her to. There was Mr. Brian from the shop downtown where I went for coffee weekly. And there was that Vivien who gave me trouble when I was on shift work with her when we were both kids.
Darn, when had the years disappeared to? It had to be more than fifty, sixty years now. I shook my head and grimaced. Wasn't it just yesterday my dear Marianna was born?
I wondered why there were so many people here today. Their faces were somber and I caught a few of them tearing. Don't know for what though, but didn't bother to ask. None of my business anyway.
We were in a temporarily made structure with white awnings. There were white seats spread out in a horizontal line, and there were many behind the first. I was seated just right by the aisle in the tenth row. Goes to show how popular this place is this noon aye?
I didn't know what the big occasion was, and I didn't know why the hell I was here in the first place. Try as I may, the mind drew up with a blank. I chalked that up against old age. It was seriously going to be the death of me, no pun intended.
I was seventy-eight and my mind was still sharp, thank you very much. But there were moments I remember, when memories just refused to resurface. And though it bothers me, I try to ignore it pretty much.
A slight breeze drifted in, and I shivered. The immune system aren't that strong as well, but I ain't admitting to no one you know. Just the quiet grumblings of an old man getting used to the messages sent by the bones.
I saw someone walking up the side of the makeshift stage, and tapped into the microphone. It was Marianna, God bless her. I shifted, and cursed the bones' deterioration. What was she doing in this place? Perhaps she had brought me here.
I stared at her, willing her to see me – me in the tenth row by the aisle to the left. She looked pale and skinny. That girl, she lost quite a few pounds. I made up my mind to lecture her about the healthy diets one should have and not those fads that these plastic women nowadays have.
Strange, how come it took me so long to notice? I usually see her everyday, and she's usually with rose dusted cheeks and well-rounded limbs… I frowned, the line between the eyes just one of the many lines on my wrinkled face. I had aged, I am old – the face alone will tell you that.
She tapped the microphone and tested it. I sense there was something big happening. I leaned forward. Marianna was speaking, my Marianna! That girl was a little under the weather, true, but do you see how beautiful she is?
"Firstly, I want to thank each and every one of you for coming here this afternoon. Thank you for your overwhelming surge of support and condolences for my family during this difficult time –" her voice hitched, and I was confused. What condolences? There weren't any deaths in the family recently.. Or was I getting too senile?
"Today is a time set aside for us to commemorate my late father's life. He was a man whom I love dearly, and am devastated to be left behind. He was a man full of integrity and honor, and he taught me to be frank and not hurt people by going round the bush. My father loved reading, and he instilled that love in me. I can never thank him enough for all that he's done for me, as his daughter and as a woman with my own views.
I am sure there are many of you who my daddy has touched with his life, and I invite you today to stand up and tell of your relationship with this very special man."
I sat stunned throughout the whole speech. Marianna was my girl, my baby girl. And she said today was to commemorate her father's death. Well hell, that should be me aye? I scratched my head absently. How can I be dead when I'm here?
I briefly noticed that my Marianna had drifted behind and the microphone was attached to another's mouth. Jay Larkins, I think. How could I be dead? My mind drifted. I wasn't dead, it couldn't be. I just couldn't remember the last few days', but that doesn't mean I was dead aye.
I turned to my sides. I wanted people to confirm that I was alive, and very much so. But strange… there weren't anybody near me. I had ignored that fact that I caught my first glimpse of Marianna, but now it stared at me stark in the face. I didn't want to disturb the people talking, even though I wasn't dead. No use shocking everyone now aye.
So I settled back into my seat, and waited for the people to finish. I saw a lot of people I didn't see for a long time – the high school classmates, the colleagues in my first job, the neighbors, hell even strangers I hadn't known before.
They all recollected memories they had of me, and murmured how lucky they had been, knowing me. I grimaced. I didn't like this kind of bamboozling. They could've told me when I was here wasn't it? And now I'm presumably dead then they sent in their regards. Stupid gits, the whole load of them.
Sure they had a nice word or two tossed in, but it seemed as though they were out to reassure themselves of their humanity, that they would miss me.
It was a long time before it was over. I was almost asleep before I heard my beautiful Marianna on the microphone. I snapped awake. That chit was spoiling her image with her tear stained face. I had a good mind to harangue her until she was black and blue with the fact that I was still alive, no matter how much she wanted me dead.
Her voice trembled. "Again, thank you everyone for taking time out of your busy schedules to come today. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of my dad, and I hope that you will continue remembering the characteristics that made him beautiful to you.
And daddy, if you're listening in, I just want to tell you I love you, very much. It's hard being without you, but I'll get up and be strong like you always said I must be. Well yeah, I'm learning now daddy. I love you."
If I had to muster up some tears, I figure I could right now. My beautiful girl was so brave, so mature now. If I really have to go, I doubt I'd have any regrets.
The music came on, and I sat still in my seat waiting for someone to recognize me and whoop a "Well hell, ain't you hale and hearty now!" But people stream to the door around me, chattering to each other, on the phones, and not me. They didn't even have the courtesy to smile at me; they acted like I was invisible. The kids nowadays…
"How was it?" I heard a voice to my left, and I glanced over. It belonged to a black man who looked to be in his fifties or sixties.
"Alright, if you discount the fact I'm still alive." I grumbled. How could they have missed me? They were all blind. It must be due to the computer staring for prolonged hours. Thinks it gives them some sort of right to ignore seniors.
"What makes you think that you're still alive?"
The question left me stumped, feeling like a kid. I tried to catch hold of answers in the thought pool but none was available. "I'm here, ain't I?" The thought of being unable to answer the man's question left me slightly irate.
"But people cannot see you."
I frowned. "Couldn't, or wouldn't? The kids nowadays, rude as hell and treats everyone as invisible. Being invisible doesn't mean I'm dead."
The man sighed. "Look mate, your daughter is coming. See if she can see you. Go talk to her."
I nodded my thanks to him. I had been so caught up with talking to him that I had neglected Marianna. I must go to her and show her I'm alive. I stood up slowly and made my way towards her. She was talking to someone else. I waited patiently for her to turn and face me. I knew she'd be surprised, and shocked. After all, she had sent me off ain't it?
Someone behind me called to her. She turned, and looked in my direction. I grabbed the chance and said, "Here I am, Marianna. I ain't dead!"
She looked through me.
"Marianna? Can you hear me? I know it's a little shocking but…" I drifted. There was no hint of remembrance on her face. I was hurt. My bonny Marianna was ignoring me!
I moved to touch her wrist. I gasped. My hand had passed though hers. Marianna turned and walked away. I looked weakly at my hand and winced. What happened?
"You couldn't remember the last few days could you?"
The man had followed me. I shook my head, still staring at my hand.
"That was because you weren't around for the last few days."
"Then where was I?"
"Yes. It happens to everyone. When you're dead, your soul has to make the exchange trip from a half physical half spiritual realm into the fully spiritual."
"That doesn't explain why you can see me!"
"Look around you. Do you think they can see me too?"
I glanced at the nearby people. They were like Marianna, looking through us, around us but never directly at us.
I guess I had known it since the beginning but had refused to admit it.
"So now I'm dead."
The man nodded in confirmation.
"Now what?" I rubbed my face tiredly. The news had left me knackered, and unfortunately, there was no chance of a second wind.
"Now you wait for Judgment Day."
"Okay I wait for… judgment day?" Even a deaf person can hear my incredulous face.
"And you can hang around your daughter till then I suppose."
I kept quiet. This can't be it.
The man relented. "Okay man I was pulling your leg. Now you move on to the next level."
"You move on to the spiritual realm."