I don’t want to be here, dammit. The longer I’m here – and I’ve been here a long time – the more I think it’s some kind of hellish afterlife where you pay for your sins by losing everything you thought you wanted, everyone you loved.
I was told this was the great resurrection, when everybody was made whole and no sickness or sadness could persist, and death would have no dominion. Really? That’s not what I’m seeing.
— You’re trying too hard to control it, Joe said. He was sitting in the sunny windowsill of the place I’m trying not to consider my cell. Even if it doesn’t look like a prison, I know I’m in one. –Let go and let the change come.
— I don’t want to wait, dammit. I have a life to get back to. I have clients who need to see me. How the hell am I gonna pay off the mortgage on my condo? What about the lease payments on my car?
–You see anybody around here driving a car? Joe asked. He was chewing on a toothpick, moving it easily from one side of his mouth to the other.
— Not the point, I said. This was my condo, my car, my life. Besides, everything around here seems to be going to you-know-where in a hand basket.
— Lemme show you something. Joe hopped off the windowsill.
–Something like what? I asked. We walked down the road for a while before Joe answered.
— What’s the most important thing to you? he said. Before you died and ended up here. What did you hold the most precious? Now, I want you to think about this, Asher. Joe stopped in front of me so I could see every wrinkle in his old-man face, the hard twinkle of his pale blue eyes.
I didn’t have to think. I already knew. But I didn’t want to tell Joe. It would be embarrassing. He might even laugh at me.
We passed a field of people working, tilling the soil, planting crops or whatever. I don’t know from agriculture. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, although how anybody could enjoy standing out in the hot sun for hours on end, I don’t know. Beats me. Joe stopped in front of the fence separating the field from the road.
— See anybody you know? he asked.
I scanned the little group of people. There was nobody I knew, just two older women busy scraping the ground with hoes, and four young men down on their hands and knees, widening a hole that they’d probably use for planting a tree. They worked quietly, talking to each other now and then in low voices. One of the young men sat back on his heels and took off the straw hat he was wearing against the sun’s head, and fanned himself with it. He gazed at Joe and me, seemingly without interest, until he lurched to his feet and ran to where we were. He’d tossed his hat away and his dark blond hair caught the wind. I knew he would have blue eyes. He would have blue eyes as clear as a prairie sky. I knew he would.
Jamie. I’d just about given up all hope of ever seeing him again.
— Asher. He was panting, out of breath. He bent over and put his hands on his knees.
— In the flesh, kid. I tried hard to sound cheerful. I tried hard not to sound clutching or desperate, while inside I was screaming his name over and over JAMIEJAMIEJAMIEJAMIEJAMIE!
— I’ve been looking for you. He glanced at Joe, then shot a questioning look at me.
— It’s okay, I said. He’s safe.
— Ash. In one fluid movement, he jumped the fence. Oh my God, Ash.
He opened his arms and I went into them.