Thursday, February 04, 2016

Awkward Stranger; or, Voicemail In Heaven

Awkward Stranger; or, Voicemail In Heaven
by Rob Cottignies



            My mother died so I was busy going through her former belongings. Insurance papers, account statements, pictures, personal effects- I can't remember what else. Members of my small family were helping, making phone calls and trying to get past her mysterious electronic passwords. Some jewelry was unaccounted-for. Plus, you know, grieving.
            Amid all this, a car pulled into the driveway behind mine. I think it's rude when people do that but I assumed it was somebody I'd let get away with being rude. Instead, it was some woman. Just some woman. At the door, she said she had known my mom for many years; since elementary school. Apparently they were close friends. Odd how I'd never heard her name.
            After her generic kind words, I invited this woman and her blank face inside. She had brought nothing. I wanted nothing but had I felt the urge to drop in on a stranger unannounced at a time like this, I would have at least offered a nice bottle of beer.
            Was she so stricken with grief that she had a complete loss for words? I'd find out later when looking through my mom's 40-year-old yearbook that she had apparently always been zombie-faced.
            So there she stood, this stranger offering nothing. No soothing words, no charming stories, no smiles, no freakin' bottle of beer. Nothing but an expressionless stare. I invited her to sit, which she did.
            So there she sat, this stranger offering nothing.
            She declined water but accepted a sandwich. I went into the kitchen to avoid scratching my own face apart because of the overwhelmingly uncomfortable silence. I'll never know what she did for those few minutes, but my guess is it involved eating a sandwich and staring into the void of the hard-wood floor.
            After about four-thousand years but maybe twenty minutes of actual time, she left. Thanks for the thought??? There was no thought. There was nothing. But it was over. Whether or not she realized her unwelcome had been exhausted, she was gone and I was mildly relieved.
            …
            Fast-forward two weeks and a voice message had been left on my house line. It was for my mother, though the caller knew she was gone. Crying, the voice said how much she missed her and she hoped the message would reach her in Heaven.
            As if I didn't already know, the caller-ID told me it was zombie-face. My immediate reaction was the rage I didn't have the capacity to show two weeks prior. I screamed, stomped, smacked the wall. The message was just about the last thing I wanted to hear.
            And that's exactly the point- I heard the message. No one else. I mean, does Heaven get voicemail!? Would my mom's spirit get notified that there was a new message? Regardless, it was me who got the message. Only me. And I was pissed. If this woman believed that my mom could hear her in the afterlife, why the fuck did she feel the need to leave her a voice message??? Why did she not, say, look at the sky and speak her thoughts? I am not questioning her beliefs but calling out her complete lack of common sense and courtesy. First the pointless surprise awkward visit and then a voicemail to Heaven? I know people grieve in different ways but come on.
            This is where the story ends and I hope there is no follow-up or you just might hear about it on the news. I hope this creature gets the help she's needed for probably a very long time.

            And because I've already thought of it, she was very likely not calling to hear my mom's voice on the outgoing message because it wasn't set up that way. If this half-wit was such good friends with her, she would've known that. I never pray but I definitely threw a hope out there that if she calls again, I'll be right next to the phone.

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