Peter Sean Bradley
In my twenty-seventh life, I noticed the fly.
I was proposing to Joanne, as always, in the French restaurant that I had thought was classy in my first life. I had pulled the ring out of my pocket and was giving it to her when a fly flew past my head, its loud buzzing Doppler-shifting up and then down.
You would have thought that after all this time I would have noticed it before.
I thought about the fly as my mouth formed the words, “I love you…will you marry me?”, and she said, as always, “yes,” and gave me an excited hug and kiss. As I was trying to spot the fly, the restaurant broke into applause.
Good times, I remembered.
We finished dinner, and I wondered why I hadn’t noticed it before. Was it a new element? Had there been a change? Or was it just an oversight on my part?
We left the restaurant, and I thought, Here comes the bad part.
We got in the car, backed up and headed out onto Palm Avenue. It was late, so the street was mostly empty. We made the right turn at Madison and headed to the freeway. I edged the car up to seventy miles per hour and moved into the far left lane.
That was the mistake I always make.
Thirty seconds later a car in the southbound lane, driven by twenty-two year old Robert Endo, a Business major with a credit card paid for by his father, heading back to the dorm after 6 hours of pounding shots at Manhattan’s, lost control of his car – maybe he fell asleep, or maybe he simply miscalculated a weave from one side to another – and departed his lane into oncoming traffic.
We were the oncoming traffic. The impact threw me clear of the car, killed Joanne instantly and left Endo with a broken arm.
Life can be ironic that way.
I woke up in the hospital, heavily sedated. I lay there motionless, but the pain of impact and road rash seeped its way through the sedatives. My body moved in response to the discomfort and pain in ways intended to alleviate my physical discomfort. It was not long before I fell back into unconsciousness.
The next morning, during visiting hours, my brother came in. He stuttered initially, but after several efforts, he said, “Joanne’s gone.” I broke down crying.
It was the usual drama as I sobbed in agony. After what seemed like forever, the nurse came in and increased my sedatives.
I was released from the hospital in time for Joanne’s funeral. There was not that much physically wrong with me, apart from muscular strain and abrasions. Time would heal all of the physical damage I had suffered.
The funeral had been arranged by Joanne’s parents, but I had a central role to play as the boyfriend and fiancé-for-a-moment. I responded with canned expressions to the trite and rote expressions of sympathy I was offered.
I listened to the preacher assuring us that Joanne had a friend in Jesus and was even now in heaven. As he spoke the words that I could have repeated verbatim, I hoped that was true for her. Now, I was pretty certain that it wasn’t true, at least for me, but I had no way of knowing about the existence of other people or their eternal destinies, if I had ever had any hope of understanding such mysterious things.
Was anyone really here?
How would I know?