I had survived the hardest year of my life, that started with a breast cancer diagnosis and ended with a wrap on my 30-year marriage. I survived it. I came out on top. I thought the worst of everything was behind me. Until I woke up in that house.
I didn’t even notice when I first woke up. I’ve never been a morning person. But maybe, in hindsight, the inside of the home didn’t look like it once had. As I made my way to the coffee pot and glanced out the window, I was surprised to see all the wrong houses. I saw Nathan’s house. And the police officer’s. And Susan’s. All neighbors at our newlywed home.
I had woken up in our first house.
There didn’t seem to be anyone here. Maybe I’d died and turned into a ghost. Maybe my trek to the afterlife came with stops at places from my past.
I looked at the framework of where my old life began - the1990s closets with my baby doll dresses and men’s theater shoes, my undersized galley kitchen - where the only counter space was on top of the washer - and the overflowing trash can by the back door. In retrospect, the fact that he wouldn’t take the trash out should have been the first red flag.
Eventually I fell asleep on the sofa. Do ghosts get sleepy? Do they need naps? Is the afterlife just one long nap?
But I woke up. This time, I awoke in another of our early homes.
So now I had no choice but to try and replicate it. Maybe I could figure out if I could control where I end up. Hopefully I would eventually get back to my real house. My home. The one that I had created in my own voice. But every time I woke up, it was in another of our married homes.
Eventually I reached out to my friend and companion. “You’re not going to believe this,” I said. “Every time I go to sleep, I wake up in one of mine and C—----'s houses.” They rushed right over so that we could dissect and overthink every detail of what was happening.
“Is it the doorway?” they asked. “Doorways can be spiritual passageways.”
We tried the doorways.
“It’s not the doorways.”
“Is it the remote control?” they asked. “Sometimes clicking can move you through space and time.”
We tried clicking the remote.
“It’s not the remote.”
We struggled to find any explanation or way that I could control this new experience. We sat on a pallet on the floor of a brightly lit attic. Ultimately, even they had to admit there was no explanation from another realm.
Outside, a London Fog descended that showed nothing but a dense, opaque gray and the tops of some of the tallest buildings. It was bleak, dark, foreboding.
We were out of ideas. I was sleepy again but didn’t want to leave my companion. Would they follow me to the next location? I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted someone to traverse this odd journey with me.
But at the center of the fog was a clear circle - blue and inviting. Like looking through a telescope to a faraway land. We instinctively knew that was where my home was.
“It looks treacherous,” I said.
“It will be,” my companion calmly agreed.
“But I must.”
“Then we will.”
And we did.
And it was.
The streets were impossible to navigate. Landmarks and street signs were blurred to invisibility. Nothing looked familiar. We couldn’t discern any logical direction. And the dark had brought out all things evil.
We trudged the road, wary of strangers, beggars, and wild dogs. We hid in alleys when necessary, scrambling over walls when we had to. Eventually, we squatted in an abandoned building for some rest, my companion talking about any and everything to keep me awake. The journey was proving to require an exertion of far more energy than we were consuming with our measly food budget. I had never felt so mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. The cold, wet gray seemed to seep into my bones. I wanted to give up. To lay down and sleep, but not to wake. Not to this nightmare.
My companion took me to the rooftop of the abandoned building. From there, we could see a new perspective. I could clearly see the sunny spot. We stood on the edge of the rooftop. From there, I could see just how far away the light really was. There was no way I could travel that far on foot. I had neither money nor food.
“There is a way,” they said.
“I don’t know.”
“Can I? How do you know?”
And so I did.
I stepped off the rooftop. I spread my arms wide. I soared.
I did not fall. I flew - unafraid and unchallenged. The wind lifted my body and my spirits. It cleared my mind. It empowered me. I flew as long and as far as I wanted.
I flew to the opening in the thick gray. I flew into the blue. And it was beautiful. And welcoming. And safe. And comfortable.
Home. I was home.