New Year's Eve used to be my favorite holiday, the operative
word being 'used to be'. My first kiss came on New Year's Eve.
New Year's Eve was the first time that Jeff whispered, "I
love you" in my ear. My first marriage proposal was supposed
to be on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, a bad thing happened
on the way to the engagement.
I know what you're thinking: "Ewwww, she's a dead person." Well,
shame on you. You shouldn't judge until you've met a real live,
dead person. We're not all freaky.
My name is Madelyn Arbrewster, late of New York City . Current
address: #37 St. Peter Place and my townhouse here is sooo
much nicer than the East Village studio that I subsisted in.
My new place has lots of space with a really nice music collection
as an added bonus. The Beatles (John and George, live from
St. Paul 's Pavilion), two of the Brothers Gibb, Jimi Hendrix,
and Jeff Buckley. Even better, most are autographed.
Sounds perfect, idyllic, divine, right? Yeah, I know. And
Heaven is more than just great music. Before I died, I had
heard all the imagery: A place with clouds and little angels
that run around with harps and halos. Let me be the first to
correct the mis-stereotype. In actuality, it's a huge metropolis
with Starbucks on every corner (all free), eternal 90% off
sales, and twenty-nine hour days. At first, the time thing
really confused me. Why 29 hours? Why not, for instance, 42?
But after a few months, I began to understand that five extra
hours was the perfect amount. Not enough to cram in another
project for the day, but just enough to have some quality goof-off
Yup, heaven is a truly a great place, and I mean, I'd be a
total wuss if I had complaints, wouldn't I? So I don't complain.
It's been almost two years since D-Day (New Year's Eve is
in three days) and I've made a few friends since I've been
here. Oscar is probably the person I trust the most. On most
mornings he comes over for his daily whine. Oscar still has
death-issues; I'm supposed to be helping him work things out,
but tell me this, if Freud can't help him, why do they think
that I can?
So at 10:45 , when the doorbell rings (church bells, v. grandiose),
it doesn't take divine intervention to know who's behind door
"You get your assignment yet?" he says. "This
is –bleep– ed." Then he gets his snarly face,
which signals the onset of acute rage. (There's no high-blood
pressure issues here -- HELLO? Dead already.) "I hate
it when they –bleep– ing do that!"
Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention the one little drawback. There's
a serious Big Brother Thing going on here. The Angels of the
Fourth Celestial Order decreed a LONG time ago that there would
be no swearing in heaven, because the Big Guy would take offense.
Ergo, as what happens in decrees, swearing was outlawed. It's
only the spoken stuff, though. Big Brother hasn't gotten as
far as actual thought-censorship, so most of us don't have
an issue with this. Oscar has issues with everything.
However, I am well-adjusted, calm, and even-tempered. I smile
nicely at him, with just a hint of moral superiority and remain
Oscar crosses his arms across his chest and because he knows
what I'm doing (and best of all, he knows I'm right), he takes
a deep breath and forces the calm to move in. Oh, Oscar's nice
enough to look at, with dark hair and dark eyes, (a Puerto
Rican-Scottish mix, which explains lots of his personality
quirks), but he's also heaven's leading candidate for irredeemable
man. There are women who might be willing to dream the impossible
dream, but my feet are planted firmly on the uh…ground.
I had never been friends with a guy on earth, but in heaven
it seemed to work out. One day at a time, that's my new motto.
"Did you get your notice yet?" he asks, looking
a little friendlier.
Much better. See how nicely it goes when we follow the rules?
"Not yet," I answer, although I wonder what's taking
so long. Everybody gets a couple of years to adjust to their
new way of life, and then we get thrown tasks. An assignment
of some sort: counseling, gardening, music appreciation, or
needlework (and yes, the projects actually get finished up
here. I was the world's best procrastinator when I was alive.
Not anymore. No, siree! I've got all the time in the world).
When you get the assignment, it sorta the angels way of stamping
you 'Team Player.' Since Oscar now has his assignment, and
I do not, I'm thinking there's a big flaw in the system. However,
'God only knows' is more than an expression up here, it's a
way of life. Besides, secretly I think I've figured it out.
I think my assignment is to help Oscar deal with his anger.
I had five sisters; I've dealt with the worst in human nature.
To me, Oscar is a walk in the park.
"What're you supposed to do?" I ask, more than a
"They want me to –bleep–ing set up some woman
in the City for New Year's Eve. Tell me how the –bleep– I'm
supposed to that from up here? For two years I'm waiting for
something to do, something important, something monumental,
something to justify my death, and now I get this??? They want
me to play –bleep-ing cupid! Can you STOP THAT?"
"It's the rules, Oscar. Live with it, sport." However,
in deference to his hellish temper, I adjust the music selection
on my stereo so that Miles "Choke A White Man" Davis
is playing. I think Miles solves many problems. I spent the
first three months after my death listening to Blue in Green,
and eventually I found much tranquility.
As the strains of soothing music wash over the room, he collapses
on the couch. I take a seat in my counselor chair (it's actually
a Barcalounger, but I take my roles seriously). "You don't
know that your assignment's not important. I mean, what if
you bring about world peace? Who is she? Maybe she's a UN delegate
or something," I say, trying to be helpful and thinking
that a bowl of dark chocolate truffle ice cream would be nice
and helpful, too. And, Holy Ben & Jerry's, there it is!
(Neat trick, aye? Heaven.)
"Christine D'amore," he says, and then poofs up
a cup of ambrosia.
"Porn queen?" I mutter between bites. Just FYI,
you can actually scarf cold stuff very quickly up here with
no icky brain-freeze.
Oscar shakes his head. "Says in her bio she's a publicist."
"Do you know who you're supposed to set her up with?" I
ask, being the kind, considerate, "The Doctor Is In"-type
friend. Told you I was good at this.
"Martin Coleburn," says Oscar, checking his parchment.
Coleburn? What a coincidence . "Not on 13th street ," I
say, still wearing my perky, heaven-smile.
"Yeah." Oscar looks at me, all weird-like. "How
did you know? "
How did I know? See, Martin Jeff Coleburn (don't ever call
him Martin – it's a family name) was my fiancé,
the boy I decided to marry when we rode the cross-town bus
home together from the Dylan Thomas School of Advanced Environmental
Studies and I dropped my Walkman in the seat behind me. It
broke and then, miracle of all techno-miracles, he fixed it
with a rubber band. Together we rode the C train and ripped
CDs (not at the same time). My own metropolitan love story.
Sadly, I still love Jeff and miss him lots (mostly late at
night when the ambrosia wears off, and you're all alone in
your bed for your required twelve hours of sleep), and I wonder
how my Jeff is holding up. He was really broken-up when I died.
Matter of fact, I was, too.
"Jeff's first name is Martin," I say, but I'm still
thinking this is a huge misunderstanding. Actually, it's completely
impossible. Jeff would never do that to me. Not in a million
years. And it's only been two. The whole thing's completely
inconceivable. I scarf down the last scoop of the ice cream,
and then promptly poof up another one.
"Oh, sorry kid," he says, his dark eyes full of
pity. "But people move on. Even boyfriends."
"He's more than my boyfriend. He's my fiancé," I
say, and pause dramatically waiting for trumpets to flourish.
I repeat the magical words, just in case God missed the cue.
These are words I've said it to myself so many times (I
died before I could say them to an actual living person).
I've been practicing up here, late at night, when nobody
but Big Brother could hear me, but it's not the same, not
the same at all…
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