Heaven Can Wait
Last time I saw Nick for real was a few months ago, a couple of days before he passed away. I say for real because I saw Nick again last night…in a dream. Before I tell you about my dream, let me tell you a little about Nick. In fact, I didn’t know him that well. Nick was a cab driver. I often take a cab to work from the restaurant where I go for breakfast every morning. Nick’s cab was always parked near that restaurant as if waiting for me. I don’t have a car. You don’t really need a car when you live in New York City. I work for the New York Yankees. I do the same type of work as George Costanza on Seinfeld: something related to PR and that type of stuff. I have to go to the stadium every morning for a meeting, but I do most of my work from home in the afternoon and sometimes at night. When he was driving me to the stadium, Nick and I mostly talked about baseball and politics, very seldom about our personal lives. I know that he was divorced and that his ex-wife lived in Florida with her new husband, and that he had two sons: one a bus driver in Jersey and the other a cop in the Bronx.
Last night I dreamed that I was dead. That was a weird dream. I didn’t have a clue how I had died but somehow I knew for sure that I was dead. I was in some kind of old warehouse. The wooden floor was squeaking and there was dust everywhere. There was a counter with a dude behind it. The guy was wearing a white shirt and suspenders. He had his nose stuck in a big book open in front of him. I thought to myself, “That book is called a ledger. That’s what it is. It’s a ledger.”
The guy looked up at me and said, “Are you Sean Kelly?”
“Yeah, that’s me”, I replied.
“You are in heaven Mr. Kelly…but you barely made it.”
“Whoopty doo! What am I supposed to do now? ”, I said trying to sound cocky to hide my fear.
The guy had a funny accent. He wasn’t from New York City, that’s for sure. I think he was French Canadian. I went fishing up in Quebec a few years back and they all had that accent. He gave me a pair of wings and a harp, and said, “That’s all you’ll need from now on.”
I said to him, “What the hell am I going to do with wings and a harp?”
“Watch your language! We don’t use that word around here, and don’t forget that you almost ended up down there, and to answer your question: We give you the wings because that’s people expect when they get here. I don’t give a d…a hoot whether you wear them or not. You won’t be able to use them to fly anyway. As for the musical instrument, you should know what to do with it. You’re Irish, aren’t you?”
“Can I change the harp for a fiddle?”
“Certainly not! The fiddle is the other big guy’s favourite instrument. Both wings and harp (he pronounced the ‘h’ as if he wanted to blow out a candle) are guaranteed for eternity. Your cab should be here by now. Enjoy your eternity Mr. Kelly!”
As I turned around to leave, I saw him. Nick. Nick was sitting in his yellow cab waiting for me. The car was floating on a cloud. It had no wheels, but everything else was the same. He greeted me.
“Good to see you Sean! Didn’t expect to see you so soon. Hop in! I’ll take you to your cloud.”
“To my cloud?”
“They didn’t tell you. Up here we each have our own individual little cloud where we can flap our wings and play our harp. It’s like a suburb. You have your name and your number in front of your cloud and it’s all very neat. You’ll see.”
“What about you Nick? How come you’re not on your own little cloud flapping your wings and playing the harp?”
“I’m in some kind of transition period. I’m allowed to keep doing what I was doing on earth part-time so I can progressively get used to my new life. You have to apply for the program. Not everybody gets accepted. I was lucky.”
“Can I ask you a question, Nick?”
“Do you miss life on earth?”
“Between you and me, yes.”
“What do you miss the most, Nick?”
“What I miss the most…It’s a good question. I’ll try to answer the best I can. You see, up here, everything is pretty much the same. You never get down, but you never get too excited either. Everything is too frigging smooth. It makes you crazy. I would say that what I miss the most, it’s the emotions, the feelings. The pain, Sean, would you believe that I miss the pain. I’m not talking about unbearable pain but the normal pain that you encounter in your daily life, the pain that makes you appreciate the joy that comes after.
“It’s like, you know, the Yankees are on a losing streak and you think that it will never end, and then they win and you are so happy, and you start believing again that they have a chance to win the World Series. Or you get up one morning in November and there’s freezing rain, and you have to scrape your windshield with your hands ‘cause you forget where you put your frigging brush, and your fingers are so cold it’s like they are burning, and then you go to the restaurant and order a hot cawfee (he pronounced coffee with his typical New York accent), and you squeeze the mug with your hands, and you feel the heat going through your fingers, and it’s so good.
“Or you’re sick with what they call just a common cold but you feel like shit for a week or so, and then one day you start feeling better and it’s like you are born again. Or your heart was broken and you feel like you wanna die, and then you meet someone and it’s like spring again in your life. Roses are blooming in your heart and birds are singing in your head. You feel like singing and dancing in the rain like that skinny dude in that old black and white movie. You know what I mean, Sean?”
“I know what you mean, Nick”
And then we were silent, each of us lost in our own thoughts and souvenirs.
When we arrived at my cloud, Nick turned to me and said, “I was thinking, Sean. Since you’re up here with us now, maybe we could start our own little league with a few guys, just for fun, for old times sake. You’re good with PR. That was your job with the Yankees. Maybe you could talk to the Big Guy and convince him to let us do it. Whaddya say?”
That’s when I woke up in my bed, sweaty and relieved that I was still alive. It was cold when I headed to the restaurant this morning, too cold for freezing rain. They said that we’ll probably get snow this afternoon. I’m squeezing my fingers around my cup of coffee and it feels so good. I’m thinking of Nick and I’m sad because I know I’ll never see him again, but I feel joy inside of me because I know that I’m alive.
Heaven can wait!