He was a despairingly lonely man; made up of the singular experiences he had encountered during his ninety years of life, which he lived selfishly and only unto himself. He lived, he loved, he hurt and was made glad, he failed much and at times, he succeeded, but only in a relatively small way, all within the short time of his pitiable existence. And yet, over riding all the sensations a person perceives when walking about in his final season, he was empty, void of the meaning and purpose he thought belonged to this reality.
He had out lived his wife and mother, the only two persons who were willing to enter into the world of his self-creation. He was childless, for he feared bringing life into this world, afraid of the responsibility for the care and welfare of another human being, thereby causing his wife to be barren as the price for his fears and personal torment.
He should have foreseen death for it was inevitable, but he did not. Clutching his chest for the third time that night, he noticed his arms were cold as if they had been splashed with cold water on a hot summer’s day.
‘This can’t be good,’ he thought to himself. ‘What do I do, maybe take some aspirin, as they say in the commercials.’
He proceeded to take four tablets while meaning only to take two, but his hands were shaking and he was scared, scared to death as the case maybe.
His sad blue eyes had turned a fearful gray, due to the natural loss of pigmentation through the years. But the dullness, which was cast over his eyes, came mostly from a forgotten basement housing a multitude of wrong self-centered decisions. He had been oblivious to those around him throughout his life, people who maybe needed nothing more than simple acknowledgement and possibly some recognition that their lives had value. He was not the only self-absorbed soul heading for his final destination tonight, just the only one he cared about.
The tug to his heart had temporarily subsided, but he still felt strange, as if his soul was slowly disconnecting from his body, leaving him only enough time to do one more thing, such as pray to God or if not, leave a note to the world or to whoever would find his body when he was through using it, more than likely later this evening.
As he returned to the living room where he had spent most of his life, he discovered an image sitting in his favorite reclining chair waiting for his return.
“Wha, what, who, who are you?” the ninety year old man said.
“I am the ghost of Christmas Past,” the image stated openly, which was followed by laughter even though his mouth could not be seen. “No, no I’m just jerking you. I’m the image of your carnal self. You built me one self-centered decision at a time. I’m you or what you have become, disembodied from your spirit, preparing for the trip to your final destination.”
“My final destination? You mean death…heaven or hell? But, I don’t want to die, I have so much I want to do, to set things straight, you know…unfinished business!” he said hoping to buy more time.
“You’re not talkin’ to the devil, don’t you know,” the carnal image spoke with salacious sarcasm. “You’re talkin’ to me…yourself. You’re trying to manipulate ME into buying YOU more time. You’ll have to do better than that.”
“Can’t you buy me some more time?” the old man cried.
“Sure, I’ll just pull a genie out of my ass and you can rub him for good luck!” the sarcastic carnal creature declared.
“I’m scared of dying,” the aged man confessed as he looked to the ground, waiting to come up with a better argument to convince who or whatever this was to help him buy more time. “Aren’t you afraid of dying?” he asked trying to get the carnal man on his side.
“No,” he replied. “I’ve always been dead. That is the purpose of carnality, to be the presence of death in each person’s soul, so as to struggle against faith for the dominion of each creation. Your self-centered decisions and actions caused death to rule your destiny.”
“But I am still alive and living in this body no matter how frail and weak it is. I can’t be dead inside as long as I’m walking about, can I?” the old man pondered out loud.
“You’ve been dead since you were two!” carnality declared. “Look!”
Just then, a flash of light blinded the old man from inside his mind’s eye. As he regained his balance, his thoughts were taken over by images of his childhood, teleported back to when he was only two years old, when he was walking around in diapers, entertaining his parent’s guest by running into walls, falling down and then seeing who was looking or sometimes bending over and looking between his legs to the laughter and applause from the onlookers sitting around the kitchen of his mother’s house. He was mischievous to be sure.
“He’s so precious,” a female friend of his mother would say.
Or “That’s adorable,” another woman would exclaim.
He was indeed cute as a child, could have been a child model, but that could have been / would have been possibility was stacked neatly on top of many other ones inside the impenetrable vault of his psyche.
As he looked into the loving eyes of his mother, still raptured by the vision, he being the light of her life, her baby, it retched his soul, being grieved for not ever telling her how much he loved her and longing to do so, even though she had been dead now for these thirty years. He wept, first sobbing, then weeping bitterly with tears that drenched the front of his shirt. How could he have been so self-absorbed that he could not have entered into her joy and reflect the love back to her that she had poured into him, who was the only sole recipient of her adoration?
But his life had always been about himself and so now his well was empty of every good feeling and emotion, filled to the top only with regret.
“Why are you doing this to me?” the old man lamented.
“It is customary for a soul to review his life before his death,” the carnal man intimated.
“My heart can’t take this flood of painful memories,” he said hoping for mercy. “Please, no more!”
“Why are you asking me for anything? I’m just here for the ride!” carnality replied.
Another flash of light entered into his mind, which blinded the old man for a moment and then faded away. Now, he envisioned himself standing over his mother’s grave, weeping as the wind blew his hair to one side. He was standing in front of the coffin, which held the precious remains of his biggest fan and protector. He recalled how many times she had loaned him money during his adult life, even though she didn’t have it to spare. Because of this, she would cut the heat way down during the winter, so she could afford to help her adult son through one more month of unemployment and life squandering.
Oh, if he could do it all over again, if he could only say another word to her, so she could know that she got the job done in raising her son, or at least, he could make her believe it, so she could die in peace.
But she didn’t die in peace. She died by neglect, alone in a house without electricity and food, because he was too busy to come over and check on her welfare, with the exception of when he needed to “borrow” something. He might have prolonged her life if he had only cared enough to sit with her every once in awhile. But now, all that was left was for him to weep…and then weep even more for what seemed like hours, but in actual time, he agonized for only a few minutes.
Standing beside him at his mother’s funeral was his devoted wife, who’s own eyes had become dull from a life solely purposed of taking care of him. Her delight in living was lost to her, for she never had the time or money to pursue the desires of her heart and now, no longer the desire to put her worn looking hands to any activity which took her away from fulfilling her husbands whims, as much whim as a poor man can have.
His wife died in a head on car accident late one Saturday night while hurrying to the store in order to get there before they closed so she could buy some ice cream, chocolate ripple for her husband who demanded it and was angry it was not in the house. He cried only because he was lonely and would have to fend for himself. He would never remarry. Who would have him?
He was startled now and breathless. He could see that his life passed too quickly, like driftwood being propelled toward a waterfall by a rushing current. He had never been reflective before in his life and wondered why now at 90 years of age he should experience emotions he did not feel when they had originally happened so many years ago.
“What if I made you a deal? If I can have more time…” the old man said who was up to his manipulations once again, “…I will find you someone else to take my place,” he said as an idea entered his still crafty mind. “If I can find someone who was interested enough in ‘My Story’ to feel empathy for me, could you take that person instead of me?”
“Well you’re asking the wrong person, but…I know someone who knows someone who might be interested,” the source of evil replied, considering the intriguing offer and wondering what the old man was up to.
The old man went to his desk and began to type the story you are now reading when a third flash of light jolted him, causing him to be catapulted back into high school. He was seeing an image of a young girl who he once knew as Becky, who now stood before him as real as when he went out with her once after school. She thought him to be handsome and a gentleman and so agreed to go out with him to the school dance after he told her he had bought a car for the occasion. What he actually had done was borrow his mother’s car while she was cooking supper one Friday evening. He left her a note that he was going to the store, figuring he would smooth things over whenever he got home later that night, knowing she would never punish him, only cry. If he could look into his mother’s tearful eyes and feel nothing, then he was well on his way to a life of living only unto himself.
He picked Becky up and drove to the dance traveling some back roads so to find a spot to make out. She had a proper up bringing and was not wise to the things of the world. He wasn’t either, but his selfishness more than made up for it.
After he had parked behind a grove of trees, he began to move his hands over her body without even a kiss or a kind word as she began to struggle to get away. As she pushed against him with her feet, he continued to lunge for her until the driver side door flew open and out she fell onto the dirt beside the road. She ran not knowing where to go as he hurriedly sped off, heading toward the school dance to brag about how he had manhandled her and got what he wanted.
When she arrived to school the following Monday, she was horrified to hear of the rumors he had spread about the encounter and abruptly left the school, never to return. He never found out what had happened to her. Until that moment, he never cared.
After snapping out of the vision he discovered everything around him was becoming surreal. He continued writing for about an hour with the carnal man looking over his shoulder until he had written everything you have read to this moment and then proceeded to open the front door to get a breath of fresh air. He noticed the darkness outside this particular night looked brighter than usual. After his dogs went out to do their business he shut the door still feeling sort of strange. He had never suffered these kinds of symptoms before.
“So, who do you have in mind to take your place at the judgement seat?” the carnal image inquired.
The old man merely pointed to the singular soul who is reading this story as it is being written.
The carnal soul looked through the veil, which separates the writer from the reader and said with surprise. “You!” he said looking straight at you the reader. “You are taking his place in death!”
Turning back toward the old man he asked, “Why should the reader of this story take your place?”
“The deal was that someone would take my place who empathized with my story. The reader is now reading every word I’m writing of my last remaining hours. If the reader wasn’t interested in my life, they wouldn’t be reading this now, wouldn’t you say,” the aging man explained convincingly to the epitome of his evil self.
At his last word, like a flash the old man was gripped again with a remembrance dating back to when he was six years old, while accompanying his mother at a neighborhood general store. He had stolen a small bottle of glue for no particular reason, other than to see what it was like to steal something and if he could get away with it. He did. It was one of many incidents that shaped his life early on; all very small like bricks tightly fitted together that built the infrastructure of his personal psyche.
Then like lightening, another incident came into view of a time later on in life and yet much similar to the stealing of the glue memory. He was accompanying his mother on vacation when he was about twelve years of age as they were walking into a novelty store which was a part of the local area strip mall, when he spied a deck of cards adorned with pictures of partially dressed women, which fascinated him. He grabbed a deck without anyone seeing him and went to the back of the store to examine them more closely. What he did not realize at the time was he ‘had’ been seen and was being followed by the store manager. When he finally noticed the man surveying his every move, he knew he was in trouble. He was too embarrassed for his mother to find out what he had done so he, in an obvious manner, placed the cards back where he had found them, opened of course, for he had ripped off the wrapper in order to view them unimpeded. He never knew if the man who had watched him had ever reported this incident to his mother, he just hoped for the best.
Faster and faster each new image flashed across his mind, piercing into his spirit. Now he saw himself wearing fourth grade clothes while grocery shopping with his mother. They were parted for only a short time, but more than enough time for him to travel to the front of the store toward the cash registers. As he stood beside the cashier while her back was turned handing change to a customer, instead of stealing money from her drawer, he pounded as many of the keys as he could before she turned back around to see what he had done. When the cashier saw the keys wedged close to the register, she called for the store manager who in turn called for the boy’s mother over the intercom to come and get this mischievous brat with the red shirt and brown trousers at the store’s office. I’m sure she knew right away that he had done something wrong once again, which caused her stomach to be knotted up, a sensation she knew all too well.
He had once again snapped back into his present reality, but this time he felt his arms weakening and strength leaving his body as he traveled from his chair into the kitchen for a glass of water, being parched from crying so hard and for so long. As he opened the cabinet, he saw this time an even quicker flash of light, followed by and image of an old fashion canister of sugar falling from the shelf, hitting the kitchen counter top and spilling onto the floor. He was a child again, sitting on the floor and drawing pictures in the spilt sugar with his fingers while making a mess on his mother’s kitchen floor.
His mother walked in and exclaimed, “What are you doing?”
He looked up with a half smile and said, “Sugar taste good mommy!” learning even at a young age how to get his way and play his mother for whatever he wanted.
As the vision began to wane, darkness covered his face and the light of his recollection faded away, finding that he was once again in his own kitchen with no mess on the floor. As he reviewed many more painful memories that night, each tugging at his heart making him weaker at each memories end, he wrote every word under the watchful glare of his carnal man. Each remembrance had come to him as if they were implanted in his thoughts by some powerful being. Maybe it was God who was reaching out to him or maybe it was his life passing before his eyes as they say happens when you die. All he knew was that he was sad and was discovering for the first time that life wasn’t only about him. Maybe if he had accepted that truth earlier, he could have made something of his life and have had fewer regrets.
“I think they call it unfinished business,” he said out loud as if talking to the unseen sender of the previous past recollections.
And with that, he grabbed his chest and tried to breath, but was unable to get air through his nasal passages. The pain in his chest had come back with a vengeance and he desperately gasped for his next breath, but none came. He hurried over to the medicine cabinet and tried to take another aspirin, but being unable to breath, he couldn’t swallow the tablet.
He called out to God as a last resort, “God, save me, I don’t want to die!”
And with that, he heard a voice audibly and resounding throughout the room, “Now you ask me?”
The old man’s plan worked, but not as he had devised. He died before his body had hit the floor and was escorted to eternal punishment in flames suffering in torment for all time to come, even as you are now reading the conclusion of his story.
But the carnal soul did not accompany the old man. He is now translating himself from these writings to you the reader to assist your carnal one and be your guide and adviser, persuading you to decide each direction for your own self-centered interest, until the last moments of your story have been written.
The carnal one rarely loses.
Copyright © 2009 Mark Edgemon