Diner of the dead?

Last night I dreamed I died.

I don’t think it was particularly violent or painful or anything like that, but I’m really not sure; I didn’t ever have to see my body. I was just in a room somewhere, a non-descript hotel-like place, being told that I was dead. What seems so odd now, but didn’t at the time, was how calm I was about it. I nodded, and that was really my only reaction. “I’m dead, I can’t go back, so where I do I go now?” The man in the room with me who told me I was dead (I looked at him, but never really saw him, so I can’t tell you anything at all about what he looks like) said we had a few hours before we could really go and that he’d come back for me. And then I was alone in this room, trying to think of what you should do when you’re dead and you have a few hours to kill. My cellphone, for whatever reason, was still with me. So I started calling people. Anyone I could think of – if I just disappeared, they’d worry, right? I think a part of me thought that since they’d have my body they would think that they knew exactly what had happened to me, but since I was still so obviously around, they’d be wrong even if they were right. So I called. I can’t remember everyone I called – my mom, yes, and John – but we talked about everything except my death. Everyone seemed shocked to hear from me (well, duh, really), but once I told them to just go with it, they would talk to me. Eventually the man came back and it was time to go. Instead of being scared or sad, I was actually pretty excited – some place I’d never been. It didn’t occur to me, even when I was talking to them, that I’d be leaving people behind.

So the guy – I guess he’s Death? – and I got into a car and started driving. It was twilight, pretty close to sunset, and I don’t know what sort of road we were on because I still had my phone and now I was texting people that I couldn’t reach by calling. I think we’d been driving for quite a while when we finally stopped at this roadside diner. It’s funny – there were people bustling around with trays and food, but I never saw anyone actually eating. I sat in a room full of other dead people on their way somewhere. It was diverse-and-yet-not in a way that highway rest stops are: you run into people of different races or from different states, people of different ages, with different hair or clothes or manners – but, for the most part, from the same geographical region. Pull off at a rest stop in Tennesse and you’ll see people from Georgia or Kentucky and maybe sometimes a transplanted Northerner, but rarely do run into someone from Britain or Zimbabwe. This was like that; a sort of diverse same-ness.
We all sat around in one big group and I don’t remember how it started, but we began telling stories. We all started, naturally enough, with the story freshest for all of us: why we were here. How we had died. A short blonde mentioned dying on her wedding day and I thought, with a calm detachment that’s sort of eerie now, “Oh…I won’t see my own now, will I?” It went on for, oh, probably hours and there was smiling and laughter, but no tears. Never tears. The undercurrent of the room, even with all the laughter, was strangely sad – like we all knew, once these stories were done, that none of us would ever have any more.
I listened to every kind of tale imaginable, from children and old people and women my age, but there was this one old lady…I’m not what it was about her or her personality or the way she spoke, but somewhere along the way I stopped listening and just looked at her and that’s when it finally hit me, when I finally broke down, because I would never grow old and I would never hurt, but I could also never be this smiling, spunky old lady with her wire-rimmed glasses and helmet of pale grey curls. I went back to the car and cried and ached and, finally, told Death it was time to go.

We left again, back in the car, alone on a really dark road. All my sadness and pain had faded to sort of a dull ache, silent enough to let me be curious again about where I was going. I was still texting people, but the messages were taking longer and longer to send, and we’d started to pass trees along the road. The pavement ended, the trees turned into woods, and Death looked down at my static-y phone and said, “That gets a lot harder from here on in.” So I put it down and turned to watch the trees outside my window.

I’m not usually one for jotting down dreams,not when they’re clear enough for me to keep the details in my mind, but the last person I texted in my dream was snowqueene; when I woke up I thought of her and her dream journal and well…

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