I once had a conversation with a dead man. He was an odd old man in a navy blue three-piece suit. Odder still is how he came to be seated before me. I just looked up one moment and he was there. Without sound or blur of movement. He was simply seated there, watching me as if studying something rare and intriguing.
We’ll speed through my reactions, shock, fear, and comprehension at his claim to be dead. To ease my apparent doubt at his claim, the old man grabbed one of my pens and proceeded to nonchalantly jab it directly into his right ear. After that event, and a series of others, while I was still quite scared and shocked, I was more intrigued by this old man. I’m quite the odd individual as well.
Pleasantries were exchanged and tea was poured. I had a lot of questions. First, his name. He couldn’t remember his name, but had a vague feeling that it began with the letter “R.” I had figured since he couldn’t recall his name, he wouldn’t remember how he died…
“Oh, no, I remember,” R remarked, taking a sip of tea. “I died quite splendidly, by firing squad.”
“W-why? Where you a criminal?”
“Perhaps,” he shrugged.
I told him my name and how long I’ve been alive, of which he seemed to pity me for.
“You never realize just how exhausting breathing is, until you no longer need to.”
I told R of my dreams and aspirations. I wowed him with the adventurous tales of my childhood and the misdeeds of a misguided youth. I shared my stories of love and heartbreak, triumphs and mistakes. We toasted to the ones we both lost.
He was married in his previous life. A family of five; his wife, himself, two daughters, and a mutt. R doesn’t remember as much from his time alive as he would like, but the memories of his family stand the test of time.
More questions were tossed back and forth. He doesn’t remember when he died, or on which continent, but he has been to many places and seen the progress of the living from different nations. He stopped and talked to many, just like now – language didn’t seem to be a problem. He retold some of these journeys with me.
As to why he was here and why he revealed himself.
“Idle curiosity,” he answered.
“What made you want to talk to me?” I asked. “What makes me so special?”
“Nothing,” he responded, and I couldn’t help but laugh at this bluntness.
Time flew by without me noticing. More tea was poured and we were coming to the end of our conversation. It was time for him to leave. Before he left, he decides to impart the secrets of death as he sees and understands it, a “parting gift,” he called it. He explained the horrors and wonders of death with such eloquence and with such weight, that it is hard for me to fully grasp and have failed many times afterward to regurgitate. While trying to take in the weight of that knowledge, I then asked R the meaning of life.
“How should I know? I’m dead.” He chuckled. “You’re alive, shouldn’t you know?”
“No, I doubt anyone does,” I responded,” let alone me.”
The old man seemed to ponder for a moment, then smiled and said.
“Then perhaps you’re not meant to know.”
And with that, he left.