Sunsets and Ginger Ale
“What do you miss most about life, June?”
I turned to look at Harold, his face an exact replica of how I’d always remembered him: kind, loyal, trusting. I played with the hem of my dress in thought.
“I’m not sure. That was so long ago. I hardly remember what it was like to be alive. But I guess I’d have to say the sunsets.”
“I remember sitting on the veranda and watching the sun sink below the mountains. How the clouds would turn into soft vermillion and rose-petal pink and the air would become still. I miss the calm and the purity of that moment. I guess I’d have to say sunsets is what I miss most about life.”
I turned again to my husband. He was perched on his favorite stuffed chair in our living room staring out into the darkness. His wrinkled hand laid lax on the arm rest.
“Why is it that we cannot see the sun anymore Harold? Like we only exist in perpetual darkness? It is as if we just cease to exist during the daylight hours. I find myself sitting in this same spot as though I’d always been here. But I know that cannot be. I know that day turns to night and night to day. Why do you think that is Harold?”
“I don’t know June. Probably because we are dead.”
“Mmm,” I mused.
I tried my hardest to think of how it used to be. I knew that there was more than the omnipresent blackness. I knew that we used to have a life, children, and friends. I knew that I used to cook and clean and do other common household duties. But the harder I strained to recall those details, the harder it was to remember. I sighed and looked to my love. “You?”
“What?” Harold asked.
“What do you miss about life?”
“Ginger ale,” he answered without hesitation.
I snorted. “Ginger ale?”
“Yes,” he replied. “I miss the first sip of a cold Ginger ale over ice. The way the bubbles would tingle my tongue and the fizz would make my eyes water.”
“Yes. That was lovely,” I agreed. “I miss that too.”
“Yes, my love.”
“Would you mind turning on the light? I get so sick of the darkness sometimes.”
Harold weighed my request and stretched his neck. “You know I cannot always do it. But I can try.”
“Please?” I asked.
I watched Harold’s face. I could tell he was concentrating very hard, his eyes burning straight into the brass lamp that sat on the side table. The light flickered but did not fully turn on. Harold dropped his head.
“I’m too tired tonight honey,” he said as he glanced my way. I knew he could see the disappointment in my face.
“Why don’t you give it a try, June?”
I flinched. Wow. I’d never thought of that. I just always assumed that I could not turn it on. I wondered why that was.
“Okay,” I agreed. “But… how?”
Harold crossed one leg over the other and adjusted himself in the seat next to mine. “I suppose it has something to do with energy,” he replied. “Just try to direct yourself into the light. Focus all of your thoughts, memories, everything straight into the lamp. That’s what I do.”
I leaned forward a bit and locked my eyes on the lamp. I took everything that was in my mind and imagined all of my thoughts, dreams and memories combining into a white ball. It took all I had to keep them there together. I strained to focus, my body tense. Once I felt confident enough I gave one, hard, mental shove and sent that ball to the lamp. To my wonderment the light flickered on and stayed that way.
“Righto!” Harold exclaimed. “Great job! See. I knew you could do it my June bug.”
I giggled with excitement and gazed around the room, enjoying my accomplishment.
“Harold?” I asked, my nose wrinkled in confusion.
“Yes, my love.”
“Where did my mother’s chaise lounge go? I don’t see it anywhere.”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“And that piano? It has moved places. It used to be against that wall over there.” I pointed across the room.
I could feel myself getting upset. I loved that chaise longue. My mother would turn in her grave if she knew it had gone missing. And the piano. It looked much better where it had originally been.
“Probably the living,” Harold guessed.
I leaned back in my chair and rested my head against the back. “I suppose.”
Harold and I froze at the deep male voice that echoed down the hall.
“That darned lamp has turned itself on again.”
A tall man entered the room in a long grey robe. Harold and I exchanged glances as the man leaned over and clicked off the light.
“We’ve got to get rid of that thing,” he mumbled as he exited the room, leaving us in pitch black again.
Harold leaned over his chair and grabbed my hand, sensing my sadness.
“It’s okay. You can try again tomorrow night.”
“I suppose,” I sighed. “I suppose.”
“What do you miss most about living, June?”
Harold was sitting in his same favorite chair that he always sat. His eyes wide in thought.
“Gosh, I’m not sure, Harold. That was so long ago, I hardly remember a thing. But I guess I’d have to say sunsets. I miss the way the sky would turn to different shades of orange and golden yellow. The way the pastel clouds would dust the tops of the mountains. That’s what I miss most.”
Harold humphed in agreement.
“Harold, why is it that we cannot see those sunsets anymore? Why have we been in darkness for so long?”
“Probably because we are dead my June bug.”
“Yes,” I nodded. “I guess that would be it.”
I tried to recall anything other than the darkness and Harold and sunsets, but it was like a long forgotten memory that I could not grasp. I sighed and let it go.
“What do you miss most about being alive, Harold?”
“Ginger ale,” he replied.
“Yes. I miss how the bubbles burn my tongue with the first sip and the fizz that goes down my throat. Delicious.”
“Yes. Ginger ale was nice,” I agreed.
“Could you open the window? It gets so stuffy in here sometimes.”
Harold adjusted himself in his seat and uncrossed his legs. “I can try. But you know it does not always work.”
“Thank you, darling.”
I watched Harold concentrate his eyes across the room to the window. His face was strained and focused. The wooden window panes creaked but it did not budge. Harold collapsed against the back of his chair. “I’m sorry June. I’m too tired tonight. Why don’t you give it a try?”
“Really?” I looked at Harold in surprise. I’d never thought of doing it myself. I guess I’d always just assumed that I wouldn’t be able to. “But… how?” I queried.
Harold shrugged. “I just focus myself, everything that is in my mind and soul and I direct it at the window.”
“Okay…” I wriggled my toes and leaned forward, directing my eyes to the window. I pulled every thought and memory from my mind, all of my emotions and dreams and pushed them together. I mentally shoved them towards the window, hard. To my astonishment, the panes creaked and the glass slid open just a few inches.
“Good one, June! I knew you could do it!” Harold smiled.
I leaned back, pleased, and watched the curtains ruffle in the breeze coming through the now opened window.
I sighed. “That’s better.”
“Yes,” Harold agreed. “Very nice.”
Harold and I froze at the male voice that rang down the hall. “Did you open the window?”
“No!” A female voice replied from what sounded to be upstairs.
A tall man in a robe trudged through the room and closed the window. “If I wasn’t mistaken, I’d think we weren’t alone in this house,” he muttered and then left the room in haste.
I huffed my annoyance, but Harold reached over and squeezed my hand.
“It’s okay, my love,” he soothed. “We’ll try again tomorrow night.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “We will.”
“What do you miss most about life?” I asked my lovely husband.
“Ginger ale,” he replied without missing a beat.
“Ginger ale?” I asked.
Harold was staring out into space, a concerned look upon his face.
“What is it Harold? Are you alright?”
“Yes, my love. It’s just… I heard the living talking the other night.”
“Yes. They want us to leave.”
“Now why would they want to do that?” I scoffed. “This is our house!”
“Probably because we are dead.”
“Oh yes. I must’ve forgotten.”
“They said they will be sending in a priest.”
“To exorcise us.”
“Now what in the world does that mean?”
“From my understanding it means that the priest will set us free.”
“Oh,” I mused. “But where will we go Harold? This is our home. The only place I’ve ever known.”
Harold sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know, June. I don’t know.”
“What will they do with all of our things? Our furniture?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Don’t you think we should’ve been acknowledged in this decision? They can’t just kick us out. Why wouldn’t they ask us first?”
“Probably because we are dead,” Harold replied dryly.
“Yes. I suppose.”
“When do you think it will happen?”
Harold shrugged again.
Just then the tall man entered the room and Harold and I froze. But he was not wearing his grey robe as usual. He was dressed in a sweater and slacks. A man in a black robe followed closely behind him.
“The priest,” I whispered in horror. Harold nodded.
“This is the room,” the tall man said, gesturing around to all four walls.
“Yes, I can sense it,” the priest said. “Now if you and the misses will please leave me with the house, I will make sure everything is right before the time you get back.”
“Thank you.” The tall man left.
“Harold, what is going on?”
“I believe this would be our exorcism,” Harold said.
The priest opened a fat book that he had been holding in his hand. The bible, I assumed.
He withdrew a folded piece of paper, cleared his throat, and began speaking.
“In the name of Jesus Christ by His blood, I declare His dominion over all base entities. I humbly request that you appoint sacred angels to keep me from any tactics of the adversary created to oppose this petition for release.”
At the priest’s words, I began to feel numb, my transparent body tingling and buzzing.
“Harold,” I rasped. “I don’t like this.”
I watched the holy man pace the floor. He now held a small vial and sprinkled the wet contents about the room.
I looked to my love for reassurance. The place where my heart would’ve been thumped wildly with panic. “Harold. Where will we go? Will we be together always? I don’t know what I would do without you.”
But Harold could not reply before the priest began again.
“I ask you to order all those demons and diabolical angels appointed in opposition to me to vacate the premise.”
“But Harold. We are not demons, nor diabolical.”
Harold locked eyes with mine.
“No June. No we are not.”
I studied my husband’s kind face. He looked tired. So very tired. But he smiled at me reassuringly. Just like Harold. He was always calm and soothing in the face of the unknown.
I gasped as the priest raised his voice to a higher pitch, his words ringing out through the room loudly. “Dear God, I request that you erect a prohibition to all loitering spirits to end their duties and be banished.”
I looked down at my hand on the arm rest of my chair. And where it used to be pure white, I could see the quilting of the chair through it. I was fading. And Harold was fading.
“Harold. I cannot lose you,” I moaned, feeling my words drawl more slowly than usual from my mouth.
The priest was preaching and flinging his hands up in the air excitedly. It made me all the more nervous.
“Harold. Hold my hand. Please. I’m scared.”
Harold reached over and grasped my hand in his cold one. It was not like holding hands with the living, but more of a dim sensation, an unseen connection between the two of us. We sat there, holding each other, watching the priest pace and shout as though being at a movie theatre unable to control the actors on the film. I whimpered helplessly.
“I’m here, my love,” Harold cooed. “It’s going to be alright.”
My mind became foggy and I could hardly remember my own name as the priest continued his ritual.
“Jesus Christ, I beg you to banish them where they cannot vex me. I submit to all of the plans you have in this spiritual warfare I am surrounded by.”
“Harold!” I cried out. I could feel my husband fading from my side, my heart breaking to pieces and floating away with him. If I had been alive enough to form tears, they would’ve been pouring down my face.
Harold’s voice echoed out from far away. It was as if he was at the end of a long dark tunnel. “It’s alright June bug. I love you. Always.”
“Through Jesus Christ I pray, who was crucified for us so that we may have an opportunity to live. Amen.”
Darkness again. Always darkness.
I closed my eyes and was blinded by the bright lights behind my lids. My body felt soft and light and calm. Nonexistent. I was floating. I drifted into the pastel clouds dusting the mountain. I became golden yellow and rose-petal pink. I became vermillion. I became the sunset.
And I supposed, just for a moment, that Harold was out there somewhere sipping happily at his cold, fizzy Ginger ale, the bubbles tickling his tongue.