My father was not a religious man. He believed that the thoughts that run through your mind are connected to the electricity that powers it, and that after one dies their thoughts exist, but in a different form.
He sits down on the arm of the couch, the familiar couch in the familiar room that is full of out-of-place smells of the perfume of his older female relatives and of an empty kitchen. His daughter is still hanging onto his leg, having loosened her grip, with her sniffles punctuating his racing thoughts. Three minutes earlier he had entered his own apartment and was greeted by a mourning party of about a dozen relatives sitting on the couch and standing around. When she saw him, his wife sat down onto the couch with fear on her pale face and sadness in her swollen eyes, her jaw hanging slightly open with no words coming out. His mother screamed, not because she loves a touch of the dramatic, but because that was her natural and immediate reaction to seeing someone she was so convinced was dead.
He crossed the threshold of his home today after a long and grueling day without expecting in the least that a funeral would germinate in his absence. Much less his own. The wails of the female relatives and unsuppressed cursing of the male ones snapped him to this reality as the door opened, and by this point, the wails had subsided. In silence they all sat, except for the sniffling youngest daughter, and the oldest. She had decided to come up to him and felt his face, tugged on his hair. After she proved the material existence of her father to herself, she hangs on his neck and cries silently, so that no one and nothing but his jacket would know her tears.
Meanwhile now he sits, and he thinks, and he ponders.
"S-so what happened to me? At least in theory?"
He let one second pass, and they another, hearing no answer coming from this daughter. He asked again, a little louder, and though she was looking straight at his face, her eyes were blank. Suddenly she gave a shake of her head and a deep breath.
"Mom found, well, you..? this morning in the bathroom, and she called the police, and then me. The tentative diagnosis is a blood clot, but you were found with a large gash on your head from some kind of fall, and the funeral is tomorrow," the latter portion of her speech, practiced over so many phone calls to relatives near and far, comes out automatically with little emotion, as her eyes look dim and not swollen in the least like her sisters', even though she has marks that the tears left streaming down her cheeks.
"But I left the house early this morning and went to work..." his voice trails off. He is wrong. Or they are wrong. He focuses his vision on all of the eyes look down and up and straight at him, and all through him. He feels like he is in a hallucination, his heart speeding up as he looks up at the portrait of the face he sees in the mirror every day with a black ribbon in the corner. He looks at the familiar walls, but something in their hue seems to be off, and the marks his daughters have made over the years are no longer there, as if they were painted over in a day or simply never drawn.
He remembers waking up late last night, or arguably early this morning, from a sharp pain in his chest. Heavy, trudging steps echoed deep, staggering breaths heard moving slowly from the small bedroom to the small bathroom. He grabbed onto the smooth porcelain of the sink which slipped under his sweaty fingers and looked at the face he's seen so many times in the mirror, his tan skin appearing dreadfully grey. His vision suddenly darkened, and he remembers his fingers losing whatever grip they had as his knees buckled and the pain in his chest spread first to the parts of him that his the floor, and then the portion of his head that hit the corner of the sink.
Then, as if nothing had happened, he remembers getting up, looking in the mirror… In his memory the face he sees is of his usual color but for some reason seems slightly foreign, as if a certain aspect were missing: maybe some smile lines, maybe the white of his beard. But in the moment, he simply went on with the life he thought was completely normal, except for this small fluke in the bathroom, until he stepped into his home. Even his head did not hurt. He looks around one more time: at the family he hasn't seen in years, at his wife, too shocked to speak, and at his daughters. The eldest no longer holds onto him, and he decides to take off his jacket, sweating more of nerves than of the slight November chill. Though her eyes are red, her tears are all left where she cried them, on his shoulder, and he looks to see what stain is left.
As he finds none, he pinches himself to wake up from what cannot be anything else but a dream. The pinch hurts more than he expects, and he closes his eyes feeling something bitter well up in a clot in the back of his throat. The darkness is the same as the darkness he felt that morning – a painful, tiring, consuming state that starts once again to rid him of any feeling and slowly suck at any thought. His breathing quickens, but it feels like there is a stone laying on his chest, and his eyes won't open, and his fists won't unclench.
All of sudden, he is stepping through the same threshold, the same jacket on his shoulders, but a different feeling in his chest. He anticipates what will happen when he opens the door because he realizes that this is his new reality, and that he has nothing other than this to return to other than the painful void that had already engulfed one part. The life he knew ended as he hit his head on his bathroom sink and this is the alternative that his mind had so graciously provided him with.