In Paris Gare de Lyon train station, I stood next to a well-dressed young man who didn’t appear drunk. He leaned over and threw up.
Late that evening in Zurich I had a very large bratwurst, beer, and went to bed (reminiscent of my years-earlier running-around life, only in those days I would have had the beer, gone to bed, and then had the large bratwurst attached to a guy I met in a bar). I didn’t sleep well, and the next day was tired and felt like all I wanted to do was sit down: exactly how I felt during my second heart attack. Fifty percent of me said I should go to an emergency hospital, and the other fifty percent said, no, this was something I picked up, possibly from the guy who threw up, or a reaction to eating too much fat right before bed.
I had little appetite that day but ate a wonderful white asparagus soup in the evening. I threw it up during the night, the first time I’d thrown up in decades. Since nausea is another sign of heart attack, I worried.
In the morning I mentioned to Todd that I dreamed about a neighbor who’d lived across the hall for twenty years in our condo building in Washington, DC. For twelve years since we moved out, we’d avoided seeing Stephanie, who could be fantastically clever and fun, but more often could be manically bitchy and unbearable. As we grew older, she became a self-isolating Anita Brookner woman, according to the word from mutual acquaintances. My dream about Stephanie was pleasant, she in her good little girl mode, which also could grate on a person after long enough, but in the dream didn’t.
The next morning I woke and again told Todd I dreamed about Stephanie. On the following morning, likewise. “How strange,” I said. “I’ve never dreamed about Stephanie before that I can remember, we haven’t seen her for twelve years, and here in Switzerland I’ve dreamed about her three nights in a row.”
I recovered from whatever illness plagued me, and we arrived home. Todd checked his email and said, “Gary, I have some strange news for you. You’d better sit down for this. Stephanie died while we were in Switzerland.”
The truth was a little different. Stephanie likely died before we went to Switzerland. She was dead in her apartment for a while before being found.
I believe in no religious fantasy and have faced death a time or two myself finding no compulsion to think of anything more than an end. But as I went through my sister’s recent death, I didn’t dismiss the possibility of an unknowable realm beyond this life. Not a realm to which some awful god transitions people through agonizing deaths and then casts into hell those who haven’t kissed his ass in this life, but some more twilight-like dimension, without the silliness of organized religion’s imprint. And when I contemplate Stephanie being found dead in her apartment and my three dreams, I think of Todd’s great aunt’s conviction that people don’t go far at first after death. I imagine my three dreams were a coincidence, yet I remain open-minded. Might Stephanie have been transitioning into some other realm and sending a message to my subconscious, I being one of the few people who ever loomed large in her life? No one can know. That’s why I’m an agnostic.
Photo above from en.parisinfo.com