I woke up on my couch, the streetlight outside my window washed a dim light from behind the window curtain. How did I get here? Last thing I remember was being lost in Franconia Notch, curled up in a ball in the woods as the snow drifted onto me like a blanket. My apartment was hazy and my head felt groggy as I scanned the bare white walls around the living room of my apartment. The only thing that hung was the dusty mirror above the television. To my left was the stairway leading up to my bedroom, the green carpet falling over the stairs looked so beautiful to me, it was the first time I had noticed this in all the months I’ve lived here. I could hear the electronic music flowing down the stairs from the third floor as the bass dropped into a dirty breakdown. The haze began to clear as I brought my eyes back across the room and saw something strange. The digital clock read all eights across it. I shrugged it off thinking the cable must be out. “Great service Time Warner” I said under my breath as I scanned my eyes and saw my roommates door on the right shut. Suddenly I heard a loud bang come from within the room. I stood up and sat back down as my knees buckled out from under me, man did I feel like shit.
I took a moment to collect my head and stood up more slowly this time; walking across the room to my roommate Mile’s door. Everything seemed almost imaginary to me as I took each step, something inside of me didn’t feel right. I opened the door and saw the scene I expected. There were my friends Al, Joe, Miles, and Jake sitting around laughing and fighting as always. They all looked over at me at once.
“Beans!” they all yelled in unison, almost as if they had practiced it while I was asleep. I smiled at them and replied “What’s going on guys, what time is it? How did I get back here?”
They all smiled at each other with shit eating grins and told me not to worry about it. I walked over to them all and slapped high five like I always did. Joe was five foot six and he was wearing blue jeans and a black t-shirt that said dirt bikes in big bold white lettering. He had the usual Italian short haircut with the gold chain hanging off of his neck. His New Jersey accent was thick but he couldn’t help where he was from and he was still a cool guy.
Next I walked over to Jake. He was another one from Jersey. Skinny kid but toned, he was around five foot eight and had dirty blonde hair. He had on sweatpants and a sleeveless camo shirt that hung off of his slender frame. He was the typical skateboarder, he loved to party. He had been lost with me earlier in Franconia, and he read the confused look on my face about the days events.
“Don’t worry about today Beansy boy I know you have a lot of questions, we’ll talk about it later. For now just relax”
He was right today had been a shit show. Ten hours we had been lost in the woods. We had taken the wrong trail that led us three miles off the resort. We spent the entire day hiking back up the mountain. It was all because I told him to duck the rope and take the trail. I shook off the thought and was glad we had made it out alive. Poor kid must have carried me up the rest of that hill, I knew I owed him.
Next there was Al. His real name was Alex but I don’t think I ever heard anyone call him that before. He had light blonde hair shaved short, and a little bit of a drinking problem. He was a little shorter than me, his forehead matched up to my eye level. He was wearing a black shirt with Albert Einstein's face plastered on it. Behind Einstein there were planets and stars. The planets started to dance. I felt like I had been hit by a bus.
“Wow” I said, “My head is killing me; did you guys dose me while I was sleeping you sick sons of bitches.” Secretly I was hoping they said yes. I always did love a good time, especially when it was free. They all laughed.
“Yeah something like that” I heard Miles say as everyone around me chuckled. “Here Beans drink this.” I looked over at Miles as he tossed me a Budweiser. His long blonde hair matched his Rhode Island attitude. He had on a bright aqua shirt that said “Bianchi” across it in black lettering. He was the same height as Al standing in at around five foot nine. He was the kid that always had the worst luck. Poor kid always had something wrong with him. I swear I always saw a black cloud floating above his head.
“So what’s going on boys” I said playfully as I cracked my beer and took a swig. “We were just talking about the weather outside, have you seen it yet?” Jake asked me with a smile.
“No dude I haven’t what’s it like out there?” I replied not thinking. Joe retorted “It’s fucking crazy out there that’s what it’s like why. Fucking idiot put your head out there and see, only way to find out for yourself.” That was his typical Jersey answer to everything. According to him everyone was an idiot. He only liked three things in his life; cars, dirt bikes, and the color red.
“Yeah good idea you guys know I love crazy. I’m going out for a boo-hoo anyone want one?” I chimed back asking anyone if they wanted to go smoke a cigarette.
Jake was the only one to take the offer “ Beans think I could get a boo-hoo skiddadle doo-hoo” he said with a laugh.
“Of course dude you know I got a cigarette for you. Put on a jacket its colder than my ex-girlfriend's heart out there.” I said as I turned back through the door to grab my pack of Marlboro reds. I walked into the living room and saw my reflection in the mirror hung up against the wall. I could see my long brown hair matted down with the sweat from today's earlier fiasco. I looked like a walking skeleton. My eyes seemed sunken into my eyes, and the bags under them didn't help too much.
Jake snapped me out of my trance “Don't worry Beans you look beautiful.” He said with a smirk. “C'mon dude let's go.” He opened the door to our second floor apartment as the wind came howling in with the snow on it's heels. It was as if the wind an uninvited guest trying to make it's way into the party. We stepped outside into the night air, the world around me was asleep. The roads weren't plowed, and there wasn't a person out in the night. All the lights around Plymouth were off, it seemed almost like a ghost town; like everyone was dead.
I opened up my pack of cigarettes and found myself in amazement, the pack was full. I knew I hadn't bought a pack yet today, so why was it untouched? I pulled out two and handed one over to Jake as I put one between my lips and lit it, I passed the lighter to Jake.
“Pretty crazy stuff isn't it” Jake walked over to the railing of the deck as he took a drag of his cigarette. I looked around us as the wind shifted and blew snow off the roof into my face. I shielded my eyes, but the snow wasn't cold like usual; I couldn't shake the feeling that something was different.
“You mean this weather? Yeah man this is pretty whacked, I've never seen a winter like this before.” I said as I walked over to the railing to join him.
“Not the weather so much, I was talking about your full pack of smokes.” He said with tongue in cheek. I knew he was hinting towards something. He was trying to get me to ask about it, but I couldn't figure out what he was getting at. I avoided the question and decided to bring up the day's event.
“Shit was crazy today man, I thought we would never get out of it alive. I should have never ducked that rope and had you follow me out of bounds. Imagine if we had ran into a bear? We got so lucky I am still kind of in shock from the whole thing.” I could feel my mouth move as the words seemed to flood from my mouth. I couldn't stop my verbal diarrhea. Jake stared back at me with a blank face, his eyes hit the floor.
“Beans I need to tell you something. We never made it off that mountain.”
I laughed at him, “Listen to the funny guy over here. If we never made it off the mountain then how did we end up back in my apartment?” I could tell my argument wasn't even convincing myself.
His eyes shuffled the floor until he pulled his eyes up too me. The wind was howling at this point. I could hear it running through the trees, dancing across the roof of my house. The snow blew across the houses and fell onto the ground, there was an eerie silence among the commotion.
“You tell me beans, how did we get back to this apartment. You don't really remember do you? You would've remembered coming down the hill, or the drive home, or the walk up to your apartment at least, but you don't because it never happened.”
His words cut through me like a hot knife, I could sense the truth in his words but it didn't make sense. Why couldn't I remember?
“So why are we here, shouldn't we be in heaven? Well shouldn't I be someplace a lot warmer?” I always assumed I would end up down in hell for all of the sinning I did.
Jake smiled, “We can go to heaven whenever we want; it's our choice,a ll we have to do is take the stairs to your bedroom. That will lead us to the portal that will let us pass over to the other side. We get to chill here for a bit and enjoy ourselves before moving on. Look I'll prove it to you, you know the cigarettes we are smoking? Pull out the pack.”
I reached into my pack and pulled them out. I lifted the lid expecting to see two cigarettes missing, but they were all there. “See I'm not just pulling your leg, whenever we use something here or in heaven we get back instantly. I hear God isn't much of a smoker but he lets you smoke up there, it's not like it's bad for your health.”
“So why is Joe, Al, and Miles here?” I asked dreading the answer. “Does that mean they...” I couldn't bring myself to say it
“Yup” Jake said flatly, “All of 'em dead, Joe got into a car accident a few days after we died. He was driving home from the mountain and hit some black ice on the highway. He went over the median and hit a plow truck going eighty. I guess it was a pretty brutal crash. Al died the next day when his heart stopped working. The unofficial name is a frost attack and it's when the blood alcohol content reaches a dangerous point and your heart begins to pump booze to your body. That night Miles accidentally swallowed too much toothpaste and it solidified in this throat causing him to choke to death. It seems like the big guy had a plan.”
“So what happened to us?”
Jake retorted “Well you died first, you just kind of slowed up and slumped over. I tried to wake you up. I was screaming your name for a while, shaking you; but you wouldn't wake up. I had to keep going but soon my body shut down and I fell into the snow and when I woke up I was here.”
I suddenly realized what this all meant “What about my family, I never got to say good-bye. My mom must be a wreck, I should have told her I loved her one more time. I feel like a piece of shit.” It felt like there was a spiked ball ripping up my innards. I had gotten in a big fight with my family that morning because they wanted to come up and see me but I had other plans. I felt like the worst son in the world, how could I have put anything in front of my family. I thought about my mom, dad, little sister Julia, and my little brother Troy. I realized I would never watch them grow up, I was only a memory to them now.
“Don't worry man, you can still communicate using your cell phone until we cross over into heaven. Anytime someone thinks about you it will send you a text, and when you reply they will feel the message inside of themselves. You can always call them too, if you call when they are sleeping you will become an image in their dreams. We've all said our goodbyes but we didn't want to leave you here alone, and we didn't want to take you over without you getting the same chance.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Well when I first showed up you were dead asleep on the couch and my friend Frankie was here waiting for me. He gave me the run down on this whole situation and explained how it all works.” Jake could tell I was all out of my sorts. “Lets go back inside.”
As we entered the back into the room Joe turned and looked over at us from the couch “You drop the bomb on him yet?” He could read it in my face. “Pretty fucking crazy huh guy. Watch this, I wish I had a bacon pizza right now.” Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Jake opened it and there was a guy with a freshly made pizza standing at the door.
“Did somebody order a pizza?” He said with a smile.
“Wow” I said out loud after he had left “Does that work for anything?”
“Sure does” Miles said with a piece of pizza stuffed into his mouth. “Anything you want Beans just give it a try.”
Hmm I thought, anything at all. “I want a keg of Guinness.” I stood and waited but nothing happened.
“Miles already wished for one of those, it's in the kitchen.” Al said as he flipped through the TV. “God even after we die television still sucks, it's all repeats of bad episodes. I wish Storage Wars was on.” Suddenly the TV. turned to a random station playing storage wars.
Joe looked at me “Hey Beans remember that time sophomore year when I sprayed the fire extinguisher and all the alarms went off? Everyone came out at three in the morning and we were hammered so we ran down to Main street to hide.” I had remembered that little incident all too well.
Miles chimed in “That's nothing remember that time when all of you guys were tripping on acid and Beans had an extra dose? He put it in my drink at two in the morning the night before my big test and I went and took the test tripping.” He shot me a dirty look.
“Yeah I remember” I said “You still owe me ten dollars for that”
Miles closed his eyes. “I wish I had ten dollars.” Suddenly ten dollars appeared into his hand, he threw it at me and everyone started to laugh.
Al started to laugh “Hey remember that time that we all went to my house in Newport, we got picked up and Beans was so drunk he kept yelling 'fuck' in the back of the car. Then he would apologize and five minutes later we would hear him swear again.” My face went red with embarrassment.
Jake smiled “Remember that time we were surfing down the stairs on a piece of wood and Joe hit the top stair and fell all the way down. He didn't touch a single step, just came down so hard and boom goodnight. He literally started to snore when he hit.”
Joe started up again “Remember that time Jake when you and I blew cigarette smoke under Mile's door. He thought he was clever by laying down a towel so we used straws to blow the smoke in?”
“Aha fucking funny guys” was Mile's only comment back. “Remember that time Jake threw a bunch of tobacco pouches onto our roof when he was drunk?”
“That never happened Miles, quit lying.”
“Jake it happened I can see the spots on the ceiling.”
“No it didn't Miles, it's from the pipes.”
We all got a big kick out of this and started laughing. We drank our beers and kept talking about the fun we had together. We told the good, the bad, the ugly, and the best stories we could think of. We could hear the music still coming from upstairs as we drank. As the time passed we could hear the music getting louder and louder, almost calling us. Finally Joe stood up and said “Well I'm about ready to go join that party are you guys ready?”
“Hold on a moment” I said as I pulled out my phone. I went through my phone and clicked on mom, dad, Troy, and Julia and typed
I want to say that I love you all so much. I wish I could have taken that day back. I only want you guys around me, nothing else matters. I know I was taken early but soon I will see you again. Don't hurry to see me I'll be waiting for you. I wish I would've said this to you as I hugged you, I'll be looking over you every day. Mom please don't cry any tears try to be happy and think of all the memories we have. I know you were always proud of me even when I didn't deserve it and I got lucky to have a mother as amazing as you. Dad I wish we had one more chance to go on a hike. I know every time you're out in the sun you'll think of me. Keep doing what you do in life, you make everyone around you a better person, you are such a strong leader and now you need to be strong for the family. Troy you've always been my brother and you've always been my best friend. Good luck in college and remember to have fun, and be yourself around the ladies. Trust me I've seen your game, you have none. Julia you are such a beautiful girl and I've watched you grow up as my loving and caring sister. Don't date assholes, trust me you'll just get hurt in the end. Keep dancing and smiling. I'm sorry I didn't tell you this when I had the chance, I guess I was too focused on myself to realize what amazing people I had around me. I'll call you guys soon. I love you.
I felt the tears forming in my eyes, I looked up and saw everyone else outside smoking their last cigarette. I closed my eyes and said “I wish that all my friends and family live happy and amazing lives until I see them again.” Everyone walked back into the room, Joe looked at me and said “You ready yet guy?” I stood up from the couch and followed the group up the stairs and into the light.