AT THE PEARLY GATES

3 Jul

See them gates out there, them pearly gates, them shiny pearly gates, that entrance to…. wherever.

That wherever over there. This place, call it what you will, call it Heaven, call it Hell, but it’s here that I’m waiting. See me waiting. See me in the shadows, see the urchins walking past, one and two and one and two, little kids drowned before their times, Mediterranean waters in their lungs as they fought for freedom from war and hatred, and lost. And others. See the old men past their times, pee-stained crotches, minds lost so long ago they’ll never find them again, eyes pale, like water can be pale… see them trooping through them pearly gates. See them go!

Through them shiny pearly gates.

And the lasses, breathing like lasses never did in life, breathing for death… pretty lasses, breasts held pert like breasts should be, legs long and skirts short… see them lasses, old crones, haggard, wrinkled, mindless, trooping ever on, through them pearly gates, all on a one-way walk to…

But not me. Short skirts and long legs notwithstanding, I’m here, waiting. Got to wait. Look and you’ll see me. No, not there but here, in these shadows, waiting for her…

Waiting for my Rosie to come to me.

We said we would, or I did. Whoever goes first, we said, whoever is the weakest and yields first and pegs it like all mortals must, then he or she’ll wait for the other however long it takes… and I went first.

It started with a cough. Not much of a cough to tell the truth, but all the time like coughs shouldn’t be. And sure enough it heralded my first step and these shadows. These bloody, unlit shadows in the shelter of them pearly gates. See them! See the way they shine!

Reflecting light, they are. Reflecting light from beyond the gates, the other side, but I ain’t going there, so sirree, not until my Rosie comes to me. That’s what we said. What we agreed. So the tide of folks go past.

See them go! People watching, that’s what I’m doing, people watching like I always did back when there was breath in my lungs and skin on my bones and bones on my soul… Sitting on a bench in the park and staring. Lasses with their short skirts. People watching like good folks do. Old men withered by years and stumbling on the turves.

And now here.

But so many people. Dead people.

Why do babies die? Who said they should? And who’s to carry them beyond the great pearly gates? There’s one there, too tiny to crawl, too tiny to know anything but death, and it just don’t seem fair somehow. Where’s the mite going, the tiny little scrap of … of what? Of meat that’s underdone, overcooked, boned? And there it goes, almost drifting, almost not moving, through the gates, those blasted pearly gates, and me waiting still for Rosie.

She can’t be long, can she? I went first, I said I always would, the cough carried me off, that bloody dreadful cough, the cough that wracked my body until it wracked the last puff of breath from my soul, and I came to these shadows to wait.

And watch.

The old woman, see her shuffle, fleshless, boneless, shuffling along on feet that haven’t seen a slipper since she died, and won’t ever again. See her nose dripping, her wretched dead nose drip, drip, dripping like noses do on little kids but not on ghosts…

And here I am in my shadows, watching and waiting.

Rosie was an angel all her life. I must have loved her, I damned well must have. I held her hand, didn’t I, when the night bogies scared her? She’d cry and I’d hush her, and maybe a bit fiercely but who can tell how hard he punches until he’s done it and the bruises swell? And who can sleep through the fear of bogies in the night, creatures who never were but still are? It’s a crying shame, but that’s the way things were. Who could help it? Rosie and her bogies, silly Rosie with her bruises…

I’ll wait for you… I hacked through my shattered lungs at her, and she smiled at me and said we’ll see…

I knew what she meant. That we’d see. What I wasn’t so sure of was what we’d see. Or when. I didn’t expect these pearly gates and the endless trooping of folks, endless, crowds, millions in a day…

If there are days, of course. Days are things we live through in life, but here in the shadow of the pearly gates there don’t seem to be days, nor nights, nor any portion of time that is measured. It’s just here. And folks, trooping by, into the place beyond the pearly gates, and I’m waiting for my Rosie to come and join me.

Then we’ll go through those gates together. I’ll hold her hand like in the teen days, I might even kiss her one last time, and then we’ll go through together like lovers should.

There’s light beyond, bright light, and I can’t wait to be bathed by it. With Rosie…

How long has it been?

That’s a question and a half, that is. How long has it been since I coughed my last with the pain racking my bones and body, and I said with my head if not with words my goodbyes to Rosie. I did, you know, I looked at her as the light faded, as the sounds drained out of creation, as I left her staring at me … she might have had contempt in those eyes, but I knew better. I knew we were meant to be together…

Whoever goes first must wait for the other, I said, and she nodded. Of course she nodded. I knew I’d be first but I stuck to my words anyway. I knew what it would be like. And, you’ll come and find me, won’t you? I insisted. I’m bound to go first, aren’t I? Paying the price for all the mischief of my life… I’ll be waiting…

Waiting in the shadows of the pearly gates.

Whatever you think… That’s the way she agreed, my Rosie, my angel, and to think we’ve walked through our lives together. Not always happy, but together. Like life ought to be. Like the preacher said when we stood before him … oh, half a century and more ago.

The troops of folk walked in, some slow, some faster, some barely moving, some almost running, old folks and young, yellow and brown and white, all manner of folks, all trooping through those pearly gates.

And Rosie!

Here she comes! Oh mighty me, here she comes!

Her face like it always was, her eyes, that hair…. I loved her hair always, burnished gold, it was, burnished gold like sunlight woven onto a precious head.

But…

That’s not my hand she’s holding… those aren’t my eyes she’s gazing into … that’s not me at her side…

Walking with her, through those pearly gates.

It isn’t me.

And through, not pausing, not glancing my way, not caring that I’m there like I promised, but through those gates with … who is she with? I don’t know him, but it is a him, and gone…

Wait till I catch her! I won’t half teach her a lesson, what with all this waiting!

Because I waited this eternity for her, here in the shadows, here in the painful dark, here where no light shines…

© Peter Rogerson 03.07.17

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