Spring 2018

Purgatory

Carrie Simmons

 

“The last thing I remember is Lil Dicky’s voice on the radio and my car slowly flipping through the air. I am not su—” The man sitting next to me cut me off. “Kid, you don’t have to tell me your life story. I am waiting just like you.” His words confused me; I had lost track of where I was. I could swear a moment ago I was in the ambulance being asked what had just happened. I closed my eyes tightly, hoping to be transported back to where I should be. One. Two. Three. I peeked open my eyes and was disappointed to see the same blank room and man sitting next to me. “Excuse me.” My voice begged not leave my body with every word. The man turned; he was probably in his seventies,with a facial expression that never seemed to move from a solid frown. “Where exactly am I? I mean, I don’t remember getting here.” Finally, his stone face twitched out a slight smile. “Do you really not know?” His voice was a little softer this time. I shook my head and stared at him for the answer. He never got the chance—a small lady poked her head out of the door in front of us. “Miss Amelia White, it is time for your interview.” Huh? What interview? I looked to the man, but he was no longer focused on me. I guess the only answer would come from following her back.

 

The Interview

 

The lady led me to a small room with two plush chairs separated by a thick wooden desk stacked with case files. “One of your helpers will come along in a second—make yourself comfortable.” The lady turned and walked away as soon as the last word left her mouth. Even if I wanted to ask her a question, she left no opportunity. I had no idea what was going on and was starting to feel sick. Was I in trouble? I closed my eyes and leaned back into my chair. Almost seconds after my eyes closed, the door creaked open. My eyes shot open and suddenly I was greeted with a face I knew. My stomach dropped. I’d pieced together what was missing before. Shoot. I died listening to Lil Dicky. How absolutely lame. “Ame, I am sorry to see you here. But I can’t lie—I am also pretty dang happy.” My attention is brought back to my uncle’s face at the sound of his voice. His smile was almost infectious. Only he could make me smile mere moments after finding out I was dead. “So, Ame. I am your first stop, which means I will be conducting your interview. Are you ready?” His eyes crinkled at the corners from his wide smile. “Uncle George. To be honest, I have no idea what is going on.” I suddenly noticed that my heartbeat was absolutely silent. Normally my heart would be thumping in my ears. Now I sat in complete silence waiting for his words. “Well, Amelia, you see, this is your . . . err . . . what shall we call it? I guess your, well, performance review.” His face held a neutral yet caring expression. Still my heart remained silent. “What does that mean?” My voice sounded small, drowned out by my overall worry. “Basically, you are going to review your life, and, along with a few others, I will determine where you belong in the afterworld.” Uncle George seemed unfazed by this spiel. “Don’t worry, Ame—we all go through it!” Okay, I thought. I can do this. Everything is going to be fine. “Okay, let’s go, Uncle George.” Hopefully he couldn’t sense my doubt.

 

-AMELIA WHITE INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS-

GEORGE: HOW OLD WERE YOU? TRY AND BE VERY EXACT.

AMELIA: 19 YEARS 11 MONTHS AND I THINK 3 DAYS.

GEORGE: WHO DID YOU LEAVE BEHIND? THOSE CLOSEST TO YOU.

AMELIA: UMM, I GUESS MY MOTHER, MY LITTLE BROTHER LJ, AND MY LONG-TERM BOYFRIEND JOSHUA.

GEORGE: NO FRIENDS?

AMELIA: I DIDN’T REALLY HAVE MANY. NOT ANY CLOSE ONES, AT LEAST.

GEORGE: OKAY. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MOTHER.

AMELIA: WE DIDN’T GET ALONG. SHE NEVER REALLY TOOK THE TIME TO UNDERSTAND ME. SHE ALWAYS LIKED LJ BETTER, WHICH WAS FINE WITH ME. I ALWAYS LIKED DAD MORE.

GEORGE: ANYTHING YOU WANT TO EXPAND ON?

AMELIA: NOT PARTICULARLY. OUR RELATIONSHIP SUCKED. THAT IS REALLY ALL THERE IS.

GEORGE: ALL RIGHT. HOW ABOUT WE TALK ABOUT YOUR BROTHER LJ?

AMELIA: HE WAS JUST YOUR NORMAL LITTLE BROTHER. WE DIDN’T SPEND TOO MUCH TIME TOGETHER DUE TO THE AGE GAP. HE WAS A GOOD KID, THOUGH. WE USED TO SPEND EVERY SATURDAY WATCHING CARTOONS. WELL, UNTIL I MET JOSHUA. I NEVER THINK LJ GOT OVER THE FACT THAT I CHOSE SOMEONE ELSE OVER HIM.

GEORGE: I SEE. DO YOU REGRET THAT?

AMELIA: NO. I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO BRANCH OUT PAST YOUR FAMILY. I STILL LOVED LJ. JUST DIDN’T SPEND AS MUCH TIME WITH HIM.

GEORGE: OKAY. WHAT ABOUT JOSHUA?

AMELIA: I LOVED HIM. I WORRIED IF HE LOVED ME. I THINK HE CHEATED ON ME NOT TOO LONG AFTER WE STARTED DATING. IT’S OKAY, THOUGH—I FORGAVE HIM. HE WAS PERFECT FOR ME. WE DIDN’T HAVE A LOT OF THE SAME INTERESTS OR GOALS. HOWEVER, WE ALWAYS HAD FUN WHEN WE WERE TOGETHER. I WILL MISS HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING.

GEORGE: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A WHOLE? DO YOU THINK YOU LIVED A GOOD LIFE? DO YOU THINK YOU WERE A GOOD PERSON?

AMELIA: WELL . . . I THINK I MADE A FEW MISTAKES, BUT WHO DOESN’T? I WAS A GOOD PERSON, THOUGH. I DIDN’T KILL ANYONE AND I DIDN’T DO DRUGS. THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT REALLY COUNT. RIGHT?

GEORGE: OKAY. THANK YOU, AMELIA.

 

     As soon as the interview ended, my uncle rose from his seat and gestured to the door. “All right, Ame, we are all done in here—now on to the next room. I can walk you over, but after that I am on to other things.” He smiled, but it seemed dimmer than the smile he greeted me with. We walked down a long hallway until he suddenly stopped at a bright blue door. He pushed it open and pointed in. I took the nonverbal clues and entered the room. Just as I started taking in my surroundings, my uncle spoke one last time. “Hey, kid, I really am rooting for you. Good luck.”

 

 The Recap

   

In the center of the room was a plush couch situated directly in front of a giant screen. I took the hint and sat down to await my next visitor. As soon as the door opened, I could see my grandfather’s reflection in the giant screen. “Hey, sweetie, long time no see. Boy, have you grown since I last saw you.” Grandfather’s face was everything I remembered, the same nose and the same eyes. Seeing him filled me with comfort and hope. He sat down on the couch next to me and began his own spiel. “With me, sweetie, we are going to review your life tape. See the life you lived not from your eyes but the eyes of the world. You can feel free to react to anything you see. I am here to help you work through the emotions.” He offered a reassuring smile and pressed a button that lit up the screen with a video. It wasn’t just any video—it was a video of my entire life. It started out slow: being born, learning to walk, making my first friend, and other young moments. I had no comments; my childhood did not have any major differences from other people’s. Eventually, we transitioned into the years that mattered. I was in elementary school and my best friend was having a hard time getting accustomed to the school. I became her own personal bully, making sure she never fully adjusted. I winced, watching myself taunt the only person who had been with me since diapers. “I wish I wouldn’t have treated her that way. I was awful.” The video continued rolling. I was in middle school and my mother wanted me to go shopping with her. I yelled at her, told her she was an unfashionable monster who needed to get out of my life. It wasn’t easy to watch, but I would never admit it. I was awful, but I had to live with that. The tape moved on. One week before I died, I was making out with my boyfriend’s best friend. I was drunk and could barely stand. I cried for days after just thinking about what I did. “I know it looks bad, but I promise he cheated on me. He deserved to be cheated on. I was doing the world a favor.” I could hear the tremble in my voice; I know I didn’t mean my words. Finally, we watched the accident that ended my life. I was texting Joshua. Correction: I was text-yelling at Joshua. I veered into the lane next to me, hitting the car in the right spot and hard enough to send my car spinning through the air. It hurt to watch; I couldn’t remember how I felt after the accident, but my body ached just thinking about it. In an instant the screen blinked back to black and my grandfather turned to look at me. “Okay, sweetie, do you have any final thoughts? Do you think you lived a good life?” He smiled and tilted his head to listen. My throat felt tight and I was anxious to answer. “I wish I would have done a few things different. I made some really big mistakes, but overall I was a good person.” He sighed and lifted himself off the couch. He opened the door and left without saying another word. Suddenly, I was worried again.

 

The Final Step

 

Moments after my grandfather leaves my head starts spinning. I am unsure where I am going to end up, and I am scared—no, I am terrified. Finally, the door swings open, and the person waiting for me brings tears to my eyes. I jump up from the couch and wrap myself around my father. “Daddy. I am so scar—” My dad cuts my sentence short, “Kiddo, it is time for the last step.” “Dad, I am scared. I don’t think I can get through this.” My words are quick and dripping with fear. “Kiddo, you will be fine. That is why I am here with you. We are just going to quickly review some people’s opinions on you. Then, we will send on our reports and you will be on your way.” He hugs me tightly and then motions to the couch. “Sit down and we can get started.” He sits down next to me and the screen comes back to life. The video is like watching people I love being interviewed for a broadcast, but all their questions relate back to me. The first couple of interviews are people from the past. Those who barely knew me past diapers only have positive things to say. I smile with each kind word and look to my father to see the same beaming pride on his face. The moment my old best friend’s face pops on the screen, my cheeks heat up and I am embarrassed. My father is going to hear every awful thing I ever did to someone who provided nothing but friendship to me. “Daddy, can we skip this one? It is too hard to see someone I was so close to in life.” I am lying and I know I am lying, but I hope and wish my father doesn’t. He doesn’t say a word but clicks a small button that moves the video forward. My mom fills the screen, and for the first time I truly miss her. Her voice reminds me of happiness, and I wish I had treated her better. My mom’s words cut through me like a knife. She wasn’t proud of me—she was terrified of me. She cries when speaking about me growing up; she feels like a failure. I feel tears roll down my cheek. “Daddy, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt her.” My silent heart breaks. I wasn’t the great person I had built myself up to be—I was an awful person. I hurt those who loved me and justified it in my own mind. I belonged in a place just as awful as me. “Dadd—” He slightly frowned and spoke a few last words to me. “Amelia, it’s better if you don’t speak. Trust me.” My last hope leaves the room and I am left in silence.

 

Exit Survey

 

I walk back to the room with the wooden desk and case files, but this time my spirit is crushed. The same lady from the beginning floats into the room and places a sheet of paper in front of me. She leaves as quick as she entered. I am truly alone. My eyes scan the paper, and I begin.

 

Self Evaluation:

  1. Do you feel as though you lived your best life? I was pretty well liked.
  2. What would you change? I would try to think more about other people.
  3. Where do you think you belong? Unsure.

 

I feel confused when I put the pencil down. I feel trapped. I want to be better than I am, but I am afraid that admitting it now will destroy me. I am hoping it is best to just show confidence and hope for the best. I feel conflicted. Let’s hope for the best. After all, you only get one chance to be assigned your final afterlife.

 

Decisions

“I personally think she has made great strides since the last review. She showed remorse for her actions.” Grandfather spoke with confidence. “We can’t ignore the fact that she still tried to justify her actions. That is unacceptable—we really cannot ignore that!” Uncle George’s face was solid. “She is only a teenage girl; how far can she really transform?” “Well, the transformation is what we are supposed to be observing, so probably pretty far.” “I don’t think it is fair to minimize her results!” Grandfather and Uncle George went back and forth. Finally Father spoke up: “I don’t think she is finished yet. We can’t make a solid decision right now.” Uncle George groaned.  “Jesus.” “All right, let’s vote.” “I say we give it up. She is a lost cause.” “I say we give it another go. All she needs is one more time to reach her full potential.” “I agree. I think she needs one more shot to get things right.” “I still think we are wasting our time.” “And, personally, I think you’re wrong. She’s got a good heart.” Father’s words ended the debate. “Oooh, can I be the father this time?” Grandfather squealed with excitement. “I am not sure switching roles is the best move. We need her to trust us. We want her to believe we are really her family. She needs to trust us in order to reach the level we need.” Father spoke with authority. “Fine, but I want more speaking roles this time around.”

 

Father hits a small silver button marked “redo.” There is a flash of light and then . . .

 

Attempt 121

     “The last thing I remember is Lil Dicky’s voice on the radio and my car slowly flipping through the air. I am not su—”


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