Friday, July 29, 2016

In her shoes

“You don’t have enough points, sir.”

The day had started out terribly. I woke up with a hangover. I had been late for work.

“Wait. What?” I said. “Where am I?”

The last memory I had was of tripping on my roommate’s shoes at the top of the stairs. Nothing around me looked familiar. Who was this man in front of me?

“Sir? You’ll have to step out of line.”

A long line of people stretched behind me. Most had slightly stunned looks on their faces. Others looked relieved.

I noticed the floor had a misty quality. Was I standing on a cloud? Were those gates? Did that guy have wings?

“No worries, sir. Nigel will help you.”

A short, plump man with glasses and a warm smile waved me over. He definitely had wings.

He put his arm around my shoulder and gave me a light squeeze that filled me with comfort.

“Ah, Charles, welcome. Let’s go into my office.”

He gestured to sit.

“Charles, do you know where you are?”

“Heaven?” I felt ridiculous saying it.

“Well, you’re close. This is heaven’s gate. As you may have guessed, you need a certain number of points to get in. I’m afraid you’re a little short.”

I stiffened up. “How short?”

“About 25 million points off the mark. We’re seeing you a few years earlier than we expected, but let’s take a look at your record.”

He pulled out a huge binder.

“Your actions in life were pretty normal. Some naughtiness in high school. A bit of fun in university. All very human.” He looked up at me and giggled. “We don’t actually care about anything related to consensual sex.”

“Ah, I see the problem.” I did a quick inventory of my moral failings, but before I could finish, he turned the book to me and pointed to a section titled “Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.” My heart sank.

“It seems you were a bit of a troll.” I groaned at my stupidity. It was only meant to be a joke. He read out my record.

“You commented on more than 2700 videos. You called the girls and women in the videos fat and ugly.” He looked up to see my reaction.

I never thought anyone would connect those comments to me.

“You seem to enjoy tweeting to female politicians using the account ‘@punchinthehead.’ Let me read this one.” He paused and blushed and looked over his glasses at me. “Never mind.”

I shrank down in my seat.

“You called refugees terrorists? At least you used your own name for that one.”

Nigel took a moment to compose his thoughts. I felt ashamed. He reached over and took my hand.

“Ah Charles, these aren’t the worst offenses I’ve ever seen.” He motioned out to the line. “In fact, most of those people don’t have enough points to get in.”

He released my hand and pulled out another book called “Available Lives.” He searched each page and stopped and kept his finger on an entry he liked.

“Your soul is young and has a lot to learn. Don’t despair. That was only your second life.” He patted my hand again. “It took me 30 lives to finally get in and another 50 to get this job. I made mistakes in every one of them. Some were short. Some were long. Each life taught me something new.”

His words made me calm.

“So, we’re sending you back. But not as Charles.” I was relieved to cast that old life off. “I’m tempted to send you back as a refugee; however, the majority of your offenses were against women. So you’re going back as one. See what you can learn by walking a lifetime in a woman’s shoes.”

He handed me a card with the name Lisa Styles and the picture of the plain young woman I was destined to become. “Take this to Cassandra; she’ll be your guide. You won’t remember your past lives...”

“Until I’m ready to start my next,” I finished his sentence. Just then the memory of my first life came back to me. Everything made sense.

“Ok,” I said. “I’m ready.”