by E.K. Smith
The sound bellowed through me so fast it made my head feel empty. Months later it was still reverberating in my skull. When I woke up, I felt warm iron and salt in my mouth and a few unfamiliar pebbles lodged in my tongue, which turned out to be shards of my front teeth. My body was like a bag of concrete mix, numb and pulverized. There was no sense of time or place, but somehow it seemed right to be lying in a massive pile of debris, inflating my lungs with swirls of smoke and burnt rubber fumes. I was thinking about how Grandma Gianna used to walk around from table to table at family weddings, tenderly kissing people she did not know and garbling up ancient Italian songs. She was not a modest woman… dear Grandma Gianna. She wanted me to become the president of something, a company perhaps. I appreciated how profoundly I had disappointed her, which is why I kept my eyes on my freckled hands throughout her funeral. On her deathbed, she spent days playing with her rosary, pretending it was an expensive pearl necklace, and told me how excited she was that she’d sent her RSVP to Heaven so long ago. I thought she might have been trying to make a joke, but I couldn’t tell.
At some point, I got tired of watching the pandemonium surrounding me and decided I should sit up. Nothing happened. I started to worry that I’d stained my favorite skirt. Before I could make a second attempt, a man came rushing toward me. He looked so dramatic running through all the flaming dust. It was like a movie, except in a movie he would have been much younger and more attractive. As it was, he had shaggy grey hair, a long beard, and bags under his eyes, arranged in the normal order of those features. His baby blue button-up shirt had smudges and tears in it.
“Are you St. Peter?” I yelled. Amazingly, my voice cut through the clamor, but I was puzzled at the warped enunciation of my words.
“What?? Samantha, are you okay?” He didn’t pause for me to answer. “Christ, Sammie, you’re bleeding all over the place.” He knew my name but I didn’t recognize him. He thrust one hand under my neck and one under my gelatinous thighs and tried to pick me up. I must have been too much for him because he fell backwards onto his ass. Instead of attempting it again, he lifted me off of him and placed me gently back on the ground. “Sammie, I’m going to go get the paramedics to come over here, okay? You just wait here.” And with that, he disappeared.
I never saw St. Peter again. The paramedics came, and eventually, there were stitches and veneers and physical therapists. Incidents like these take something unspoken away from you that you will never be able to regain. Yet somewhere in that moment when he came to me, I understood why Grandma Gianna used to sing those songs. A coworker later told me they knew someone who matched St. Peter’s description. She said he sounded like he could have been Rodney from accounting.