Little by little the things that happened the night before started to come back to her. She couldn’t really believe that she had done those things. But she had learned a long time ago that these weren’t phantasms that her mind concocted. They truly did happen and the sad thing was that there were others who saw her do these things. They were always quick to remind her that they happened. They would not let them fade away into obscurity and oblivion.
How many saw her do these things last night? There was Hakim, there was Rosemary, and there was Leonard. The Three Musketeers, as they liked to call themselves, were always there yet they would never allow for Rita’s D’Artagnan to become a fourth musketeer in their little company. Rita was always left on the outside even though she was always with them. She hated them for this reason, yet she would never walk away from them. If she didn’t have them, she would have nobody at all.
She dragged herself from her bed. Somehow or other, she had managed to crawl under the sheets with her clothes on but there was little testament that she slept there at all. Nothing was disturbed. She must have really been in a comatose state. At least there was no stranger lying there as there had been many times in the past.
As she automatically made her way to the en suite, her head throbbed mercilessly and the vilest taste was layered upon her tongue. It tasted like death itself. Why did she inflict this upon herself all of the time? It was apparent that “Evening” Rita had no sympathy for “Morning” Rita. If she did “Morning” Rita might enjoy waking up now and then. “Morning” Rita never enjoyed waking up.
“Morning” Rita might have been somewhat of a misnomer. Nowadays, it was rare that she would clammer out of bed before noon. She hadn’t had a job in over a year now and although she kept promising herself that she would find herself one soon, she never had the energy to go out and get one. Today would be no different. The thought of scouring the want ads to see what trivial, menial labour was available to her would only depress her more. But she knew that one day soon she would have to. Her inheritance had been almost squandered and what she had left in her bank account would only meet one more month’s rent. Then, all other things being equal, if she did not find a job, she would have to give up this apartment that had been home to her for the two years since she and Douglas parted company. He had kept the house and was now renovating it to appease that bitch Sheila who was never satisfied.
Rita grimaced as she looked at her drawn out face in the washroom mirror. Sheila was there last night too. It was a sure thing that she was filling Douglas in on all of the painful details of his ex-wife’s exploits the night before. Rita could picture the look on Doug’s face as he listened to what the bitch was telling him. He would be feeling smug that he had done the right thing in leaving her. The sad thing was that Sheila would not have to dress up her story too much at all to get her desired effect. The truth of the night before was sufficient in itself to get the job done.
How did she get herself in this mess? Five years ago she would never have believed that her life would take such a change. Back then she was on top of the world. Douglas had just landed that big contract position with the government and she had been just promoted to a group leader position in the office that she worked. Her grandmother back in England, a grandmother she hardly knew, had passed away and left each of the grandchildren a nice upper five-figure inheritance. She and Doug went to the funeral in Brighton and then spent the rest of that summer bicycling in Ireland. It was during that period that she started to develop a taste for spirits. Prior to that Rita would only have an occasional drink and had never drunk to excess. But there was something about mixing the mystical mists of Eire with the intoxicating effects of whiskey, that made her feel an elan that afterwards she always strove to recapture.
She knew that it wasn’t in the bottle but she kept on looking for it in there anyway. Within the year, she was a regular imbiber much to Douglas’s chagrin. Rita had to credit him with staying with her as long as he did but eventually she had wandered off into territory that went well past the threshold of his tolerance. These were the days that she first encountered the Three Musketeers, Hakim, Rosemary and Leonard at the local pub. In their own way, they welcomed her to the fringes of their little drinking club. They were accepting her more than Douglas did. He, by this time, was becoming more involved with his career and would often have to go away on long business trips. When he was at home, he was still at work. His position had blossomed into something that was more than humanly possible to manage but he did not know this. He would only give Rita cursory attention and most of this was in the form of pointed complaints about her drinking. It was little wonder that she sought her comfort with her new friends at the pub.
And then one night while Douglas was in Calgary on yet another business trip, she found herself in a semi-lucid state in the bed of Hakim. They had made love and at that point, Rita knew that it would be soon all over between her and Douglas. The magic of Ireland was gone. Within the month, she had been bedded by Leonard and then with all three of the musketeers in a wild, drunken, orgiastic weekend in the home that she shared with her husband.
This continued for some time before Douglas eventually discovered that everything was not above board. But by that time, Doug had himself breached the vows he had taken with Rita. He had met Sheila who happened to be employed at the same place as Rita. From the office, Sheila had learned through the grapevine about Rita’s exploits and adventures. When Sheila and Doug met at an office party, she filled him in on what the gossip was on Rita and at the same time managed to lure him in with her womanly charms.
It was still quite remarkable that even after all of this Douglas and Rita stayed together for as long as they did. They had terrible fights when he was home and when he was gone, Rita would be at the pub where she soon gained the reputation of being an easy mark for any guy who was looking for a quick piece of tail.
Her hard lifestyle soon had repercussions at work. She was perpetually late if she showed up to work at all. Although she was never fired, she became one of the first victims of a downsizing the company executed.
Almost within a month of becoming unemployed her marriage with Douglas dissolved. Sheila not only replaced her at home but also at the office. The functions that Rita was responsible for there became Sheila’s. And it was not so long thereafter that Sheila was given the title of supervisor, a title that they would not give Rita during her tenure there.
In the meantime, Rita left the house without ever contesting for its possession. She still had some of her inheritance left and believed that she could make it on her own. She let Doug keep everything. She wanted to start anew with no baggage from her previous life. Yet she did retain the one bit of baggage that she should have left behind in her old life. She still was consumed by the duplicitous need for drinking. Her new apartment became a haven for her alcoholic tinged escapist fantasies. People that knew her found a profound change in her character. A bitter and spiteful trait was now predominant in the way that she viewed the world. Even the Three Musketeers wanted little to do with her and never visited her in her new lair even though she was less than a block away from their drinking haunts, the pub. If she wanted to see them, she would have to go to there. And she went frequently but not after she had first built up her blood alcohol level to inebriated levels at home.
Then there came the endless cascade of blurry nights in the bar where she had little recall of what actually transpired. These were nights of fugue where reality and imagination fused together with little definition to either. Sometimes in the morning she might find herself in a stranger's home or find a stranger in her home. These were always awkward times for she would not remember how she got there or how he got there. Many times she would not even have a name to tag on the man. And most times she would never see the fellow again although the odd time he might show up a few more times. But these were all transient relationships. Her only true lover was the drink-induced solace that she gave herself. Somehow she believed that she would be delivered from all of this and would wander through glowing fields of wild grasses towards some paradise that she could call all her own.
If there was that paradise at the end of the trail, it was a long way off. As for now, it was not even on the distant horizon. Perhaps it even sat in the opposite direction from the way that she was taking her life at present. There was a steady degradation in her life. She had become involved in some nasty scenes at the pub and had been thrown out several times. One time the police were actually involved and she had been taken to the precinct’s drunk tank where with little other recourse, she had to call the home of her ex-husband to bail her out. Douglas was not home and it was a very angry Sheila who had to produce the cash to spring her out. They drove to the nearest ATM machine where Rita paid her back at once. She didn’t want the bitch to hold this over her head.
But nevertheless, it was held over her head. The ugly incident would not go away. Not only was she served with a summons to appear in court on three counts against Her Majesty but she also received a very terrible phone call from Douglas that afternoon where he said that that would be the last time that she would ever have contact with him and his new wife. If she did, she would find a court restraint against her.
Her date with court was in three weeks. She had not even contacted an attorney over the matter yet and had no idea what kind of penalty that she would be facing. To make matters worse, a week ago she was once again involved in a similar incident and had charges pending over that as well. Her whole world was caving in. Her little sanctuary here in her apartment was fading and would soon be gone. She was in a runaway locomotive accelerating at breakneck speeds towards a solid brick wall. Her money was running short, her future was never more uncertain, and yet she continued without altering a thing.
The police officer from last week had given her a card for a local chapter of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. He recommended that she go see them as soon as possible to set her life straight. For some reason she kept the card but she never had any attention of making the call. She did not want to be veered away from her self-destruction. And she knew that she still had time before her ultimate collapse. That was plenty of time to stay the course, to continue on in her habits of self-pity and self-hatred. There were more bottles to drink and she would not be satisfied until the last drop slipped down her tongue and went through the chemical reaction to become part of her life essence, her blood. Then let the fates have their will and she will submit to their judgement.
Last night she went to the pub again. There at their customary table sat the Three Musketeers, Hakim, Rosemary and Leonard. Why their lives were not complicated and downgraded by their own habits, Rita did not know. They seemed to be immune to the deleterious effects of the lifestyle they chose. What were their lifestyles? She really knew little about what they did during the day. If they had their own demons, they never shared them with her. But they were well aware of her demons. She led her life like an open book exposing all the ugly wounds for others to gawk at. Sometimes they would give her half-felt words of compassion, but most times they would find ways to make the wounds even uglier than they were.
Last night, the Three Musketeers were looking to make things ugly. She arrived in the pub shortly after ten. She was three sheets to the wind as she always was upon her arrival. She went to the bar and after some hassle was given a drink of Jack Daniels by the reluctant bartender. He always saw her as trouble but he would always cave to her demands. As she started to make her way towards the table were Hakim and friends sat, she happened to notice in a corner table, Sheila sitting with a man. The man was not Douglas. The man was familiar though. He was the officer manager at the place where she used to work, the place where Sheila had replaced her.
She heard him say to Doug’s new wife, “Isn’t that Rita? She looks a bit tipsy!” This was the first time that this man was here at the pub. Had he been here before he would have known that Rita was here frequently and was always drunk.
Sheila looked up to her as she was making her way by their line of sight. “That’s her. Smashed as ever. I’m surprised that you kept her on as long as you did, Jim. That girl hasn’t seen a sober day in years.”
Jim put his hand on Sheila’s wrist. “She was a good worker when she was in. Hey Rita!” he called out to her as he partially rose to his feet.
Rita tried to pretend that she had not heard her name called and kept her face focused on the Three Musketeer’s table. But the man was persistent, “Hey Rita! It’s me, Jim, Jim from the office!”
She had no alternative but to acknowledge him. “Hi Jim” she said. “How are things?” She could see the venom pour out of Sheila’s eyes.
“Couldn’t be better! Why don’t you come sit with us for a minute? You know Sheila!” Jim was never one to know much about human interaction. Had he known, he would have never asked Rita to come sit with the person who had stolen her life away. But Jim was ignorant about these kinds of things and by the narrowness of his eyes, Rita knew that the drinks were getting to him.
“No, I have people expecting me” she replied. “It was nice seeing you again Jim.” At this moment, she was in control of the alcohol coursing through her veins. There was no slur in her words. You do start to develop a tolerance to inebriation after you had consumed as much as Rita did these last five years.
“Nonsense! They can wait! I’ve been waiting to see you for over a year now, Rita.” Jim had left the table and had taken Rita by the elbow to escort her to the table.
Uncomfortable, Rita did not know how to react. She allowed Jim to take charge of the situation. She could see Sheila rolling her eyes and grow red in the face. Jim was such an idiot.
“Why haven’t you ever called back to the office? I had a job there waiting for you if you just did,” Jim said as he pulled out a chair for Rita to sit upon. Rita was only half listening. She was looking at the poison pouring voluminously from Sheila’s face.
“You let me go and once I’m gone, I never retrace my steps. Hi Sheila? How’s our husband?”
Before Sheila could respond, Jim laughed out loud. “Of course the two of you know each other!” he guffawed. “You both were married to the same man!”
“Not were, am!” Sheila said coldly. “Doug is fine. He is in Halifax this week on business."” It was surprising that the bitch was able to give a semi-civil answer to her.
“And your wife Jim? Where is she?” Rita had met the woman several times and remembered that she was a very jealous type. How would she react if she knew that her husband was having late night cocktails with a brown-nosing female employee?
Jim’s reaction was not what Rita would have expected. Instead of getting defensive or angry, he started to break down into the rippling expression of held back tears. Rita was taken aback by what she saw. Why was this man acting this way?
“Oh, you are so ignorant Rita!” Sheila hissed. “Brenda died four months ago. You should have known that!”
“How would I know that? I can barely remember Jim let alone his mousy wife!” Rita retaliated. Jim was only in the office several months before she had been let go. He was transferred in from the Montreal office. There were rumours about him being known as the Axeman because he specialized in efficiency and saw ways to cut back costs. It was Jim that had given Rita her notice.
“Well, if you would have taken your nose out of the bottle long enough and watched some local news, you would have known that Brenda was murdered by those burglars that broke into their house! It was in all of the papers and even on television!”
After Sheila mentioned it, Rita did have a slight recall of the incident. But it was something that never really stood out in memory. “People get murdered all of the time in the city. You can’t be expected to memorize every victim’s name,” she said in her defense.
“That is the coldest thing I have heard anybody say!” Sheila had draped her arms over the slumped Jim whose crying face was hidden in his hands. “There, there Jim. We should leave this place. The vermin are getting out of hand here. Why you would want to give her back her job is beyond me!”
At this point Rita could no longer contain her alcohol. “You just wait a second, you bitch! You are the cold-hearted one! You stole my job and my husband away from me without once giving any consideration to how I might feel about this!”
Before she could say anything more, she felt a hand on her shoulder. It tugged painfully at her collarbone. She swung wildly back and felt her elbow connect into the face of the bartender. He had come to make the peace. Now, his nose was bleeding and peace was the last thing that he was going to make.
“I want you out of here right this minute!” he stormed. “And this time it is for good Rita! I really mean it!”
Sheila was raging at her at the same time as well. But all that Rita could see was the shocked expression on Jim’s tear-strained face. The words that she had said must have been daggers into his heart and it got Rita to thinking that there had to be more than just grief at work in him. Could there also be guilt? Was she detecting guilt? Was something going on between Sheila and him? Something that was going on before Brenda got killed?
“You’ve been screwing Jim all along, haven’t you Sheila!” she cried. “Wait until Doug hears this!”
Sheila’s eyes opened wide. It seemed that it was more than just outrage. It seemed that there was fear in them as well. This confirmed it to Rita that she was right. The bitch was cheating on her husband!
But before her allegations could be given more time to brew, the bartender had her in a headlock and was dragging her towards the door. She tried fighting back and cried out to the Three Musketeers who sat and watched the spectacle stone-faced from behind their fresh round of drinks. “Come on Hakim! Help me!” she screamed.
“No bloody way!” Hakim mouthed softly. “You’re getting what you deserve!”
Rosemary and Leonard turned their heads away from her as if nothing was happening. Rita managed to kick over their table as she was yanked past them by the unrelenting bartender. The drinks spilt all over the Three Musketeers and they kept themselves composed. They acted as if it was an ordinary thing happening to them on a blasé weekday evening. They had never accepted her. She was not their D’Artagnan. She was nothing to them.
The bartender threw her out on the street where she crashed onto the sidewalk in front of some passersby who pretended that they had not noticed the violent act before them. It was as if this kind of thing happened every day to them. Nobody wanted to commit. She was being treated as a pariah. She no longer had any rights in this society. She had the social status of a starved rat rummaging through the nearby garbage cans hoping to find some discarded refuse from those who were accorded some dignity.
What happened afterward was kind of unclear to Rita. She remembered that she was crying on the sidewalk for a while. Then, she must have gotten up. Did she go back into the bar? Or did she start wandering off home? She was not quite sure. She could not remember anything more concerning Sheila, Jim, the bartender, and the Three Musketeers. But she did seem to have a hazy recollection of starting to walk out into the street. There was something about an oncoming bus. But that was all that she could really remember.
The next thing that she recalled was waking up here in her apartment this morning feeling like crap like she always did. She was in the washroom now and she tried to draw her attention to the here and now. She realized that she had not even bothered to turn on the light. It was okay to pee in the dark but she wanted to see her face this morning. She had to see what she had become. Her hand started to instinctively fumble its way to find the switch.
She jumped back with a start. For a moment she thought that she had felt something furry along the wall. She needed the light on. Her hand finally landed on the switch and when she flicked it, there was no illumination. Everything remained dark. The light bulb must have burnt out. This ticked her off because she was not very adept especially with the shaking hands her drinking had created. And to do it in the dark was even worse.
But it suddenly occurred to her that it should not be dark in here. It was the middle of the day. Her apartment was not that dark. It had been light in her bedroom, she seemed to recall when she got up. She started towards the door that led to her room. But it was suddenly so dark that she could not make out where her room was. Her en suite was not that large that it would require a stroll to move from one end of it to another. She should be able to just stretch her arm and she would feel the bathroom door. But her hands did not contact anything at all. In any direction.
Where was she? Maybe she had not woken up in her apartment as she thought. Maybe she was in some stranger’s place. Maybe someone had taken pity on her as she was sprawled on the sidewalk and had taken her to his place. That kind of thing could happen. And she had woken up in other rooms thinking that they were her own in the past.
That was happening now, she concluded. She must not be in a washroom at all. No washroom could be this vast and dark. She suddenly started to wonder what she might have peed on if this was not a washroom. But there was a pressure on her bladder as if she needed a pee. She thought that she had peed. Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she was still asleep and was having her dream disturbed by the need to urinate. Drinking makes you pee a lot. She had grown accustomed to getting up in the middle of the night to go to the washroom. It was time to force herself to wake up so that she could relieve her bladder.
She tried opening her eyes to wake herself up. But her eyes were already open. She was sure of it. She was sure that she was awake. But everything was black. Where was she? She was on the sidewalk and she either went back to the bar or had decided to go home. That is the last that she remembered. But there was the haunting image of that bus coming at her. Where did that fit in? It was just as real a memory as everything else from the night.
And where in the hell was she? There was nothing familiar here. Everything was black but this was not her apartment. She was sure of it. But there was the memory of getting out of bed with the lousy taste in her mouth, the one that tasted like death, and the pounding headache. Was that something that she dreamt? It seemed real. This darkness seemed real even if it was so unreal. She had to be asleep still. There was no other way of looking at it. But there was that bus. She remembered seeing it racing towards her, she remembered its horn blaring. That was real. But she did not remember anything else except that she woke up in her unslept bed this morning and it was light outside. But it was dark out. And this was not her place.
She continued wandering through the darkness. It was very cold in here, she realized. Was she inside or was she outside? She suddenly did not know. Nothing was making sense. She had to be inside, it never gets this dark outside. Only interior places are completely shielded from any light source at all. But she had no idea, no idea at all what was for certain. Nothing seemed to have any certainty any more. Her future was uncertain, that was for sure. But that would be a certainty in itself. She felt that she was falling apart. Maybe she should dial that number on the card that the police officer had given her.
It did not seem to start at once but she started to get the distinct impression that she was not alone here in the dark. It wasn’t quite a sound that she heard, or an odour that she detected. It certainly could not be anything that she saw because she was not seeing anything at all. But there was something tangible impinging upon her and making a presence felt. What was it? Was it another human being?
“Anybody in here?” she half whispered in the darkness. What kind of place was this? Who would live here? She remembered nobody after the bartender had tossed her out. She only remembered the bus. And that was at best just a fleeting memory. She could not be definite that it was not a concoction of her mind, a remnant of an alcohol-induced dream.
Nobody or nothing answered her question. She could still sense that she was not alone. There was another mind here but she could not determine where or what it was. “I know that you are out there!” Her voice was louder and it was heavily accented with the growing fear within her.
She could feel herself roaming about in the darkness but she was not making contact with anything at all. No doors, no walls, no furniture, no discarded clothing on the floor. Clothing. Floor.
There was no tactile sensation coming to her from the feel of clothing on her body. She could not feel the constraints of her undergarments upon her personage. It was not like her even in her drunkest stupor to go absolutely naked out of bed. Even when she lived alone and she had to go to the washroom at night she would always pull something on. She just did not like being cold. Her nightie always tugged at her. She could not feel any tugs. She could not detect the tattered collar of her faithful old housecoat upon her neck. Of course, she was not home. She would not have her faithful housecoat or her nightie at her disposal. Maybe she was wandering naked and half-asleep in a stranger’s house? It could be as simple as that. It had to be as simple as that.
What kind of place was this though? It was dark. It was freezing. Her feet felt so numb that she could not even detect the floor beneath her. She could not even see the floor beneath her and for all that she knew she might be slipping about in a void.
But that would be ludicrous. Roaming in a void? But that was exactly what it seemed like to her. She was roaming in a void. There was nothing ostensibly different that would make this observation seem silly. Was she in a void?
The memory of that bus came back to her again. What happened with that bus? It was coming right at her. It was such a momentary byte of mental recollection and one that did not seem to be connected to anything else at all. Yet, there was something very real about it.
Did it hit her she started to wonder? Was she now in a coma in some hospital bed or worse was she dead? The more that she thought about it, the more it seemed that one of these two possibilities could be the only explanation. How else could she explain the complete and entire disembodied feeling that was overwhelming her? But what was it? Was she in a coma or was she dead?
In either scenario, at that moment she should have been overcome by a wave of self-pity. No such emotion came to her. It was as if she was able to detach herself from the physical phenomena that had been Rita. It no longer seemed to matter that she had thrown away a promising life by duping into the excesses of alcohol. It did not matter that her money was running out. It did not matter that she was going to find herself either homeless or in jail in a few short weeks. Those possibilities seemed to have been forever wiped off her event horizon.
But what was her event horizon now going to be? Who was she sensing nearby? It could have been some hospital personnel if she were in a coma. But who could it be if she were dead? She had never given religion much thought in her life. She believed in a God but never sought his mercy. In her unexamined philosophy of existence, if she were dead she had only one of two choices. God the light or the Prince of Darkness.
There was no light anywhere nearby but there surely was an abundance of darkness. She recalled reading articles of near death experiences, the NDEs they were called. It seemed that when people died they always encountered some form of brilliant light where either God or some ancestors were on the other end. There was no brilliant light anywhere to be seen. If there were dead relatives waiting for her, they were not letting themselves be shown. But those articles also said that sometimes the NDEs were not so benign. These were horrible little tales filled with awful and terrifying demons that sought to whisk the nearly dead person to some infernal place. How these people could remain sane after their NDE was beyond Rita. The knowledge that one was on the verge of going to hell had to be the most destabilizing sensation the human mind could ever embrace. If she had such knowledge, she would surely go crazy. The crazy are never condemned in life. They could not be damned in the afterlife.
But did she now possess this very knowledge that she feared so much in life? Was she in fact dead and waiting for the arrival of her own personal demon? She had many personal demons visit upon her when she was alive. They never seemed to take their time in arriving. But maybe things were different here on the other side of death. Maybe ….
What was she thinking? This was very very insane. She was having herself almost believe that she was dead. She was not dead! How mad a notion! How could she fall into such a mental abyss to actually think this way? She was in somebody’s house and would soon stumble against some table leg or something to painfully bring it home to her that she was still alive.
Once again she called out into the darkness. “Hello?” Her voice was loud and clear in her mind but was she really hearing her voice or her imagination. There was no answer at all. And still there was nothing registering to her on any of her senses. This was truly a void, a chasm where she only existed, she and that other presence that she knew was there.
Was it one of her dead relatives? The only dead relative that she knew she had was her grandmother and she did not know this woman at all. This grandmother would not know her either and would not be so inclined to come visit her in death. The woman obviously had money judging by the fat inheritance that she gave her grandchildren. With that kind of money, the woman would have visited her Canadian grandchildren if she really wanted to see them. She never did. Why would it be different now that she was dead? It would not be her that Rita was detecting.
Why was she thinking that she was detecting anybody at all anyway? If she could not hear, see, feel, smell or taste anything at all, why would she think that there was somebody there? This was all some weird dream. It had to be. She was asleep and was dreaming. Nothing else could explain it so simply and so readily. There was something about a razor that seemed to be the best way of looking at this. Was it Gillette Razor? Was it Osiris’s Razor? Odin’s Razor? O something. Occam’s Razor. That was it! Always choose the simpler explanation whenever something could be explained in more than one way. It is the way nature works. Being asleep made a whole lot more sense than either being in a coma or being dead.
But would she be involved in so much mental activity trying to rationalize things out if she were in fact dreaming? With dreams, you usually go with the flow and not question anything. She was questioning everything. And the texture of it all just did not fit what she would have categorized as a dream or even a nightmare. There was something qualitatively different about what she was experiencing now. And there was somebody out there! She knew it! She sensed it even though she could not ‘sense’ it.
Maybe it was some nurse aide rotating her body to prevent her from getting bedsores. There was an almost definiteness about that memory of that bus. People all the time go about their lives thinking nothing bad could be happening to them but bad things are happening all of the time. Sooner or later your time is up and that calamitous event that only happens to other people may just happen to you. Comas are not science fiction. They happen and they happen to unsuspecting people. There were other articles in the same magazines that chose to write about Near Death Experiences that describe that sometimes the victim of a coma does have some cognitive activity and might sense that someone was trying to communicate with them. These articles say that the visitor should go ahead and talk to the comatose for the comatose find it comforting. The writers of these articles also probably endorse the idea of talking to plants.
Maybe someone was trying to comfort her at this moment and that is whom she was sensing. But who would visit her? Her own blood relatives lived in New Brunswick and would not bother to come to Toronto to see her. They did not read the magazines concerning NDEs and the comatose. Sheila and Doug would not visit. Neither would Jim. And the Three Musketeers, Hakim, Rosemary and Leonard would much rather be in the bar than a hospital. Rita could not think of anybody that would come to visit her and comfort her. If she were in fact in a coma and was sensing somebody by her side, the only person that it could be would be some hardened hospital attendant who came to change the bedpans and change the sheets.
Weren’t the victims of comas hooked up to catheters that would look after all of their washroom needs? Hadn’t she thought that she needed a pee? The dead don’t need pees or else cemeteries would become flood zones. Wasn’t this proof that she was not dead? She thought that she needed a pee before. But if catheters were supposed to look after this kind of thing, she should not have been experiencing all of that bladder discomfort. Yet she had a vivid memory of needing to take a leak. That need seemed to be gone now. What did this mean? Did it mean that she voided herself when the bus struck her? By the appearance or lack of appearance of her surroundings, maybe she quite literally voided herself. But she was now no closer at all in trying to determine where she was and in what stage of existence. Was she dead? Was she in a coma? Or was she sleeping? If she was sleeping, she must have wetted herself for she no longer needed to pee. Still, wouldn’t she be feeling the very uncomfortable experience of being in wet panties? She was not experiencing that at all. She was not even sensing dry clothing upon her. No clothes at all.
But she did not feel naked and felt no concern that she might be nude in front of that presence that she was detecting. But who or what was this presence if there was a presence there at all. The presence certainly wasn’t doing anything at all to make itself acknowledged. It was almost as if this presence was ignoring her just like everybody else had been doing these past few months. Ignoring her or suppressing her.
Suppressing. Possessing. Shades of The Exorcist came to Rita’s mind. Did some demon or ghost now possess her body? Was there somebody at the helm of the corporeal reality that was Rita? Was that why she was detecting something? Was she being locked away in some cranny of her consciousness while some other entity or personality was running the show? It seemed to make sense in explaining why she was not experiencing her senses. Was it a possession or was it another facet of her that took over?
Occam’s razor once again dictated that it had to be something psychological rather than parapsychological. Multiple personalities were not science fiction either. Schizoid or fragmented cognitive states were reality. And alcohol could induce them! Had her drinking reduced her to this? Had she become a prisoner of her own mind and become permanently locked away from the proceedings both within and outside of her body? This was a death while living. And it seemed to hit something within her that produced a lot more fright than the idea of being in a coma or being dead had done.
What kind of personality had taken over? Was there now a bible thumping, born again miscreant out there praising Jesus and being blind to everything else that was rational? Rita really hoped not. They were the worst kind of people believing that everything could be forgotten and forgiven about their past dark lives now that they have found the Lord.
Or was there an even wilder more debased Rita on the loose? One that was ready to wreak such havoc upon the world that it might be in society’s best interest to rush her towards the nearest sanitarium and throw away the key. There they could pump her up with so many anti-psychotics that she would never know that there was a world outside of her or another personality sublimated below seeking to find definition as to what really happened.
Maybe it was this medication being inflicted upon her, herself. Maybe there were no multiple personalities. Maybe there was nobody that was being suppressed by the drugs except for her. But that would make no sense since the insane still have an insane connection with the world. She had no connection at all. The psychotic do have their hallucinations and their phantoms that only they can see. But they still have an awareness of their body in space. She had no such awareness. She had to be sublimated. There could be no other explanation.
Unless she resorted back to thoughts of being dead or thoughts of being in a coma. She could not entirely rule out those possibilities and she was sure that she would have to readdress them time and time again. She would always be filled with doubt about what her true existence really was. Maybe in time, all of the other memories she had as a little girl, a married woman, and life as an alcoholic would disappear and this would be the only memory that she has left. What an existence that would be!
Hopefully in time the presence that she could detect would expose itself to her. Whether it be a dead relative, an angel, a devil, or some other part of her own self, it did not really matter. All that Rita wanted now was an answer to her existential dilemma. She wondered if she ever would get an answer. If she was not dead already, maybe death would give her her answer. But if she was dead already then what a terrible fate was handed to her. In life, you were always promised that when you die you would get your answer. But what if there is no answer to be given to you after you die? Do you just wait and wait and wait?
Dante had described different circles within his Hell. Some were infernos of hellfire and physical suffering. Others were more psychological in their internal abuse. Was she damned into an eternity of never knowing? The Three Musketeers never left D’Artagnan in the dark. The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost were leaving Rita that way.
Or were they? All that she knew was that she had as long as her mind kept functioning to try and answer her questions. At some point or other she would grow to accept one explanation above the others and from this explanation she could expand forth into her dark new realm and discover meaning.
And with meaning, she could build up a new world, a world beyond self-repercussions, a world beyond persecution, a world where she could come to unconditionally love herself and not make it contingent upon ethically based behaviour. A world where she would be her own D’Artagnan.