Officially I didn’t believe in angels, but here one was replete with feathery wings and hovering, glowing halo, which lit the four bare walls of my bedroom quite clearly. When I awoke, she was already smiling down at me beatifically.
“I’m here to tell you about Heaven,” she said.
Thinking this the beginning of a pleasant dream, I propped myself up on my elbows and said, “I’m listening.”
“There are often long lines for the bathroom. Think of airports and rest stops along busy highways.”
I was underwhelmed and showed it by carrying out a lazy yawn.
Apparently, waiting for more of a reaction, the angel remained quiet. After a short period of silence, in which her halo dimmed slightly, she said, “People usually have a lot of questions.”
As I didn’t believe in an afterlife, I’d never done much serious thinking about Heaven, and therefore, I had no preconceived questions for the angel. I racked my dreaming brains but didn’t come up with anything remotely inspired.
“What’s the food like?” I finally asked.
“It’s mostly French,” was the angel’s brief response.
I was somewhat let down, though I’m not sure why. I still didn’t believe in an afterlife, so what did it matter if the food there was French? What I really wanted was for the angel to go and to take the bright light from the glowing frisbee over her head with her. It was a strange dream. Never before in a dream had I wanted just to go back to sleep.
The angel shifted her weight on the squeaky springs of my mattress and crossed her legs. Up until that point, it hadn’t occurred to me that there was a woman in my bedroom, on my bed. Sure she had wings and a halo, but she also seemed to have all the other parts that made up what seemed like a whole living woman, and I caught my gaze drifting down to some of those other parts.
To humor the angel, and to make conversation, I asked her if everyone wore white in Heaven. The fact that she was wearing a blue sequined dress perhaps should’ve been some indication, but I was hard up for original, intelligent questions.
The angel answered promptly in the negative.
“But clothing is restricted in other ways. There are twenty-one outfits to choose from and to change outfits there is a considerable amount of paperwork.”
“So, the bureaucracy has even reached Heaven?” I smirked.
“It hasn’t reached Heaven, it began in Heaven. You can’t imagine the amount of red tape God rolls out on a given day.”
Growing bored, I discreetly reached down under my blanket and pinched my thigh, but I didn’t wake up. I pinched it again, harder than the first time, but I still didn’t wake. The angel remained sitting on the foot of my bed, and now my thigh was throbbing with pain.
“I have two other house calls tonight and so can’t stay long, do you have any other, more important questions for me?”
I was all at once alert and had spinning thoughts. How was this not a dream? My eyes scanned the bare walls of my bedroom and came to rest on the slightly whiter patch where my TV had hung before my place was robbed three weeks prior.
“Is there any TV in Heaven?” I managed to stammer.
I sensed the question was a bore to her because the angel’s halo again dimmed a shade.
“Yes, there is,” the angel began in the dull tone of a telemarketer, “there are hundreds of programs to choose from, and they all resemble Earth’s long-running sitcoms, dramas, and soap operas, only without any sex or violence.”
Perhaps it was the mention of sex, but I realized for the first time that I was completely naked under my blanket. Normally I slept in boxer briefs and a T-shirt but that night, for whatever reason, perhaps it had been hotter than usual (the burglars had taken my air conditioner as well) I’d slipped into bed in my birthday suit.
And in addition to being aware of my nakedness, I was also painfully aware of the angel’s beauty, which wasn’t ethereal or somber like one might imagine angels to be. No, her beauty was much more down-to-earth and wholesome and reminded me a bit of the young woman in the apartment down the hall, on whom I had a longstanding crush. Now the angel caught me glancing down at her pale crossed thighs, and I blushed.
“Well, I’m sorry, but I really must be going,” said the angel, before standing and releasing the springs of my mattress from the modest chore of caring her slight weight.
Suddenly, armed with the knowledge that this wasn’t a dream, and that this could be my last chance to talk to a real-life angel, I felt panicked. I felt like a child again, like when I used to be afraid of the dark. I desperately wanted the light from her shining halo, and the warmth of her face, to remain, to stay close to me. I decided my only chance was to make a more compelling conversation.
“Why did you come here?” I blurted. “What was the purpose of your visit?”
I may have imagined it, but I thought I saw something twinkle in one of the angel’s clear blue eyes.
“There is a myriad of reasons for angel visits,” she began with more animation than I had yet seen from her. “Some people we visit are having a tough time. Some people, we like to prepare for the afterlife beforehand. Others, we feel, deserve a reward. The list goes on.”
“Okay, but what’s the reason in my case? Aside from being robbed last month, and not particularly liking my job, I’m not having that bad a time. I don’t believe in an afterlife. And I probably don’t really deserve any special reward for anything I’ve done.”
The angel took a moment to adjust her halo, screwing it down with both hands like a nut on an invisible bolt. As she did so, the halo grew brighter with each turn, making the walls of my room glow brighter too. Her only verbal response to my question was to say that she had her reasons. Her expression didn’t seem to allow for any further questions on the topic, and I felt I had no choice but to let the matter drop.
“So, what happens on a normal visit?” I said, redirecting. “You show up with your wings and glimmering dinner plate over your head and tell people there are long restroom lines in Heaven. What then? Do they get down on their knees to cross themselves?”
“Actually,” said the angel pleasantly, “so far, you’re a pretty typical case. People are usually in shock. They have mixed feelings, doubt. It takes time to adjust.”
That I believed. It could easily take me the rest of my life to “adjust.” But for the moment, I was more interested in the angel herself. Her loveliness was certainly something special.
“So, what do you do with your downtime?” I asked. “What are you doing after your other visits? Maybe we could—”
“Usually I take in the sights,” the angel said, effectively cutting me off.
I was embarrassed again. Just as before when she caught me ogling her legs. Of course, a beautiful angel like her wouldn’t have time for an average mortal like me. When I looked up from wringing my hands, the angel, I found, was kindly looking up at the ceiling, acting as if my embarrassment had gone unnoticed. I felt the confidence to continue.
“I’m afraid there’s not much to see here in Ohio.”
“No, not much,” agreed on the angel. “Tomorrow, I’m going to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.”
“Do you like football?”
“Yes, I do. I think it’s a captivating sport.”
I had run out of things to say. There had been a bucket of words at the beginning of the interview, and they had all been dumped out. I had arranged them as best I could, but that’s all I could do. Now I had used them all up.
And so the angel stood and smoothed her dress. She stood there a moment unmoving, and I half expected her to vanish in a beam of light. She didn’t, though. Instead, she turned toward the bedroom door. I panicked.
“I’ve got to say,” I stammered quickly, “you didn’t paint an all that pretty picture of Heaven.”
The angel stopped with one hand on the doorknob and turned half around.
“No, I guess not,” she shrugged with a weak grin.
The angel’s winged figure paused a moment in the doorway and then passed into the hall, taking the light from her halo with her. When she pulled the door shut behind her, I was left in darkness, though I wouldn’t be getting any more sleep that night.
I spent the rest of that night, and many long nights thereafter, wondering what other disappointing things about Heaven there were to know. The angel certainly didn’t leave me to believe there were very many wonderful things waiting for me there.
The only benefit that came from the angel’s visit was that it gave the push I needed to ask out the young woman in the apartment down the hall. I guess I figured that if Heaven wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, I’d better do what I could to make the best of it down here on earth. Pretty obvious, I guess.
I could hardly believe it when she agreed to go out with me. A girl like her and a guy like me! She dumped me after a couple of months, but, hey, you have to try, don’t you? Otherwise, you’d make your life hell, sitting wondering what might have been.