I’m in a waiting area. It’s a huge open space flooded with warm yellow-gold light as if we’re finally walking through the arches. It’s moderately crowded with people just like me, waiting and waiting for something they don’t know yet. The floor is grass and thankfully, it’s precisely the right kind of grass for walking through a childhood dream, because everyone is barefoot. Right in the center of all the conundrum happening in slow motion and softly muted color is a tree, short and stout with about a hundred branches reaching in crazy directions like she’s had way too many kids and now she has to take care of them all. But this tree is a miracle for a whole other reason: every time a leaf falls to the floor- which they do keep falling, like drizzling rain- another rises again to rejoin the branch it fell from. To oversee this process, God has stationed a woman by the tree. She’s a little over seven feet tall and inhumanly thin; her face is strangely hidden, but when the light touches her just right, it hits me with the feeling that I know this inhuman creature from somewhere. Surprisingly for that atmosphere, we have a set of doors on one side of the waiting area we’ve been stowed in; it looks like it belongs not far from the front gates of a palace but it’s almost comically out of place in a grassy haven like this. Every so often one door flings itself open wide or creaks halfway there slowly but surely and the woman by the tree directs one person through. On to whatever comes next.
I care about none of this. My twin sister- by my side birth through death and the space that lies outside those two events- is missing. I know she came here with me, we were hand in hand for that part, but now I don’t see her anywhere. Take it from me, it throws you off to lose sight of everything you’ve ever known at a time like this.
“Danielle! Danielle, where are you?” I shout into the swirls of this space- all of a sudden it feels like we’re fading into oblivion and I panic.
“Danielle!” I bellow as loud as I can. Air rushes me, ripping the sound from my lungs and flinging it far away. I can hear her voice calling my name back to me, but she’s a ghost. The sound waves roll in without a being to carry them. “Daniel….” and I’m yelling back “Danielle…” wondering if either one of us can really hear or see the other.
In a shushing noise, one leaf falls from the tree, the sound ironically amplified inside of me. I look over to find a painfully obvious reason why; it sent earthquake ripples of aching from my throat to my gut. Two leaves float down the ground, gravity ever so gently working against them, followed by a bucket dumped down on top of them. My eyelashes are heavy by the time I feel salt brush my lips; Danielle is beside me, at last, to wipe it away. And miraculously the leaves come full circle, rising and rising to rest upon a high branch of the tree. The woman who seemed so alien and familiar before is now just familiar, like a mother putting her babies to bed. She holds out a hand toward each of us but shakes her head when we reach out to her. She walks one step ahead of us, towards the doors.
“Danielle and Daniel, fourteen years old,” she declares to the field of blue. We are finally beyond the door.