Final Semester Final Final
“Hello there, Mr. Yaroch. I hope you haven't been waiting too long.” He said. I had, and while I was a bit annoyed, I could understand the circumstance. Plus, this is heaven; he's St. Peter, who the hell am I to complain?
“The line to get in here was a little long”, I said. That was a bit of a mischaracterization, you see, the line to get here was ridiculously long. It was understandable; judgment day is going to be crowded, but you'd think that heaven would have a better organizational system.
Processing took what felt like forever, which must have felt like nothing to the people that have been here for, well, forever. But after all was said and done, after we had cleared through the lines and been given our various nametags and put into our various buildings, and after waiting in what has to be the most boring waiting room that I've ever sat in, we were here, ready to be interviewed. At this point, the only thing I could think of was that this was the most important day of my afterlife, and I hadn't even ironed my shirt.
You see, when the judgment comes, it comes quickly, too quickly to do your laundry. As if I would've done it anyway.
I remember it being Tuesday. Why would you have the judgment be on a Tuesday, anyway? Monday, I could understand, if you do it Monday, you're giving everyone a break for the rest of the workweek. Wednesday would be fine, because everyone's in the flow on Wednesday, the hard stuff is behind them, the good stuff is coming. Tuesday though, Tuesday is right in the middle of the hard stuff. You've done your time on Monday, starting to trudge through the week, and the only gift you have is that at least Monday won't be as bad as Tuesday. The only thing that Tuesday has, the only benefit is hope for better. Tuesday's as bad as it gets, and even with his infinite wisdom, that's when God decided to end it all.
“Yaroch.” Peter said, “What is that? German?” I get this from time to time. “No. Polish” I replied. “Oh good, I was afraid I'd have to kick you out of here right away.” I hoped he was joking. “I'm joking.” He assured me. I was nervous, very nervous. The last time I had been in an interview like this, it was for a job at a library. A job that I didn't get. This was not a gig that I could afford to not get. This was either perform and have eternal bliss, or fail and say hello to damnation.
“You know what? It's a nice day out, you mind if we do this while walking?” I was a little perplexed by the question. Here I was, completely prepared for the most formal of all interviews, and he wants to take a promenade through the campus. “Hey, you're the boss” I said. “Not quite.” He nodded upwards, “But close.”
We got up from the office, which wasn't nearly as impressive as you'd think a heavenly office to be. In all honesty, it felt a lot like a dentist's office - pristine white was the entire range of the color palette, and the receptionist's desk looked just like my old dentist's one, with a thick long, winding table dividing you from the secretary's workspace. The magazines in the waiting room were even out of date.
We left the building and came out into a park-like area in the back. The world outside the office wasn't on fluffy clouds and veiled in a white haze; it was beautiful and green, with various flowers all around, but nothing too vibrant. Peter saw the look on my face. “Not what you thought it'd be, huh? That's most people's reaction.” “I remember as a kid, people would tell me that heaven was whatever you wanted it to be. That everyone has their own different one.” I said. “If that was the case, how could we afford to keep the place up?” he said, not really joking.
“Anyway, we should get on with this interview.” He lifted his clipboard and shuffled around in his pockets. “Oh damn it. Do you have a pen?” he asked. I reached into my left pocket where I had always kept one on earth, and there it was. I handed the pen to him, and I saw him notice my untidiness. “Heh. I didn't have time to do laundry.” I was embarrassed. “Like it would've mattered. We've seen you do laundry, and I don't think that an iron and a few sprays of Febreeze are going to save you anyway.”
“On with the evaluation. So your full name is?” I stressed my middle name, "Christian"; a middle name that has annoyed me for a long time but looked like it would come in handy here. “Mhmm. And you were born where exactly?” “Well, I was born in Alaska, but, but don't you have all of this already?” It confused me that he would know about my unorthodox laundry methods, but not my basic information. “Yes, well, we usually ask it to make the interview feel more casual. A lot of people are very nervous when they do this. Are you nervous?” “No, not really.” I lied. “Don't lie.” He said. “Okay, yes, but you understand.” Why I would be so stupid as to lie on their interview for eternity, I'll never know. “Yes, I understand. So, why do you think that you should be allowed into heaven?” This was a pretty direct question, and I felt like I should provide the best answer possible, so I thought about it. And thought about it. Why did I deserve it? Did I deserve it? Well, it didn't matter now, I needed any justification that I could muster to get in. “Well, on earth, I was, um, I was a nice person. I was helpful, I wasn't greedy, I made people laugh” I was searching his face for any reaction, to see where I should embellish, but his expression was stone cold. “I volunteered a little, I went to church.” “Don't lie.” He caught me. “Well, I went to church when I was little.” “And why did you stop?' I really didn't want to answer this question. “Well, because, when I was 12, I um, I wanted to rebel against organized religion, back then, um, I was fighting to truly know God, I was trying to be faithful, I was…” “An atheist.”
Shit. He knew.
“Okay, yeah, I am…well, I guess I was, an atheist. I guess you really can't be one now.” I was dreading this. “No, it's kind of hard to argue against God when you're sitting in his house.” He didn't look disappointed. That struck me as odd. “So wait,” I said, “I'm not kicked out for that? You accept atheists?” “Oh yeah, we've got tons of them up here. Atheists, Agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, we let everyone up. Hell, there are more Buddhists up here than Christians.” He chuckled. “Seriously?” I was floored. “Yep. There's a lot of misinformation going on down there about us. Look, if you're a good person, if you led a good life, regardless of your beliefs, you'll get in. Unless you're a lawyer.” I laughed, but quickly stopped. Again I asked, “Seriously?!” “No, it's just a joke. You see, we let the Jews in too.” Wait a second, I thought. “Wait a second,” I said, “did you just say hell?” “Yes,” he said, “why? Oh, you think that we care about swearing? You actually think that with all of the death and violence and horrible things that go on in the world on a daily basis, that we're worried about the seven words you can't say on television?” “Well, no, I didn't. I mean, I did, I guess, but…well, I just never thought…I never thought that this place would be so…” “Rational?” “Well, yeah.” I said. “Don't worry about it. Rationality is what we hang our hats on up here. The guys in hell, those guys are the crazy ones.”
“We're deviating again” he motioned to his clipboard. “Let's see. What would you have liked to have done with your life?” “Created world peace.” I quickly answered. “Okay Miss America. Now what really?” I had to think again. I was only 20 when this thing happened. I had hardly figured out what I wanted to do for that week let alone for the rest of my life. I told him what I had told everyone up to that point. “Well, I was an English and Philosophy major, so I guess I wanted to write. Or at least teach. I kind of wanted to work in publishing, actually.” I felt all over the place with my answers. “You're lying again. What did you really want to do? What was your ambition?” “Does it matter?” I asked. “Of course it does! Ambition's all we have most of the time.” So I thought some more. I figured I shouldn't just tell him what he'd want to hear, I should tell him the truth. “Well, I've always loved movies. Like, a lot. I guess I always wanted to be a filmmaker.” “See, that wasn't so hard. What kind of movies would you have made?” This seemed like a silly question. “Well, I'd really have loved to have made a great film noir. I love those, and people don't make enough of them. Well, didn't. I really liked lighting in film, and noir had that cool theatrical lighting.”
I could feel myself beginning to ramble on like I often did on earth about movies. I'm something of a film buff. Okay, a film nerd. Buff sounds too important, when really I just like being in a theatre and being taken away by a great flick.
“Yes,” he said, “We noticed that you spent a lot of time watching movies. Too much time, really.” This worried me. You see, I had spent too much time watching movies. I had become something of a film student in my spare time, watching Kurosawa and Welles, Fritz Lang and Jean Luc-Godard; all of this in lieu of figuring out what to do in South Dakota where I grew up. You see, film was all there was in South Dakota, really. It's a boring place, so I'd rather have Truffaut or the Coens Brothers take me away somewhere than go out to a field and get wasted only to wake up the next day and realize that I had gone out into a field and gotten wasted; a truly pathetic feeling.
“Is that bad?” I asked. “Well, it could be better. At least you weren't hurting people, or planning a bombing or something, but you weren't exactly using your time as wisely as possible.” “Hey, it's like my mother's interviewing me.” I regretted saying that almost as much as I enjoyed it. “Hey, a smartass.” He said. That didn't make me feel very good, and he could tell. “Don't worry, this place is full of smartasses. Wit is valued up here. Take God for instance. He's a huge smartass. You know those philosopher's that spent all of their time positing that the world was nothing and that God was creating everything at every moment?” “Yeah” I said. “Yeah, well, when those guys died, God immediately put them in a small, dark closet, just to see their reaction. Berkeley was in there for a week before a janitor accidentally opened it and let him see how crazy he really was. Anyway, point is, we appreciate a sense of humor up here.” That comforted me. “So do comedians get a free pass?” “The good ones. The guys you'd expect. Lenny Bruce, Bob Hope, Woody Allen. They were shoe-ins. But those Blue Collar Comedy guys, they can rot in hell.” Heaven was looking better and better.
We had stopped at a bridge, overlooking a beautiful river, and on the other side was a park where some kids were flying kites. “It really is beautiful.” I said. “I know,” he told me. “People on earth think of heaven as some place like where the Care Bears hung out, with rainbows and clouds, when really, it's as normal as most any park down there. Immaculately taken care of, beautiful trees and flowers, and one hell of a maintenance bill.” Spoken like an accountant. He pointed across the bridge. “You can go there now.” I looked, amazed that I had gotten in. I was accepted! I was more elated than I'd been in my entire afterlife. “You mean, we're done?” “Yep, we're done.” I said goodbye and started to walk across the bridge. “I can't believe I'm in heaven.” I said. “Oh, wait,” he had heard me. “You're not in heaven. This is purgatory.” “What?!” “Oh yeah, are you kidding me? You think we'd be able to process your forms this quickly? Man, are you stupid. Look pal, go to purgatory, and enjoy it. It's like New York but cleaner and boring.” “Purgatory is Toronto?” “Look, sorry guy, but we'll get back to you in 6-12 weeks. Heaven may be Heaven, but it's still a bureaucracy, and let's face it, bureaucracies are a bitch.“