As much as I’d like to blame it on the seat cushions, the cool night air, or the general lack of space in my car, my inability to sleep that night was completely unrelated. I mean, it’s not every day you get asked to save the world. Is it? I don’t know, maybe everyone else gets that before breakfast. I sure as hell don’t.
The whole idea terrified me and not just because it was creepy as hell, completely unbelievable, and most likely the result of the fucked-up brains of four mental patients. The idea terrified me because I’d spent the past three years working so hard to escape exactly that: the savior complex. The first 25 years of my life were wasted trying to save the world – everyone else but myself. I thought I had the answers and I thought everyone else needed them. It was exhausting and more than a little self-destructive. I was now on the eve of my anniversary of leaving all that behind and living freely as a normal human being, and here it was beckoning me; tempting me to come back.
It wouldn’t work. I wasn’t going to have it. They may have offered the opportunity to revisit a bliss I’d never even come close to comprehending, but it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t believe in that bliss – it had never been real.
I finally dragged myself from my car around 7am to dig up some coffee. I was in no mood to spend another minute in that 1970’s death trap so I found a nearby Denny’s and secured a table for one. Coffee. Cinnamon roll. Egg sandwich. That ought to do it. No breakfast of heroes. Just a normal, everyday, human breakfast.
I flipped through the menu to occupy my mind while the greasy kitchen cooked up my ‘food’. It was the usual: bad steak, bad hamburgers, bad Devil Eggs…
Wait, what? Devil Eggs?
I looked closer and sure enough, there on the ‘sides’ menu was a typo. It was supposed to say ‘deviled’ eggs, I was sure of it. And even so, since when did Denny’s serve such sophisticated fair?
I slammed the menu on the table, anxious to get it out of my grip. It was a coincidence; it had to be. Signs, fate, destiny…they didn’t exist. Just like they said. Even if I had managed to be one of the few to open a portal to heaven…I snickered at the thought. Outside the magic of the never-ending warehouse the silliness of the whole idea was easy to recognize. I had made my choice. They were bat shit crazy and I wasn’t going to join them.
I plowed through my breakfast hoping some nourishment would banish the creepy feelings swimming through my veins. I laid my head back on the booth and sighed. The coffee and the protein were starting to make me feel normal again. My body began to relax at last and I wished I could find a nice comfortable bed to laze in for the rest of the morning.
“Are you going to save heaven later?”
Instantly my pulse went through the roof. I lurched forward – the waitress was looking down on me expectantly.
I glared. “What did you say?”
She seemed taken aback by my snappy tone. “I asked if you’re going to save that for later. I can get you a box.”
I shook my head. This had to be a dream. “I’m sorry, I…thought you said something else. Yes, a box and a to-go cup for my coffee would be great.”
She gave me that ‘she be cray-cray’ look and headed back to the kitchen. I slumped in my seat. Clearly I hadn’t separated myself so quickly from the events of the night before. I was going to need a better distraction; something to help me get my feet firmly planted back in reality.
I wasn’t quite ready to summon my therapist so I decided a good movie was in order. Perfect – lose myself in someone else’s world for a while. A world that had nothing to do with anyone named Penny or Blaine…
It was a bit early for even a matinee, unfortunately, so I decided to pay one of my old friends a visit. I hadn’t seen her since I got together with Andy a few months ago – I had a bad habit of ditching my friends when a boy came into the picture. It seemed like this was as good a time as any to make amends and kill that trend. I threw the keys in the ignition and hit the gas, heading for the fitness center downtown. Parking was going to be a bitch but it would be worth it.
I rifled through my purse as I cruised down the highway: twenty dollars cash, my near maxed-out credit card, and my debit card which gave me access to a measly $300 – the last of my nest egg. I began to wish for my Social Worker salary again.
I weaved in and out of the mid-morning traffic, somewhat lighter than usual for Houston. I popped on a country station and settled in to enjoy my sojourn deeper into the concrete jungle.
“Because baby, baby, heaven is in your hands…”
“Agh!” I slammed my hand on the radio button, switching it to the rock station. No biggie – country songs are always whining about heaven and God and Jesus blah blah…
“I don’t wanna go to heaven if I can’t get in…”
“Damnit!” I smacked the radio again. I wasn’t so pissed off at the reminder of my angelic visitors the night before as I was about the fact that one of my favorite songs had been tainted. I decided to give it one last try and tuned into a classical station.
No lyrics – try and fuck with that, Blaine.
A beautiful sonata was still serenading me when I pulled into the parking garage downtown. It drew to a close and a soft-spoken DJ took over. “We’ve got a special guest on the show today. You know him from his compositions from the latest album titled ‘Saving Heaven’. Allow me to introduce: Lucifer Goodman”.
I pulled into my spot and bashed my head into the steering wheel. Clearly the hints weren’t going away. I shoved the door open, determined not to give in, and stomped all the way to the gym.
“Emma! Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re here!” Rita gave me a huge hug and introduced me to the front desk staff. She was always so polite and open – pretty much my opposite. “Do you want a tour?”
I nodded. That was exactly what I needed.
“Ok, we’ll have to make it quick though – this place is crammed today! You’d think hell froze over and the gym was the only sanctuary.”
“Argh!” I huffed. I had had it. “Okay already, I get it!” I didn’t know whom I was yelling at so I just stared up at the ceiling. “Are you having fun? Because you’re making me completely mad! I can’t even visit a friend? Seriously? Have you no sense of respect? This is fucking ridiculous!”
My chest was heaving and it occurred to me that all commotion in the lobby had halted and an infinite number of eyes were staring me down.
Rita laughed nervously and cleared her throat. “Uh, let’s go talk outside for a minute, okay, Emma?”
I tried to ignore the raised eyebrows of the front desk lady as Rita escorted me outside. “What the hell was that? Are you trying to get me fired?” Rita’s eyes were flaming as we stopped at the curb.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry. Really, I am. I’ve just had a long day. A long week, really.”
“Yeah, no shit. That doesn’t mean you have to take it out on me.”
“I’m not taking it out on you, I just…I had a mental moment, that’s all.”
“A mental moment? Is that why you’re here? I haven’t heard from you in almost six months and suddenly you show up because you’ve run out of resources? Let me guess: you and Andy broke up?”
I nodded. It was more than that, but I couldn’t exactly explain that to her.
She huffed. “I’m so tired of this shit, Emma. The second you hook up with another guy you’ll be MIA for another six months. I’m not your therapist or nurse or guidance counselor or whatever the hell it is you want me to be.” She turned back towards the building. “Just call me when you’ve got your shit together. I’ve got to get back to work.”
“It’s not like that, Rita.” But she was already halfway to the door. My plan had failed miserably. I was so frustrated that, without thinking, I stepped out into the crosswalk towards my car. A raging rumbling noise quickly filled my ears and I looked to my left just in time to see a little VW bug just inches from me, travelling at excessive speeds.