Here, just not right now
In a fit of laptop activity recently, I tried cleaning up my Google Drive. That place is a mess.
Notes that were supposed to be transferred to their final resting homes but had never made it, half-demented one-line docs, including this intriguing one: I exercise, but my pursuits are largely solitary, headphones jammed deep into my ear cavities, blocking out everything superfluous to achieving fitness. (WHO WAS SHE, THE PERSON WHO WROTE THAT?), half-written short stories, vague diary entries... essentially brain carrots. All pulled from the earth way too early and now just collecting dust before being chucked out.
Anyway, in a folder called "Personal/Thinking" was a doc called "Death! Death! Death!" This document, the little timestamp at the top told me, had last been worked on in April 2014—a time that seems as distant to me now as the period when bison roamed free in the West—and naturally I had to open it. What was consuming me in 2014, when I was still fresh in my 30s, living in my adorable studio flat in Clapton?
You don't need to know the full contents of the whole essay, trust me. But it was a rumination on death: what it might taste like to experience loss now I was an adult, and getting to a place where people I liked or loved would be dying more often. I was thinking of my family, and myself. Here is an excerpt:
"Death," said Imhotep, in The Mummy, "is only the beginning."
I think that's because he was an undead villain in a B movie, setting up the possibility of returning in a sequel (depending on box office), and not because he had any real insights into the afterlife. I was born into a Muslim family, and we believe in The Hereafter - that 'paradise' we have in common with the other faiths. If I'm honest, I don't really think too closely about the terms and conditions of this place. But I do like that term, hereafter. In its composite parts, 'here' and 'after' it suggests a pleasing continuity. We'll be right here, just...not now. The religion is what provides the conditions: ideas of peace, of pleasure, of an unburdening. I've thought about it and I wouldn't mind my hereafter being my current tiny flat, except with a few extra square feet. I would like to have a comfortable bed and warm feet always, and an endless supply of good books and good hip hop. Maybe a dog - I've always wanted a dog. Perhaps I could be fit in this Hereafter - a marathon-runner. I'd like to sing in the Hereafter, and spend long weekends with my family, like we do at Christmas, eating and laughing and irritating one another until we all return to our respective homes.
Look. I'm not saying it's a masterpiece or anything.
But I kinda love this?
Here in 2021, even more death has touched me and mine since I wrote that. The pandemic and the scale of its dead is the biggest global event of the last 18 months, but alongside that vast loss are the other, more local deaths; new griefs over-writing old ones, multiplying them, compounding them... grief as a dense packet in the breast pocket of all our garments. And when I take the time to wonder where those souls have ended up, I want for them to be in a place of quiet peace, whatever they believed when they were alive. I hope the hereafter—here, just not right now—is whatever those people want it to be.
I hope that they have landed in a place with a comfortable bed, and that their feet are warm, always.