(Guest post by an anonymous contributor.)
Last Sunday at around 6pm I was sitting in a fish and chip shop in Tairua waiting for my order.
It was humid and everyone in the place was wilting. A few flies buzzed around. The late day sun was pouring in through the front window making me sweat.
A group of people entered the shop.
The first guy I saw was wearing a yellow T-shirt with white gym socks pulled up just under his board shorts. Then there wasÂ a guy in the baseball cap and wrap around sunglasses. He was standing next to the balding guy with huge eyebrows.
Each of them was standing with a woman, all of them pretty in a safe, kind of American sitcom way.
Who are these people, I thought?
Eavesdropping is not a gentleman’s pastime, but they were sitting close to me on the bench against the wall of the fish and chippie.
They started talking about how old they were.
Yellow T-Shirt admitted to being 30. Hat Guy admitted he was 29, but said he wouldn’t tell them his wife’s age unless she let him. She let him: 25. Eyebrows was 26. The other two women were around the same age.
Then they got on to where and when they got married.
Seriously, who are these people?
Hat Guy said, “Yeah, I’m only 29 and I’ve got a lot of things I want to do before I die.”
“Oh babe,” said his wife, “you’ll also have lots of time to do all those things in heaven!”
Suddenly I became a beast in a nature documentary.
My back stiffened. My ears ached as they involuntarily pointed toward the conversation. My pulse quickened.
“I know, but I just can’t get over the idea of heaven being kind of boring,” Hat Guy said.
He took off his wrap-arounds, gave them a polish.
“I mean what are we supposed to do up there? The problem is that we don’t really know.”
Silence ensued, but Yellow T-Shirt guy saw his opening.
“I’m just going to mountain-bike all day, I reckon. But like, if I fall off my mountain bike in heaven, like really bad, would I still break my leg?”
The tension left as the group broke into smiles and a few mumbled “no way” or “not in heaven, mate”.
By this point, I was getting anxious that my order might be ready just as things were getting interesting.
Then Huge Eyebrows’ wife said, “I think heaven will be really choice.”
Huge Eyebrows shot his wife a glance, put his hand on her arm and cleared his throat.
The group looked at him.
“The thing about heaven,” said Huge Eyebrows, “is that it could be that we take on an entirely different existence. Our understanding of matter could totally change. It could all just be, like, spiritual.”
There was a group nod.
“Yeah, but we do get new bodies in heaven,” said Yellow T-Shirt, perhaps smarting from his broken-bone question.
“Yeah, that’s true — we do get new bodies,” said Huge Eyebrows.
The group looked at the ground.
“Well, heaven does have eleven stages,” Hat Guy said, “so like maybe we pass back and forth between the different ones. Sometimes it’s spiritual. Sometimes its physical. I mean, the truth is that we won’t really know until we all get there.”
More nods and mumbles of approval followed.
“Order number 69?” the girl said from behind the till.
Before getting up, I looked down at my lap and realised I had left my iPhone on.
Cognitive dissonance consumed me.
I’d been reading Candide.