SIX MINUTES BEHIND by Nancy McBride
TYPICAL SCHOOL NIGHT
I was doing my high-school French homework on the phone with my classmate, Eddie. It was in the late ‘50s, so imagine me, at 15, in a jewel-neck pink sweater, a plaid pencil skirt, and a small silk neck scarf, all matching of course. I was barefoot with my feet up on my dog, Sparky, a lovely rough collie who liked being my footstool. I was in a straight side chair, leaning against a radiator next to the telephone table.
The phone receivers in those days were attached to the rotary dial phone base with, in my case, an extra-long coiled cord. It made my electrical engineer dad crazy with how it would get so twisted up. I guess that happened when we turned it one turn to hang it up. I spent a lot of time dangling that receiver to UN-coil it. It was rather mesmerizing. That was all a part of my ordinary day—school, homework, twisting and untwisting that telephone cord.
Eddie and I were conjugating French verbs. We had a quiz the next day, and he was speaking when, with no warning, I left.
My “self” was travelling, en flight, floating toward “the light.”
There was no awareness of anything in my just present or past life experience. Separated from my body, I was “me”, an entity, but strangely, clearly encapsulated. I could see and I could hear. I was traveling up the tunnel, zooming quickly to "the light" at the end. Some say the optical nerve is the last to go when one dies, and that provides this pinnacle of light, but all of the physical theories fall short because of the emotional, consciousness side of feeling content, at peace, no pain, and free to thoroughly soak in this new life dimension.
In fact, just so you know, I don't really care what happened, frankly, because I have nothing to prove, nor do I care what others think about it. It was, and I am not imagining it. It was a gift. I was tripping, as it were. Period.
I arrived in the light. Calm. No time frame. No need. Time did not exist, except there was a "next" and then another "next", if that’s important to you. I never promised that you would “get” this. There is no common language for this phenomenon. English is limited, as is any language, to describe one’s perception, let alone an indescribable “happening”.
When I say peaceful, it is more peaceful than any slipping off to sleep, anesthetic, or any rock-a-bye baby safeness you have ever felt. I perceived a brightness, once "there" that was so bright you‘d go straight blind, here in our shared existence. Not at all hot, was pleasantly warm and encompassing. The light was sort of undulating like looking out an airplane window at a superb bright sunset over wavy clouds, but so much more. It was "otherly".
There was a steady hum. It was lulling, not annoying. In this new existence I was enveloped in the warmth of familial love—held. It was a feeling that I would not have ever gotten tired with after awhile, like a hug at this end gone on just a tad too long, or, "Nice to see you, too, Auntie Lou, now, where's the buffet?”
I missed nothing. Not a thing. I did not miss my loving parents or my friends. There were no regrets. Don’t try to compare this life and that world, because it, first of all, doesn’t matter, and secondly, you cannot, so give it up. I was so present and comfortable in this new dimension.
It was totally familiar, in an “I’m home” sort of way. I was relaxed, aware, no worries, and then, SLAM, quickly as I disappeared, I was jettisoned back, sucked back into my very damaged body to start over. I say start over, because nothing could be the same when you left and returned in that, shall we say, dramatic fashion. It lacked ration. Apparently, I’d been struck by lightning through the telephone, and instantly grounded it through my right shoulder that was leaning on a radiator, because our grounding wire was, well, not grounded.
A jangled remnant of myself was suddenly crammed unceremoniously back into an ink dark house and a badly damaged body that had been tossed several feet from the chair, the melted phone still in my body’s hand. Flash burned and ears ringing from the explosion of Eddie’s voice, my body was temporarily paralyzed in electrocuted shock, my nervous system screwed up in several ways. Injuries aside, I was massively confused at what could have happened to me so instantaneously, and freaked about what happened to Eddie! And I was royally pissed to be back at all after all that lulling and contentment, quite a shift from doing flirty French homework another lifetime ago—around six minutes previously. Ying/yang to the nth!
That six minute gap I’ll never fill, and that simply puts an intriguing, quantum-esque twist into the whole experience. Did I lose six minutes? Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Is there even a scheme? Wait! Where did I, that innocent, young teenager, practicing French, actually travel on the evening of October 17, 1958? Hummm?
Eddie thought the line just died and went bowling.
Dad didn’t believe it “happened” because I didn’t take pictures—his semi-humorous way of wishing he’d protected me, I guess.
Sparky was not injured, but, beyond freaked, was still pawing and fussing over my body and licking when I returned, he beyond exhausted.
I eventually regained semi-normal function of my nervous system. Example: my taste on the left side of my mouth returned three years later.
I am profoundly deaf in my right ear.
No, I now have no fear of death.
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