I’ve been thinking about life after death. I’m not a believer, and I was raised without the idea of an Afterlife. But if there was one, my perfect Afterlife would provide the chance to rehash the experience with everybody who’s meant anything to me in this lifetime. A postmortem, pun intended.
Imagine it: people from all areas of my life, from years past and present. We’d talk and talk all night as if we were at Lori’s Diner after performing a big show:
“You were great. Awesome performance.”
“Wow, when you got so messed up in your twenties and did all those drugs? That was really scary. Can you pass the ketchup?”
“You didn’t think I meant it, did you — all those mean things I said when we were breaking up?”
“Who wants a bite of my cheesecake? Jeez, remember the way we used to all get so freaked about terrorists?”
“And when Bill died so suddenly? That was incredibly intense.”
The Afterlife I want has my best friends from kindergarten and third grade and freshman year, the kids who remember the garbage can incident and my first show at the local community college, and the friends who can remind me how I looked when I first saw my baby Annie. My Afterlife has my daily go-to friends and the ones I see once a decade, the people I write with and the people I’ve written with, as well as my old roommates. Those who have seen me at my best and worst, my family, my frenemies, the people I was young with, the people I’ll be old with.
Actually, my perfect Afterlife is a lot like Facebook. Or like my upcoming birthday party.
In a few weeks I’ll turn 50, and my daughter will turn 18. Milestones. She’s on the verge of independence and maturity, and maybe I am too, and it all feels hugely significant.
I remember turning 10. I got a bike and had a slumber party with my three best friends. Eighteen was my first legal drink in New York. I barely remember 20: I was living back at home, licking my wounds from adventures abroad, waitressing, studying French, and partying too hard. Twenty-one was celebrated with my sister and my boyfriend in an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. I had the Fettucine Alfredo. Thirty was hard: newly married, wanting to write, unclear of my direction. It took me an entire year to turn 40 and a year to recover from turning 40 — my marriage tossed like salad, depression slamming me hard. And now I’m turning 50.
This is the first milestone birthday I can remember that feels absolutely awesome. It feels easy, it feels great. It feels like an achievement and a beginning and a celebration.
As I turn 50, and since I’m nowhere near ready to die, I want a premortem — a huge party with the people in my life . . . It’s the kind of thing your husband throws for you. But I don’t have a husband. So in true Solo style, I’m throwing a big bash for myself with conversation, pie, dancing, and a taco truck. I’m inviting a lot of people.
Talking about this party, a friend tells me I’m insane. “I’m not insane,” I say indignantly. “I’m completely sane.” But after we backpedal around the words for a while, I catch his drift. Yes, I’m a bit unusual. Yes, I’ve collected an odd conglomeration of potential partygoers over the years. How will they mesh?
“Maybe I’m a bit perverse,” I admit. “I just love the idea of all those people from all those years and walks of life talking to each other.”
I imagine how it will be: the new friends, the ex-boyfriends, the people from high school. Solo performers, musicians, and writers. The computer geeks, the lawyers, and the ones who hate lawyers. The financial consultant, my Stalinist father, and my personal trainer. My tattoo artist, my cousins, and my steps-from-the-gutter drunk buddy. The near-homeless and the rich. Lost and found friends. My first boyfriend is coming. We didn’t talk for 30 years — it was a nasty breakup — but now we have tea sometimes on a quiet porch in the Oakland hills. I want to watch him hanging out with my daughter.
I’m turning 50, and I want to remember it all. The love, the anger, the jealousies, the pettinesses. Hot sex, grief, tears, great conversation, generosities, misunderstandings, fun, adventures. The times we were all bored together. And all the great food we’ve eaten.
I want to talk with them about now and then, what our bodies used to look like and what they look like now, and the way we’ve mostly calmed down, and how so many have become Buddhists and foodhists. About pain and illness and how many people we’ve lost, and about children, what we’ve learned, and love love love. How none of us can believe the world has come to all this.
I want to hear them all talk to each other. If they get stuck, they can talk about me — and maybe I’ll get to listen in. And I want to drink and dance and eat tacos and pie and hug them.
Mostly, I want them here because these are the people I love, and these are the people of my lifetime — so far. I want this party to be the celebratory Afterlife I don’t believe in, years before I die. Fifty years on the planet. It’s all been pretty awesome. I just wish Bill could come, too.