All Jake saw now in death was a table with an apple on it in a narrow alcove with a little late afternoon sun streaming through a white curtained window. He was seeing it as if he was looking through a cone and it was slanted. There was no movement, like it was a painting.
There was no sound, although the memory of a ticking clock was persistent in Jake’s mind. Jake felt calm but a little bit sad and resigned to this sight and the fact that it seemed to represent his eternity. For a time — there was no telling how long, not in this state of being — Jake just regarded the scene with no thought one way or the other. But finally he broke out of it as if from a spell and tried to make reason out of what he was seeing. Was this symbolic? What did it mean? Why the apple? And had the lacy table cloth been there all along? It seemed this might have been a recent addition but Jake couldn’t be sure. Was it possible to enter the scene, or see anything else, indeed to do anything but regard the table?
Jake struggled for a memory, something before this, anything. There was a vague notion of having been alive but no vital statistics, all he remembered for sure was that he'd died a failure at 27 years with no meaning to his existence nor any accomplishments. His mind seemed to be fading. This seemed at once frightening and quite natural, still Jake fought against it and tried to conjure memories of who he was or had been. There were a few images. A red tricycle, looking down at the ground from a tree, a kickball smacking against his face, chemistry class, Linda Minkovich smiling at him, a line of cocaine, buying a used copy of Moby Dick, looking out an airplane window at clouds. Then in his mind there was blackness. Jake screamed but there was no sound. So he focused again on the apple on the table with the late afternoon sunlight coming in from the curtained window. It gave him comfort. How long had he been staring at the table? It could have easily been ten seconds or ten thousand years. It could have been eternal or just this nanosecond. There was no time. Wind blew. Somewhere. It could have been behind Jake or in front of him or inside his brain but it was a strong wind that emanated from nowhere and did nothing. Jake thought he felt a tear going down his cheek. He thought he felt a sense of loss and emptiness a sensation that time had been wasted and there would be no more. Again he soundlessly screamed. Where is my body, he wondered.
The loneliness was oppressive. Jake could no longer visualize what a human being looked like but he craved the presence of one, the touch, the sound, the sight of another life. But he loved the table. The apple. The curtained window. He loved them beyond all measure. Jake had no idea why.
Then a cacophonous whirring, a horrible sound of machinery interrupted everything. It was incredibly loud and real, not like where he was. It came from another place, perhaps another dimension. It was awful. It went on for…there was no telling because there was no time -- but it was too long for Jake’s liking.
The second the horrible noise ended everything changed. Now he was floating. In a hospital room, looking down on — himself, in a bed, surrounded by doctors and nurses. This was strangely serene. Then nothing. Then a park with children playing and his grandmother pushing a swing and then an office building and Linda Minkovich talking to him and she was wearing a bikini and then he was playing football and then he was awake.
“Jake, Jake. Hey buddy, we thought we lost you there for a second.” It was Jake’s father. His face loomed. Jakes’s mother was behind him tears streaming down her face. “Oh Jake, honey, you’re back. Can you hear us? How do you feel?”
Jake could barely muster saying: “What happened? Where am I?”
“You nearly died is what, son,” his father told Jake. “Too many drugs all at once. I warned you Jake, if this doesn’t teach you nothing will.”
“You mean…I almost OD’d?”
Jake’s mother burst into tears.
“Don’t worry about it son, we’re just glad to have you back. Maybe you can spend a little time on the straight and narrow. Work on your writing But of course first you’ve got to get well. Healthy, hale and hearty. They’re taking good care of you here. Hell, they saved your life.”
Jake’s mother pushed her husband away and smothered Jake with kisses.
He’d been clinically dead. But he had a second chance. Jake was not like Joplin, Hendrix, Morrison and Winehouse who’d died at 27. He’d been given a reprieve. Another opportunity at making something of his life.
Two days later Jake was released from the hospital. His parents brought him to their new home. He’d never seen it before. They led Jake up to what would be his room while he stayed with them. Jake opened the door and saw a table with an apple on it and the late afternoon sun streaming in through a curtained window.
"See there's even a writing table for you, Jake," his mother said.
“Now where do you suppose that apple came from?” Jake’s father asked. “Why, I didn’t put it there," said his mother.
Jake smiled. He walked over and took a big bite out of the apple. It was delicious.