Invitation to the Rapture
I was with Harold when he received his invitation to the Rapture. A robed figure walked up to us on Main Street while we were waiting to take the Red Line downtown and handed Harold an envelope. The paper glowed between his fingers as he tore open the sealed flap, then emptied the small, grade-school-valentine-sized envelope onto his open palm. What sullenly fell out was a black square the size of a fingernail and the thickness of onionskin. It fluttered with our breaths, then sunk into his flesh leaving only a black outline.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “What the fuck was that?”
“An invitation,” Harold said, calm as a glass of water.
He massaged the black outline like it was the memory of a kiss. The Red Line train pulled up, and without waiting for it to stop, he walked full speed towards it, the doors opening for him as if he and the train were linked gears in the clockwork of the universe. Still stunned by what had happened, I moved at the last possible moment, the closing doors grabbing onto my heel as I stepped through. The mechanical recording berated me.
Please Do Not Block The Doors.
The doors should’ve opened again right away, freeing me so I could fully enter the car, but instead I was stuck, off-balance like a baby flamingo. I tugged and tugged but my foot wouldn’t budge.
Please Do Not Block The Doors.
Harold reached out and, with an angelic whisper, the door opened. I stumbled forward, but Harold caught me right before I fell. That glow on the envelope, it was in Harold now, and from where our bodies touched it seeped into me like grease through paper.
Harold was beatific. Riding the train downtown, walking to Market Square, entering Frank’s for our weekly divvying up of a large pepperoni and pepperoncini pizza, Harold was already not of the earthly world. Passersby brushed up against him and swooned, calling out to all who would hear that they’d been healed, their acne vanished, their credit good, the holes in their jeans miraculously patched. And the whole way, Harold didn’t take any notice, his piercing brown eyes fixated on a better place.
I saw the world differently, too. My body was feverish all over. Harold’s body had that glow, but mine was murky, as if all the glow inside me did was create shadows, the light and the dark shifting through me like spilled motor oil turning to rainbows in the sun.
There were others like Harold. The mid-day crowds parted for them and were carried in their wake, focused points of light from a magnifying glass held by God.
In Frank’s we sat in the upstairs loft. The pizza was the worst we’d ever been served, crust burnt, the surface leprous with cheese, watery sauce peeking through like blood from a skinned knee. But when Harold took a slice, the pizza plumped up, crust lightening, the cheese and toppings weaving together into an unbroken whole. It became so gloriously the ideal Frank’s pizza that the other patrons stared on with envy, their own slices growing turgid in the overworked A/C.
“This is my last meal,” Harold said.
The pizza was so delicious it instantly made all other foods irrelevant. My question as to what the hell Harold was talking about evaporated from my tongue, my mouth unable to do anything except enjoy.
“Thank you for seeing me off,” Harold said.
An elderly woman, back bent and limbs twisted with arthritis, asked if she could have a piece of our pizza. Harold nodded, handing it to her, and just one bite was enough to straighten her body and clear her cataract-fogged eyes.
Harold finished his third piece of pizza, his face clean of grease, fingers and shirt unstained by tomato sauce. The unflattering light of Frank’s flattered him as he stood, a model posing in a spread for a Christian food magazine. He began to rise into the air, as did the elderly woman. I, too, started to lift up like a balloon let go by a curious child, but hooked my legs around the chair.
“Why are you leaving?” I asked.
“Why are you staying?” he asked.
Harold and the woman floated up through the ceiling.
I hadn’t finished my half of the pizza. There was a heavy darkness in the pit of my stomach I decided to call hunger and I knew, even as I dug into all that remained, it would never be satisfied.