a vignette by Corynne Stollerman, ’19
The angel dumped the contents of the orange bottle into his quivering palm. With the precision of an owl stalking its prey, he picked up a pill and dropped it in the section of his pill organizer labeled “Monday.” The chalk-gray tablets left a powdery residue on his fingertips. He picked up another and transferred it to Tuesday. The entire pill sorting process usually took upwards of half an hour. The chalky pills he was sorting now were the first in a long line up, with bottles of giant capsules filled with translucent liquids and containers of bead-sized supplements lined up on the edge of the table. They were regarding him with a drowsy gaze, as if they were even tired of the whole ordeal.
That medicines are unnecessary in heaven is a common misconception. Heaven is an eternal home for those who are fortunate enough to reach it, but that does not mean the quotidian ailments that humans experience magically disappear. Instead, they merely fade to a dull hum, not life threatening, but present enough to provide sufficient discomfort that one may find himself up at night staring at the ceiling, unsure of why sleep has failed to shut his heavy eyelids and slow his breathing.
The old man swallowed his set of pills for the night with a small gulp of tepid sink water and proceeded to his bed. The crumbling styrofoam mattress pad collapsed to fit the shape of the man’s rickety spine. He shifted around a little, seeking an equal distribution of his weight so that no part of his wings would ache when he awoke the next morning. The last thing he needed was another ache or pain in the damned things; their tattered feathers already provided him with sufficient trouble. Feather cream was expensive and fake wings were hardly an option: everyone knew that those were reserved for angels engaged in sinful acts under the cover of the night. Instead, the angel elected to wear his wings as they were and keep his eyes fixed upon the cobblestone streets while children pointed to and laughed at his balding appendages.
Sleep finally came; it enveloped him like a warm fleece blanket and infused his unconscious mind with euphoric dreams. The dream took him down to earth, to somewhere vast and tropical. The thick air weighed on his wrinkled skin and coated it with a thin layer of moisture. The man’s feet kissed the sand as he walked slowly down the beach. The pricks of the jagged rocks didn’t bother him. His eyes were glued to the horizon line, navigating the distant shoreline like a labyrinth. He felt the sun touch his wings, sending flushes of glorious heat through his shoulder blades and into his back. The heat dispersed, floated through his body, tickled his bones. The man felt a smile creep to his lips and he surrendered to the tension in his cheeks, allowing the corners of his mouth to spread and tip upwards. He crouched down and put his hands in the shallow ocean water, letting the tiny waves cover his outstretched hands. The coolness of the water soaked into his fingers and traveled to his bones, mixing with the heat from the sun. Slowly, he raised his hand to his open mouth. A single drop of water fell on the tip of his tongue. His lips puckered in preparation for the salty twinge, but his tongue was instead met with tepid sink water.
He opened his eyes and glanced at his other hand, still submerged in the glass of water on his bedside table. His mouth filled with bitterness as he realized a single pill remained in his mouth unswallowed. It was completely melted. He sat up to swallow and a dull pain wove through his shoulder. The overhead light remained on, the bulb burning white hot from its rusted metal fixture. The angel peered up and allowed the light to meet his wings. It soaked into the tattered feathers, sank through his skin, in through his shoulder blades, and down his spine. His cheeks suddenly gave way to the mounting tension. The corners of his mouth turned up and he smiled, the bitter taste in his mouth finally surrendering to the passionate tang of fresh sea salt.