The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There's Life After Death (5 page)

BOOK: The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There's Life After Death
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Why should I be doing things Billy tells me to do? When he was alive, he hadn't exactly been an authority on what could get you into trouble. Was he as dangerous in the afterlife as he had been in life? But I knew Billy loved me, and would never do anything to harm me. Would he?


fter my toothache and the painful root canal and awful infection that followed, I was scared. I wanted answers. Every morning I waited for Billy to show up and give me an explanation, but there was no sign of him. He was gone. I couldn't believe he engineered the crazy event with J.B. and then disappeared. But that was Billy. Just like old times.

Billy's message to J.B. convinced me I wasn't just imagining his communications. But who was I to be the one to prove there's life after death? Maybe some secrets shouldn't be revealed. Maybe I was breaking a sacred taboo, dabbling in a cosmic Pandora's box.

I missed the next writing class because of my tooth. I was glad when Tex told me no one had brought up Billy's message. Instead of keeping it with me, I put the red notebook in the drawer of my night table. It was nearly a month later, in early April, before Billy showed up again.

Good morning. I didn't abandon you, Annie. I hate to tell you this, but you're not the only thing on my schedule, Princess. So you got scared because you had a toothache. No, darling. That didn't happen because you're doing
something wrong by talking to me. The Divine forces aren't punishing you for writing about what happens after you die. I told you, there's no such thing as that kind of punishment. Don't stop writing our book just because you got a toothache.

You're so sensitive. That's one of the reasons we can have these communications. You were always such a sensitive child, the one with all the fear. Well, maybe if I had myself for a big brother, I'd be scared too

After our last visit, I was drifting through the Universe, taking in the sights, when a cosmic wind began to circle me like a slow tornado. This wind contained some kind of magnetic force because white crystals gathered around its edges like snowflakes on a car windshield. When the whirling stopped, the crystals had formed a ring around me. This ring seemed to be about thirty yards from me. I say “seemed” because there's no way to measure real distance. It could actually be light years away.

Then it was like someone pressed the start button on a cosmic projector and the ring became a circular movie that's still playing all around me.

What I'm looking at is very different from any film I've seen in a theater, though. First of all, I'm suspended in the middle of the Universe, and second, the entire movie is playing all at once and the images are holographic.

There are an uncountable number of multidimensional, true-to-life images circling me: a baby screaming in his crib; a dark, curly-haired six-year-old
leaping from rooftop to rooftop while his mother yells at him from the sidewalk; a teenager in black jeans with a cord wrapped around his arm; a guy in a suit kissing a gorgeous blond in a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. It doesn't take long to recognize that I am the star.

When we're alive, there's something inside us, a sort of cosmic computer chip, that records everything we go through. Right now, I'm watching my whole life from my birth to my death. I'm looking here, looking there, fast-forwarding, rewinding, zooming in and out. I see the paths I took, and the ones I didn't. I see where my genius was, and where I might have done better. I don't feel moralistic or judgmental about any of it, though. It all just seems interesting.

What's really great is that this hologram has a very special feature. You know how you sometimes think to yourself, “What if?” For example, when I was alive I often wondered, “What if I had married my first love?” or “What if I had done well in school?”

Well, guess what? My hologram is expandable. I can live out the life those “what ifs” would have brought me to. I can follow all the different paths I didn't take when I was alive and see how they would have turned out. What's surprising, though, is that it doesn't seem like one way is more valuable than any other. I don't have a preference. It's all fascinating, and I have no regrets.

I know that must seem strange. I did a lot of things that most people would call mistakes, big mistakes. But the way I look at it, I had a great life. It was all great, even the hard parts.

Of course, I didn't see my life that way when I was alive. My new viewpoint takes the difficulty, the struggling feeling, out of it all. That's because even though I'm very much aware that it's me up on the cosmic screen, I'm watching it from a distance, so all the ups and downs, all the dramas, seem like they're happening to someone else.

It's funny. They say there's Judgment Day after you die, but actually the opposite is true. There's No-Judgment Day. Viewing my life has become surprisingly enjoyable because I have an absolute acceptance of myself and everything I've done. It would have been nice if I'd been able to have this attitude when I was alive, but I guess I wasn't that advanced. You'd have to be like the Buddha to be that advanced.

Everything looks so much better now than it did then. It's like I'm on some kind of drug. It's not like any drug I've ever taken, though. It's very pure and much more wonderful and there are no side effects. Oh, and it's not illegal

I think this so-called drug is really the Divine Presence and its immediate relatives, those Higher Beings. Why do I say this? Because at this point there's no question in my mind that there are Beings in the atmosphere around me: wise, kind, super-evolved Beings whose loving custody I'm now in. And remember, when you think about love, you're using your human mind. There's no comparison to the actual over-the-top nature of this love.

I guess when you receive real love, when someone loves you unconditionally, I guess you begin to feel that way towards yourself. Unconditional.

As Billy spoke, I was again swept into the light and energy of his world, and forgot my concerns. Hours later, when the effects were wearing off, dealing with the minutiae of everyday life wasn't easy. Like an astronaut, I was having trouble readjusting to gravity. That earthly pull was weighing me down. I felt like a dysfunctional alien not suited for living in this world.

That afternoon, while I was in my kitchen, Billy whispered:

Show me the money.

By now he'd figured out that whispering made hearing from him in bright daylight less jolting.

Call Tex and say, “Show me the money.”

I assumed that phrase referred to the as yet unidentified coin my brother wanted me to give her.

“Tex,” I said when she answered the phone, “Billy wants me to tell you, ‘Show me the money.’ Does that mean anything?”

She was silent for a few beats, then laughed.

“I took the dogs to the ocean this morning. I was thinking about Billy.” Tex paused. “Actually, I was talking to him. I'll keep what I said between him and me, but I asked him for a sign. I wasn't even going to tell you about it.”

I waited while Tex took a drag from a cigarette.

“I came home, took a shower, then, okay, this is weird . . . ”


“Well, I was thinking about my novel, dancing in front of the mirror with a towel, saying over and over, ‘Show me the money. Show me the money.’”

Now I went silent. Tex was laughing, but I was more confused than amused. This wasn't just about my hearing Billy's voice, which was strange enough. Billy's conversations with me were one thing, but now Billy was bringing other people into his realm—Tex and J.B. and my writing class. Why?

Rescue Mission

hen Billy woke me a few days later, he was speaking so quickly I couldn't keep up. “Hold it,” I said out loud, putting the red notebook aside. “I need my computer. I can't write this fast.”

My computer sits on a desk in front of tall sliding glass doors through which I can see treetops and a lot of sky. Now that I was sitting in a spot filled with natural light, Billy's voice had an even more magical feel. I could look through the bare branches at the sky, which is the direction his voice comes from, and watch the Billy effect make the world luminous.

Good morning, darling. Let's fill in a bit of the story that brought us both here. All I have to do is zoom to that part of my hologram. Don't worry. I know the rescue mission was a nightmare, but I'll make it entertaining.

Well, first I disappeared—what, about five years ago? I went to Margarita Island, that jewel in the crown of Venezuela, to make my fortune running a sports betting operation. Bill Cohen became Billy Fingers, a name I picked to commemorate the accidental amputation of the tip of one of my fingers while I was working in a wedding band factory when I was sixteen. You remember—the
accident that introduced me to my first taste of the world of pain relief.

Five years ago, Bill Cohen got tired of feeling like a taxidriving ex-junkie mascot of his designer wife's entourage of wealthy friends. Without much planning, he said goodbye to his beautiful wife and their million-dollar co-op on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and ran away to Venezuela to become Billy Fingers. I ran away from home, just like when I was a kid running away from Mommy.

Although in my younger days Mommy was always the one who bailed me out of trouble, our relationship was difficult from the day I was born. That's the thing about human beings. They're not just one side of the coin.

Actually, the whole thing between Mommy and me started even before I was born. Soon after Mommy got pregnant with me, she started to bleed. She bled so much she began thinking I was trying to kill her from inside her womb. So she developed this kill-the-baby-before-hekills-you kind of attitude.

The doctors prescribed bed rest—complete bed rest— and injections to calm her down. In those days, they didn't know that it wasn't so great to give a pregnant woman morphine. Morphine can make unborn babies develop a taste for it. So you could say I was getting high back there in the womb.

Anyway, I ran away to the tropical shores of Margarita, with my scheme to get rich quick. But things didn't turn out the way I planned.

Now that I'm dead, I see the whole drama that led to the rescue mission. I see you on the beach near your house
that day in June, three years after I had disappeared. You were sitting on a blanket, looking out at the ocean, wondering what had become of me. You were also thinking, “It's probably better that I don't know.”

Then you closed your eyes and had a dream of sorts. You dreamed I was walking along the horizon, slow and tired. My spirit was rising up, big and magnificent, out of my tattered old body. You had a searchlight in your hands, and sent a beam across the ocean to buoy me up. It was one of those dreams that feels like it's really happening. Now that I'm dead, I can see it all.

By the way, after you die, when you watch your hologram, you get to see everything—who loved you, who hated you, what they did for you, and what they did to you when your back was turned. As I said before, you spend a lot of time viewing what you did on earth, so be sure to make it interesting.

And here's another secret for you, my sister. There is no right way for things to turn out. Some endings are happier, some not so happy, but it's not just the happiness percentage that matters. It's the music of it. Most people's lives don't have enough music. I was lucky; my life was a rock opera.

After you dreamed you sent that beam across the water to your sick, old, stoned-out brother, what did I do? I called Mommy the next day. Even though I had been missing for years, Mommy, in her inimitable nurturing style, told me never to call her again and hung up. She had quite a way with me, Mommy did. It felt like the good old days.

Now that I'm dead I know that Mommy called you, hysterical and guilt-ridden, to confess how miserable she
had been to me on the phone. I caused Mommy a lot of pain in her lifetime, that's for sure. Desperate, I called her again a week later and she gave me your number.

Thank God my baby sister would still talk to me. Wanted to, even. That smart, pretty little brunette thing in the pink tutu singing and dancing and getting all A's while her brother, Billy the Kid, was setting fire to the school cafeteria.

You were so happy to hear my voice on the phone after all those years, even though I was stoned and crying and itching. I was already in hell and the next stop was going to be even lower. If I didn't leave Margarita Island soon, I was going to wind up in jail or a loony bin, some place I'd never get out of.

You wired me money for a plane ticket, but I spent it on other things.

I really wanted to get out of there, but I didn't have the wherewithal to act like a normal person and get myself on a plane. Everyone told you I was indulging myself, but you suspected something more serious was going on.

I wasn't happy that Billy had started talking about the rescue mission. Maybe he was zooming in on it with his newly enlightened after-death perspective, but remembering it was still painful for me.

While Billy was falling apart in Margarita, I was lying in bed in a state of Billy-induced malaise. I had trouble focusing on anything other than waiting for his next call, which came every few days, sometimes
every day. Each time he was in an even worse state than the last time I'd spoken with him.

“Annie. I'm dying. I'm itching to death. I'm having anxiety attacks. You've got to get me out of here.”

“How can I if you won't tell me where you are, Billy?”

“I don't know where I am. All I know is I'm itching. Don't let me die here like this!”

I looked to various advisors for answers—a psychotherapist, a drug counselor, people in Alcoholics Anonymous. The consensus was that Billy was manipulating me to get money for drugs. He could come home if he wanted.

Then I dreamed that my father came down from heaven and was digging a hole in the shape of a coffin. He dropped his shovel on the ground, turned toward me, and shook his head like he was troubled. His face was mournful and filled with misery, warning that something really dark was going to happen, something worse than death. When I woke up in a sweat, I knew it was Billy's grave he was digging and I had to get him out of Margarita, fast.

BOOK: The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There's Life After Death
4.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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