A man walked up to St. Peter. St. Peter asked him his name.
“I don’t know,” the man said. “I can’t remember anymore.”
St. Peter said, “I can’t let you into Heaven if you don’t know who you are,” and St. Peter looked right past the man.
The man couldn’t allow St. Peter to ignore him. “Wait, wait, wait. Can’t you just look up who I am. You’re St. Peter. This is Heaven. You know everyone, right?”
“I only check the book. If you don’t know your name, I can’t let you in.”
“It’s… what? That’s ridiculous! I told you I can’t remember!
The man pushed the soul stepping forward out of the way. “I’ve been a good Christian all my life! Now I’ve come this far and you’re going to just leave me out here!”
The line began getting restless. “I want to see my wife! Stop holding up the line!”
The man spun to face the line. “I have every right to be here! I’m the same as all of you!” The souls in the line refused to make eye contact with the man.
“Name,” St. Peter said. The man turned around to see that people were making a line around him. “Jennifer Dougherty,” a soul said. The man cringed.
“I’m… I’m Paul!” he cried, “Paul… Johnson!”
St. Peter looked in the book. “I don’t see you here.”
“John Smith!” he pleaded. “Terry McBride!” he sobbed, using a name he once knew in life.
“The Terry McBride you knew is already with us.”
“If you knew him, why don’t you know me!”
St. Peter blinked listlessly. “What is your name?”
“I DON’T KNOW!” the man burst into large, streaming tears, the kind that he hadn’t cried since he was a child and he had snot bubbling out of his nose. “Please! Please! Please!” was all he said for an hour before sobbing on the cloud.
The souls refused to make eye contact with him, even when he tried grabbing at their ankles, begging to use their names. They shook him off like a leper or a spider web, disgusted and shocked by the wretched shape in the clouds. Nobody would even dream of giving up Heaven for this man. “You call yourselves good people! You think you have the right to go to Heaven! I’m glad I’m not one of you! I’m glad!”
A child tried walking up to the man and asking what was wrong. The man licked his lips, thinking that the child would give him his name, but his older sister was there and she pulled him back. She glared at him until they were safely through the Heaven’s pearly gates.
Nobody did anything about the man. He just milled about, trying to remember his name. But the longer he stayed there in the clouds, the less he remembered about his life on Earth. He began to loathe the transient band of people, marching into Heaven. He used to be one of them. He could have easily been one of them, would have gladly been one if he was given the chance. But now, he was glad he was on the outside. The idea of being behind those gates with those people made the man nauseous. He could have been trapped in there with them, but now he was free. Free to do whatever he wanted. The man entertained the thought of tearing apart St. Peter or dragging him off the clouds, but he didn’t want anything more to do with that decrepit bouncer. Let them all suffer up in the clouds. He would find something else. The man walked to the edge of the clouds and spread out his arms. Someone clapped him on the shoulder.
“Hey, man! You don’t want to do that! What are you doing? You got Heaven right here. If you fall off, who knows what might happen to you, or if you can even find your way back!”
The man shook off the soul’s hand. “Get off me! Who says I even want to be in there?”
“My man, that’s Heaven! Eternal bliss! Why wouldn’t you? Come on now, let’s get you back in line.”
“I said get off!” the man shrieked. “You don’t know me! How long have you even been here?”
“Almost two hours now, I reckon.”
“I’ve been here two years. I’m getting of this God-forsaken cloud!”
“Don’t go blaspheming right here of all places!”
“Would it be better if I blasphemed somewhere else? Would you be more comfortable with that?”
The soul looked puzzled. “Well… I suppose not. But why have you been out here so long?”
“I don’t know my name. St. Peter won’t let me through.”
“Oh, come on. How can you not remember your name?”
“I just don’t! I’ve tried!”
“Get yourself back from the edge, man. We’ll brainstorm.”
The man never could remember his name, but the soul who pulled him from the edge stayed with him to help him remember. His name was James Banner. He used to be a high school teacher and football coach. People were drawn in by these two men, speaking and laughing. Heaven could wait a moment, they thought. Most just asked them questions and waved goodbye as they crossed over. Some stayed for a while, trying to help the man remember his name, or at least giving him some company for a while in the clouds. A large camp was forming at the gates of Heaven. It was a point where people would reminisce about their lives back on Earth. There were some who just couldn’t let go. They stayed with James and the man. Eventually, there was a pocket outside of Heaven, not quite there and not quite anything else. Almost Heaven, they called it. They hadn’t made it to the land of angels, but what if they didn’t like it? They’d be stuck there all eternity.