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About the author:
Alysha Kaye was born in San Marcos, TX, where she also received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. She worked in marketing for a brief and terrible cubicle-soul-sucking time until she was accepted into Teach for America and promptly moved to Oahu. She taught 7th grade English in Aiea for two years and also received her Masters in Education from University of Hawaii. She now teaches in Austin, TX and tries to squeeze in as much writing as possible between lesson planning.
What inspired you to write your book?
I dreamt about The Waiting Room once, and offhandedly wrote my boyfriend a love poem about waiting for him after death. Somehow, that became a novel.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Chapter 1 (excerpt)
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was waiting.
“Why are you still here, man?”
Everyone was staring. Some simply amused or curious, some with amazed mouths open, some with suspicious eyes, and others with pure envy. I didn’t know why the hell I was still there. But I was definitely regretting telling this man that I’d been here for over half a day. Most people didn’t give two shits about me; everyone just ignored each other actually. But when I told this guy how long I’d been in here, he started spreading the word and now, apparently, I was some sort of spectacle.
“Hey man, I said why are you still here?”
I was too busy watching Nina. She was lying in our bed, staring at the ceiling, wrapped in nothing but my holiest white undershirt. She looked beautiful, hair tangled in black mobs around her, her eyes were always more green than brown when she cried.
I snapped out of it when the guy shoved me.
“I SAID WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL HERE?” His whole body was shaking. “I LOVE MY WIFE TOO GODDAMNIT!” He was yelling at the receptionist now. I just went back to watching Nina. She had moved her arm from over her chest to behind her pillow.
“Mr. Pierre, I understand, but there’s nothing we can do. You have about two minutes now. I’m sorry.”
His shouting turned to sobs. I could feel more eyes than before burning into me from every angle.
“Johanna and Fernando Alvarado!” The receptionist made a check on a clipboard as a round-faced pregnant woman was led out the side door.
Nina rolled onto her stomach. I wanted to kiss the arch of her foot, the skin behind her knees. It suddenly hit me. I forced myself to turn away and walked over to the balding man lying in a ball on the floor.
“I don’t understand.” I stared at the tears soaking into his mustache.
“Are you an idiot?” He glared up at me. “You get to wait.”
As I opened my mouth to ask Wait for what? the receptionist called, “Luis Pierre!”
He stood, slowly, and brushed off his gray slacks even though they were pristine. “Lucky bastard,” he muttered, leaving me to gaze after him in complete bewilderment. Looking back, I wonder how he knew. I guess he just figured, what else would I be doing, waiting there for so long.
I stumbled over to the tiny gray-haired receptionist. Her body looked like a 12-year-old, her face like an 80-year-old. The name tag on her white button-up read “Ruth.”
A red-haired woman who was clutching the arm of a chubby, red-haired little boy was leaning across the desk. I caught the end of her question, “…any way I can find him?”
“No ma’am, I’m afraid not. Yes, Mr. Floyd?” Ruth looked at me expectantly. The red-haired woman drew her son in closer to her hip and whispered, “How do you do it?” I looked from her to Ruth, Ruth to her.
“Um.” I craned my neck to see if I could see Nina from here. I couldn’t. I started to get anxious.
“Mrs. Stevens, may I ask you to please sit back down? Mr. Floyd is new.” Ruth sounded one tone away from robotic. Yet comforting. An understanding robot.
“Oh.” The woman looked at me the way I would look at a cross between an elephant and a Chihuahua. She walked away, her son peering back to stick his tongue out at me.
“Mr. Floyd, I’m sorry no one has spoken with you yet. It’s a really busy time of year. Why don’t you take this packet? I’m guessing you need the English version?” Ruth handed me a thick, stapled stack of paper and then called out, “Diana Peng!” I couldn’t help but notice the look she tried to hide—fighting to stay professional. I was apparently a freak.
Everything reminded me of Nina. Our freshman year of college when I went with her to buy a pregnancy test (false alarm). Junior year when the health club was raising STD awareness and Nina forced me to get tested with her (also a negative, in case you were wondering). Strange that this place obviously had a hospital-esque vibe. Definitely not my idea of heaven, which is where I thought I was when I appeared in this bright room. But there are no clouds or angels playing harps.
To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen after death. I expected them to scrape my body off the highway and wrap it up in a sheet, to later be shoved into a box, which would then be tossed into the earth. Simple really, like gardening. But somehow my body wound up here, unscathed, same clean work clothes, tie straight. I closed my eyes behind the wheel of my Jetta and when I opened them, I was standing in front of a large window watching the aforementioned scraping process. So my body’s in two places? I don’t know. I don’t feel like a “soul.” What is a soul? Who even says we have one? Everyone thinks they’ll have the answers after they die, but apparently, you just get more questions.