The other day I had a dream. I dreamt I arrived at the gates of heaven, heavyshut, pure oak, bevelled and crafted, glinting sharp in the sunlight. St Peter stood to greet me; the big man wore brown, smile set deep against his ruddy cheeks.
‘You’re here,’ he said.
‘I am,’ I said.
‘Great to see you – been expecting you,’ he smiled. ‘Come on in.’
He pushed gently against the huge door; it swung silently, creakless. I took a couple of steps forward until, at the threshold, one more step up and in, I realised I wasn’t alone. My friends had joined me, but they hovered behind, silently, looking on. None spoke. I realized only I could speak. I looked at them; some were Christians, some Hindus, some Buddhists, some Muslims, some Jews, some atheists. Some god knows what. I stopped, paused. A hesitant St Peter looked at me, patiently, expectantly.
‘What about these guys?’ I asked him. ‘My friends. Can they come?’
‘Well, Phil,’ he replied, soft in the still air, ‘You know the rules. I’m sorry, but that’s the way things are. Only the right ones.’
I looked at him. He seemed genuinely pained by his answer. I stood, considering. What should I do? I thought about my reference points, and thought about Jesus, the bastard, the outsider, the unacceptable, the drunkard, the fool, the heretic, the criminal, and I knew exactly where I belonged.
‘I’ll just stay here then too,’ I said, taking my one foot out of heaven. And I’ll tell you, I’d swear I saw something like a grin break across St Peter’s face, and a voice from inside whispered, ‘At last.’