The Five People I'll Meet

... In Purgatory.

Let us imagine, for a moment, that the Catholics are right. Let's just say that, out of all of the countless faiths, religions, creeds, philosophies and belief systems embraced by the human inhabitants of this big blue marble, Catholicism is the one that hits the metaphysical bull's-eye.

If such a thing is true, it means that — as it would with many if not most other major religions — there's a heaven and a hell.

It also means that there's a purgatory.

In Catholicism, purgatory is the place where the souls of those who've been forgiven their mortal sins but with venal sins still on their tabs — a circumstance known as a "state of grace" — are sent. There they remain until atonement is made or the proper punishment is exacted, so that they may enter heaven as perfect.

If heaven were the most exclusive beautiful-people-only nightclub imaginable, purgatory would be a sort of combination gym and cosmetic surgery clinic — no pain, no gain.

It's possible that I will die cleansed of mortal sins. (Hey, c'mon, I said possible — we're working in the land of the Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection here; anything could happen.) But I'll certainly never get all those venal sins worked off of my permanent record before I'm evicted from my life; swearing at motorists and stealing office supplies aren't really near the top of my list of Things to Quit Doing Immediately.

So, at best, I'm looking at sliding under the door, Indiana Jones-style, to just barely make it into purgatory.

And I'm looking at spending quite a bit of time there.

Here are the five people I'd like to spend it with, were I given a choice:

Matt Groening. My endless questions about obscure references and lines of dialogue can serve as the Simpsons and Futurama creator's penance. That, and he'll have plenty of time to finally read my spec script.

Neil Gaiman. The fantasy author could institute an ongoing short-story tutorial/reading-in-the-round discussion group. Maybe he can teach John Grisham and Dean Koontz how to write, assuming they are forgiven the mortal sin of actively publishing.

The Coen Brothers. I count the filmmaking team as one person, because, well, it's kind of like they are. And who doesn't want to know what Barton Fink was REALLY about?

Will Quinlan. Local musician Quinlan's a nice Catholic boy, so he'll probably find a way to get in on the guest list, and it'd be nice to see a familiar face. Plus, Hendrix is probably already in heaven, and The Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli is almost surely roasting in hell.

Kate Winslet.Why should the stalking have to stop just because the breathing did?

Ah, but purgatory's not an interminable cocktail party where one is allowed to circulate dreamily amongst one's heroes, friends and peers, now is it? Purgatory isn't exactly hell, or even Hell Lite (Now With 50 Percent Less Agony and 80 Percent Less Hitler) — most literature on the subject takes pains to emphasize this fact. But purgatory isn't exactly Two Dollar Irish Car Bomb Nite for Dead Folks, either. It's a place of atonement, of arduous and probably painful ritual purification.

(It also makes for great marketing; after purgatory, even if heaven isn't, you know, heavenly, it's still gonna seem pretty awesome.)

Purgatory isn't supposed to be fun; I'm going to suffer in the name of being made perfect, which means I'm pretty sure I'm not going to meet the people I want to meet. In fact, I'm likely going to meet the people I don't want to meet, quite possibly the people who are the polar opposites of the people I want to meet, like purgatory is some Bizarro Heaven, a flip-flopped anti-utopia I must endure before moving on, whole and pure, into the immaculateness of the real thing.

Here are the five people with whom I'll probably end up spending my time in purgatory:

Seth MacFarlane. Hanging out with the smarmy Family Guy creator and Groening rival would be worse than the time I [insert inane, obvious scene from immediately familiar out-of-date sitcom or movie here].

Mitch Albom. Hey, the fact that I stole an author's universally recognizable book title and twisted it to my own ends doesn't mean I want to actually talk to him. He'd probably try to make me feel better about myself by telling me a preachy, melodramatic parable that's ostensibly tragic yet ultimately uplifting, and for that he'd have to die again.

The Wachowski Brothers. I don't care that they got Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly to grind it up together in Bound. What else would we have to talk about? I have no interest in knowing how difficult it is to combine martial arts, science fiction and graphic novels in a way that makes all those great things seem to suck.

Chad Kroeger. Don't know the name? He's the singer and primary songwriter for Nickelback. 'Nuff said, right?

Kate Winslet. Look, we all know that if I ever got to meet her, I'd stutter, laugh insanely, and run away to hide under the nearest table and cry. Then I'd have to spend the rest of my time in purgatory avoiding her and asking everybody else if she'd said anything about me recently. And if that's not punishment enough for whatever venal sins remain on my immortal soul, well, maybe I should've just been sent to hell in the first place.

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