As Ruth collapses into the road, Mr. Harvey “sail[s] away unwatched.” Susie tips forward helplessly, falling through the farthest boundary of her heaven. She is aware of Ray running towards Ruth, shouting her name—the next second, Susie is in Ruth’s eyes, looking up. She can feel Ruth’s back against the pavement, and the fresh scrapes where Ruth has fallen on the gravel. Ruth’s spirit, meanwhile, pushes against her own skin, wanting out, and soon leaves Ruth’s body and flies upward toward heaven. Susie-as-Ruth is filled with a “pitiful desire”—to be alive again, on Earth, forever. Susie realizes that she and Ruth have switched places, and that Susie is firmly in Ruth’s body. As Susie adjusts to the “marvelous weight” now pinning her to Earth, she notes that she can no longer hear the voices of Franny or Holly up in heaven.
The switch that occurs between Ruth and Susie is not a clean reversal of position or consciousness. Susie briefly inhabits Ruth’s body at the same time as Ruth’s own spirit, and as Ruth struggles to make room for Susie’s soul and consciousness, the two share the same body for just a moment. Then Susie, alone in a body once again, feels the deliciousness of being alive—the weight of life and the burden of humanity is heavy, but now she sees it as a “marvelous” gift that she longs to once again possess.
Ray asks Susie-as-Ruth what happened, but Susie—knowing he still believes her to be Ruth—does not know how to answer. Ray grows nervous, and offers to carry Ruth to the car, but Susie insists that she is okay. With Ray’s help, she stands up. In heaven, women are throwing rose petals as they greet Ruth Connors.
While Ruth is welcomed to heaven by a gleeful, grateful showering of recognition, thanks, and devotion, Susie has rather clunkily fallen to Earth and is not even recognized by the man she loves and desires, shielded as she is within Ruth’s body.
Ray looks into Susie’s eyes, and notes that something has changed. Rather than reveal what has happened, Susie says only, “Kiss me.” Ray hesitates, and asks “Ruth” what has happened to her. Susie-as-Ruth reaches her hands up to Ray’s face and pulls him toward her in a “precious, stolen” kiss. Afterward, Ray and Susie walk back to the car.
Ruth and Ray have kissed many times before, so the request does not seem so odd to Ray, though he does seem to be concerned for Ruth’s bodily well-being. He has not yet intuited what has happened, though he does believe that “something” has changed.
Ray asks Susie where she wants to go, and suddenly Susie knows why she has fallen to Earth—“to take back a piece of heaven [she has] never known.” She instructs him to drive to Hal Heckler’s bike shop. Ray asks Susie if he can kiss her again, and she lets him. Afterward, Susie tells Ray that when he kisses her, she sees heaven. He asks her what it looks like. She tells him that if he makes love to her, she’ll tell him.
Susie realizes that she and Ruth have each been given a chance to possess what they have always desired. For Ruth, it is an affirmation of her devotion to the dead, and for Susie, it is a positive sexual experience with the person she has longed for since childhood. Susie is direct and flirtatious, where in her life on Earth she was shy and afraid—she finally owns her desire and wields it proudly, knowing she probably does not have much time to waste.
At the back of the bike shop, Susie reaches over the doorjamb until she feels the spare key. Ray asks her how she knew to look there, and Susie answers that she was watched “hundreds” of people hide keys. Inside the little apartment over the bike shop, Susie tells Ray that she needs to shower, and tells him to “make himself at home.” In the bathroom, Susie runs the water and takes off Ruth’s clothes. She hopes that Ruth can see her body as Susie sees it—“perfect” in all its “living beauty.”
Susie’s omniscience allows her to know things like where Samuel Heckler hides his spare key, but she does not quite reveal this to Ray yet. She provides a coy answer that does not deny who she is, but does not alarm Ray with an outright admission of her true identity, either. Susie luxuriates in her new body, excited for the chance to once again possess a physical form and put it to good use.
Susie steps inside the shower and calls for Ray to join her. Ray, for the first time, addresses Susie by her name, telling her he’s not sure if he should. Susie’s heart seizes, and she asks Ray what he just said—she points out that he called her Susie. Ray pulls back the shower curtain and looks into Susie’s eyes. He says her name again, questioningly. She begs him to join her in the shower, her eyes filling with tears. After a moment, he does. As Ray touches Ruth’s body, he realizes that Susie is inside of her. Susie confesses that she has been watching Ray and Ruth for years, and now she wants him to make love to her—slowly, he does.
Ray, who has known since “Ruth” woke up on the pavement that something is different, finally admits to himself that he believes Susie has possessed Ruth’s body. Perhaps it is a slip of the tongue, at first, but this passage also demonstrates that Ray has been dreaming of and longing for Susie just as deeply as she has for him, and that his desire for her enables him to recognize her anywhere—even in the form of his best friend.
As they have sex, Ray asks Susie what heaven looks like, and she does her best to explain. Ray asks Susie if she will be gone soon, and she tells him that she thinks she will. The two of them move to the bed, and after they finish, Ray begs Susie not to go. Susie rests her head on Ray’s chest and falls asleep. When she opens her eyes again, she senses that she does not have much time left. When Ray wakes, she asks him if he ever thinks about the dead, and tells him that the dead are everywhere, all the time, and that talking to them doesn’t need to be “sad or scary.”
Ray and Susie fulfill their desire for one another in a moment of passion but also of emotion, longing, and questioning. The excitement of their lovemaking is inextricably intertwined with the marvelous and baffling occurrence unfolding before them—Susie’s return to Earth. Their experience of one another is heightened by this, and provides an opportunity both for Ray to instruct Susie in all she has missed on Earth and for Susie to instruct Ray on how to reconcile his fears of the dead with the reality that the dead are everywhere, all the time—an inescapable part of life.
Susie sees something at the end of the bed—she tries to convince herself it is a trick of the light, but as Ray reaches out to touch her, she realizes she can no longer feel anything. Ray slips out of the bed and stands up to go to the bathroom. Susie implores him to read Ruth’s journals as the room fills with the spirits of dead men and women. Slowly, Susie makes her way to the desk in the corner and picks up a phone sitting there. She punches in the number to her house, and on the third ring, Buckley picks up. She tells him that it is Susie calling, but Buckley cannot hear her. As spirits continue to fill the room, Susie asks them who they are, but her voice no longer makes any noise.
Susie knows that her time to return to heaven has come—she was only granted a brief moment on Earth to fulfill her deepest desire, to participate in life and learn the secrets of adulthood. She attempts to reconnect with her family, but it is too late—she is already being pulled away by a group of spirits who have come to guide her back to the place where she truly belongs.
Susie notices that she is standing up among the spirts, but Ruth is sprawled across the desk. From the bathroom, Susie hears Ray calling for her to pass him a towel. When she does not answer, he comes to the doorway, where he sees Ruth passed out. He runs to her and touches her on the shoulder, and she wakes up. They look at each other, and each realizes that Susie is gone.
Susie watches Ruth and Ray return to one another, as she herself prepares to depart. She knows that they will be there for one another, and will help each other to process what has transpired between them.
Susie recalls a memory of riding a train once, during her life on Earth, backward into a tunnel. This, she says, is how it feels to leave Earth for the second time. She is accompanied now, not ripped away, and it is easier to leave than coming back in the first place had been. As she looks down, she sees her two old friends holding each other, unable to speak yet about what has happened to them, dumbstruck by the possibilities the experience has opened up for them.
Susie’s second departure from Earth is not full of pain, confusion, or desperation. She is ready, she is fulfilled, and she knows that she is both flanked by a new kind of “family” and returning to the place she is meant to be.