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￭ s m i l e
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2012-01-22 | |
I hear a loud, noxious noise, then smell the powerful aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. I come around... Where am I?
I’m in a coffee shop I realize.
I look about with renewed confusion. I remember kissing Sharon this morning. Was it this morning, or was she still in the hospital? I shake my head.
I look down at the glass-topped table. Did I come here for a coffee, or did I have one already? My memory fails me. I sob into my sleeve. I am a man, I cannot be weak, cannot let them see my mind is feeble. I cannot be less than... strong.
“Thanks, Cheri,” I hear.
The voice is familiar but I can’t place it... A grey-haired, middle-aged man approaches the table where I find myself.
He speaks. I hear him through dense fog, my mind waivers, wanders, cannot... refuses to focus.
“Dad,” He repeats.
I look up at him and scrutinize his face, but have no recollection of him. None.
“I don’t know you,” I tell him.
“I’m Jake, your son.”
I don’t remember having a son. “Sharon and I don’t have any sons.”
“Yes you do, there are two of us, Tom and I.”
I hear a tinny song play, the man pulls something off his belt and scrutinizes it for a moment, then pushes a button and speaks into it.
“Hi Tom, yeah, I found him. I was about to call you. Cherí, from the coffee shop called and gave me the heads–up.”
I search around for a cord. He sounds like he is on the phone, but where is the cable? I frown.
‘Jake,’ sits down across from me.
“I could use a coffee, how about you?” He asks.
Why is this man I do not know, offering to buy me a cup of coffee, I wonder? I remember Sharon. I need to see her. I think that she’s in the hospital, though I can’t remember why. I slide the chair back and stand up, though I feel unsteady.
“Hey, where’re you going?” Says the guy who calls himself Jake.
I don’t know why I should have to explain myself to this man, but it seems easier and I try to tell him, but it doesn’t come out clearly.
“I’ve ah... got to go. My... my wife, she’s uhm, not well. She’s in the hospital.” As I speak the words, I know they are true. Sharon is sick. I can’t remember what it is, but she is ailing… the ghastly word terminal, flashes through my mind.
“Dad,” Jake puts a gentle, restraining hand on my arm. Mom passed away last year. Breast cancer, remember?”
No, it’s not true! “Why are you lying to me?” I demand and shake his hand off my arm. Our eyes meet, my body trembles. I sit. I see truth in those compassionate, green eyes. Green like Sharon’s. A memory comes to me, an unwelcome one.
A tiny, shrivelled husk lay in a hospital bed. It was all that was left of my Sharon. She was in a drugged stupor, from the pain medication, when she let out one last, shallow breath.
“Oh God!” I sob, my face in my hands, “She’s gone.”
“I’m sorry Dad,” Jake reaches over and touches my arm. He gets up as I go through the realization that the love of my life is taken from me. Sixty-one years we were married. Sixty-one glorious years. She was my life and breath. What will I do without her? How will I go on?
Jake is back, with two paper cups. He sits and pushes one across the small table to me. I take a timid sip of the coffee and discover this man knows how I like it. I look again into those sad, green eyes. They are Sharon’s eyes. I remember our oldest boy has her eyes. They are so green it’s as if they are painted on.
There is a flood of memories, Jake’s face is familiar again, and I see a picture of Tom in my head, then my Sharon on our wedding day, stunning in white. Tears leak out, run down my face, and drip into my coffee, but it doesn’t matter. I am with her… for now.
We drink our coffees in silence.
“Shall I take you home Dad?”
“Huh? Oh yeah, that would be great.”
“Can I pick you up tomorrow morning and take you out for coffee? Tom will meet us here.”
I smile. “It will be great, to visit with you both for a bit.”
There is confusion when Jake arrives in the morning.
“I said that I would take you out for coffee this morning, remember Dad?” My oldest boy tells me.
“Really? No I don’t remember that.”
“Can you get ready, Tom will be waiting for us.”
“Sure,” I give him a happy smile. “I’ll get to visit with both my boys for a while. That’s nice.”
I head to the bedroom to change out of my dressing gown and put on some clothes. It is clear that Jake is agitated. I know I’m slower that I used to be.
I have trouble finding my sock and underwear drawer, then my shirts aren’t where I hang them. Now, my shoes have gone missing.
“Sorry son, I can’t seem to find my shoes. I left them by the front door when you brought me home yesterday.”
“We came in through the garage,” Jake says in an unwelcome, terse voice. He leaves the room and comes back with my shoes.
“Thanks Jake,” I smile. He returns it, but his smile is grim.
Tom is waiting for us at the coffee shop, sipping on a Latte, with a half-eaten muffin on a small, curiously shaped plate, which I admire.
I look up from the plate startled, by the vehemence in Tom’s tone. “Yeah?”
“I spoke to you four times,” he says.
I shrug, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
“What were you looking at?”
“That plate, it’s an odd shape isn’t it, and an interesting shade of burgundy.”
“Whatever.” Tom shakes his head.
Jake arrives with two ceramic mugs, places one before me, another in front of the empty chair, and sits down. It is graveyard-quiet for twenty eternal seconds. This is not a familiar hush, rather a tentative, uncomfortable quiet.
Jake clears his throat. “Dad, Tom and I are worried about you living alone in the house.”
“I can’t imagine why, I’m fine. A lady comes in... I don’t remember exactly but a couple of times a week to clean and Meals on Wheels drops food by for me. The coffee shop and that little restaurant are just a short walk from my house. A maintenance company takes care of the yard and you both help out with little things, like if the toilet won’t stop running or I need a new light bulb. Everything’s fine.”
Tom frowns, but says nothing and looks to his brother, older by two years. For a moment, they are children, eight and ten, then I come back from my short journey.
“Dad, you’re lucid today, but yesterday you wandered off and missed a doctor’s appointment.”
“I don’t think I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday,” I tell them, though I know my mind is no longer faithful.
“Yes you did,” Jake continues, “it was the second time in a row, and this morning you were supposed to be ready to come for coffee with us and you were still undressed when I got to the house.”
“I’m eighty... eighty-eight,” I defend myself. “Some little things are going to slip through the cracks.”
“You can’t take care of yourself any more Dad,” Tom rushes in.
“I’m doing fine.”
“You’re scaring the hell out of us,” Tom says in an angry tone, which shocks me.
“What do you mean?”
“You disappear, you go wandering off, and no one knows where you are. You miss doctor’s appointments and the public nurse says that you are often not home when she comes to check on you. You leave the stove and oven on. What will happen if something catches on fire? You could die or be badly hurt, and there is no one to make sure you take your medication.”
“So, what are you thinking that I should move into one of those, Old Folks Homes?”
“Yes,” Tom was blunt. “For your safety and everyone’s peace of mind.”
“No,” I told them, “Not while I breathe.”
I awake to the sky. It is a pale blue and the clouds are still as death. I lift my hands and rub my eyes. The scene is unchanged. I realize that I am in a bed, tucked into crisp, white sheets. The ceiling is painted to look like the sky on a summer afternoon.
Nothing is familiar.
A young woman comes into the room dressed in scrubs. I think she must be in her thirties. She walks over to the window and opens the blinds.
“Good morning Samuel,” she says.
Is she speaking to me I wonder? My name doesn’t come to me.
“Are you speaking to me miss?”
She gives me a sad, kind smile. “Of course Samuel. We need to get you breakfast, Tom and Jake are coming by to see you this morning.”
“Who are Tom and Jake?”
I see sorrow in her eyes. I don’t understand.
“You must be mistaken, Sharon and I don’t have any children yet, we’ve only been married a year and think it’s best to wait for two or three years so we can get settled into a house before we start a family.”
The young woman comes over to my bed and touches my face. I look into her grey eyes. There is compassion. She picks something up from the bed stand and hands it to me. It is a mirror. I look into it and an ancient worn, face stares back at me.
“I’ll bring you breakfast,” she says, then does something to my bed and it tilts up to a sitting position. She disappears, and returns with a tray. She sets it on an over-bed table, makes a few adjustments, and then takes the lid off the plate.
Steam rises and the aroma of bacon fills the air. I smile.
“Can you manage by yourself?” She asks.
“Of course I reply,” taking a strip of the crispy bacon between forefinger and thumb. It is fabulous.
After breakfast, the woman shows me where the bathroom is. I pee and wash. There is something that looks like a safety razor. I lather my face and scrape it across my beard. It’s comfortable and doesn’t even nick me. I can’t remember the last time I shaved without cutting myself. There are clothes laid out and I dress. There are no shoes, so I imagine the slippers will have to do. I am dressing for a reason, but I can’t remember why.
I step out into a room with a ceiling painted to mimic the sky. I doesn’t look familiar and I wonder where I am. A grey-eyed, young woman comes in and asks me how I feel.
“Fine,” I tell her, “But where am I... and where’s Sharon?”
“I’m sorry, Samuel,” she says, “Sharon is not here right now, but there are two nice young men coming to visit.”
She hands me a small mirror and an ancient, decrepit man stares back out at me.
I drop the mirror in shock.
“Who... who’s coming?” I ask.
“Jake and Tom,” she tells me.
“Jake,” I savour the name, “Tom. It’s always good to meet new friends,” I tell her.
“Yes Samuel,” she agrees with a sad smile, “It is.”
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