He was alive. He placed a hand on his heart and comforted himself. He struggled to get out of bed, but he couldn’t.
“Need something, Gary?”
She was there. Sitting on a chair, near the window, looking at him. Legs crossed, a cigarette in her hand, a grey shawl draped loosely around her shoulders. He looked at the bedside clock. 1300 hours. It must be her second smoke of the day.
He turned to look at her, “No my dear. It was the dream again.”
He pulled himself up, using his weak hands as support. In the struggle, he threw the covers on the floor. She stubbed her cigarette, walked towards the bed and helped him put back the covers, smoothening the creases.
He hardly had much strength left, but he was adamant to make the most of his remaining days. Outside, was beautiful and he yearned for the blast of cold air to hit his face. To make him feel alive again. He needed to breathe again, needed to feel the taste of life again, cherish it as much as he could.
He turned towards her and grinned. She smiled and nodded.
He stretched out his hand and opened the window a little. Closed his eyes and sighed a little. Then with all his might pushed open the window. The winds were kind to him. His eyes lit up instantly. He strained his eyes to look to the furthest possible point of visibility. White was all he could see. It must have been snowing for days then.
She fed him warm soup and covered him with her grey shawl. She read to him poetry from his favorite book and spoke to him at length about war and peace. Warmth, she exuded only warmth and he wondered why he had never asked about her past. She had been tending to him, ever since he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. She was there, when he woke up. She was there when he fell asleep. He knew her routine. He understood the tone of voice she used at times when agitated. He knew her. From somewhere. He held on to the grey shawl. He didn’t let go of it all day. It comforted him.
He felt like singing.
That night he slept with the corners of his mouth turned upward.
The next morning, he woke up with a start. The same dream. He placed a hand on his heart. It was beating, fast. He took a deep breath. He was alive, today as well.
He turned to look at her. The astray on the table was empty; no sight of her.
He pushed himself off the bed and walked towards the hallway, slowly, holding on to the walls.
A young boy, probably in his mid-twenties, wearing an apron, was softly humming to himself. He dropped the whisk he was holding at the sight of him. He froze for a few seconds.
“Who are you, young man?” he asked him, confused.
The young man recovered instantly, “Sir! You mustn’t get up!” he undid the straps of his apron and rushed towards him.
“Where is she?”
“Who are you referring to, Sir?”
He looked at the young man, speechless. Was he dreaming?
The young man walked him to the bed. He shook his head, pointing to the chair.
“Right Sir” said the young man and helped him sit on the chair by the window, placing a cushion to support his back.
“So. Where is she? Have you come in place of her then? Have they…have they sent you instead?”
The young man looked puzzled, “Sir. I am sorry but I don’t follow. I have been taking care of you every day. You’ve been bed ridden for months! There is nobody here Sir. This side of town, its me and you and Mr. Bart from the store, who delivers the goods to us.”
“Nonsense!” He shouted, placing a hand on his heart. “She read to me. She…” he couldn’t speak.
Blurred visions of white disturbed him, and his toes started feeling numb. She will come back.
“Get me a cigarette will you” He pushed the sheer white curtains with his frail hands and blinked several times. His vision was still blurred.
The young man hesitantly lit the cigarette for him.
He took a drag and coughed…took a drag again and with a wave of his hand, dismissed the young man from the room.
Minutes before his heart stopped, he said
“The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand.”