Nearing his end, a lonely man waits for one final visitor.
This story was contributed by Elford Alley.
"I know she is coming
And I know she will look
And that is the longing."
-Leonard Cohen, The Hills
Sleep never comes, he's fixed in a twilight state. The room was dark now, the bare walls so pale and empty they displayed an imperceptible glow. He was alone. How else could walls glow? How else could they be so bare?
He attempted to sit up, his body unable to respond to the brain's commands. He fell back instead, somehow deeper in the bed than before, the cold air cooling the sweat under him.
The date is February 14th.
Machines in other rooms beeped, joining the ambience of footsteps and voices in the halls and corridors outside his door. The fluorescent lights illuminated a line underneath the door. Just enough light so he could see her. She stood in the corner. When he glimpsed her, she stepped forward.
"Hello," he croaked.
Standing over his bed, she leaned down. The concern in her forehead smoothed away. She wore a jean jacket covered in buttons, but he can't make out the images on them. Her eyes are green, that he could see. Her hair streamed in long dark curls. She brushed one away. Now she glowed, the walls receded. He could see the freckles that dotted her nose and cheeks, the lines that formed around her mouth when she smiled.
Do I know her?
He could see the right corner of her mouth curve up higher than the other side.
Yes. I know her well.
"You've been gone?" He asked.
She gripped his hand. He felt nothing, no warmth, no pressure. "23 years."
"That's a long time," he said. "I am old then?"
"That doesn't seem right."
She smirked again. "Try standing up then."
He chuckled. "23 years." He felt the warmth now, the gentle squeeze of her hand on his. Lighting up his spine, a blooming longing in his heavy chest.
"Yes," She whispered.
He searched desperately through the fog and crumbled ruin of his memory. Her name. Her face he knew, or at least he knew the feeling that smile could evoke. But her name? He tried to stifle the tears.
"And I can't remember because?" He asked.
"The disease. It keeps you confused," She said. Her hand gripped his tighter.
She was here. But she couldn't be?
"Must not have long then?" He asked.
"No," she said.
"Will I be alone?"
She leaned down to him, and rested her forehead against his. She then lifted her head, kissing him delicately. He remembered sensations, places, fights, a lifetime of emotion and passion. Even though he felt something drawn away, being carefully led ever close to a cliff overlooking an abyss, he felt whole again. He felt alive, he burned, these were his last moments, consumed in a great fire.
"No," she said.
"You're staying?" He asked.
"Thank you," he whispered. Tired. He felt tired. The fire faded to faint luminous coals. The abyss called, ready. She would wait. She would lead him there.
"Returning the favor," she said.
"Thank you," He choked.
Melanie. That was it.
Elford Alley is an author from Texas. Read more from Elford here.
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