“Gonna go hit the trails…” At this point, I suppose she wouldn’t have accepted any of my excuses. “If you can’t keep up with me, how can you keep up with our children?” I nodded in agreement and to my regret, declined on a second cycling lap. I was secretly saving energy for tomorrow’s better-late-then-never Spring cleaning.
All morning motivations were approached with kid gloves. Her weekend wasn’t about to be filled with the stresses of a typical work day. It’s a simple philosophy, but it makes all the sense. So, how would she spend her mornings? Certainly not in the local dog park considering we were cat people. Although from time-to-time a mysterious couple would be spotted laying in the grass with a grey kitty on a long blue leash, “Oh, what a pretty cat!” Yes, that couple was us.
Once she got past a few cups of coffee in bed with the Macintosh, a simple plan was put into effect. I put my military face on and gave the command. I’ll start at this end, you at the other and we’ll meet in the middle. We’ll clean everything in our path while grabbing anything that can be stuffed in a washing machine. A few flicks of the Music Choice channel, and we began.
An hour or so later, I had finished the bathroom and was well into the kitchen when I stumbled across a blender I purchased a few weeks ago. I was determined to break in this new machinery. “Let’s make piña coladas tonight?” Her eyes grew brisk. We weren’t much in the way of bartenders, but the idea of adding a new recipe to our repertoire gave us great excitement. Plus we welcomed the opportunity to add another bottle to our proud collection.
For a girl who came to this city with nothing more then a single suitcase, she sure managed to acquire a lot of things through the years. Probably why she was given the task of the bedroom. But unlike the typical human characteristic of collecting objects, she liked to keep her life simple. Although, clothing and jewelry might be considered a different story.
It took three inches of cat hair off the oriental antique rug to final reach her in the middle. She had just finished going through the mail. I noticed a few freshly sealed and unstamped envelopes on my side of the bed, a clear indication of what was expected of me in the morning. After all, she could never find a postal box in this town.
Hunger set in after we left the first load at the laundromat. Normally it would have been a fine afternoon to cook, but we decided not to dirty our cleaning efforts. There will be plenty of time for that by the cats later. Instead, we enjoyed a simple meal at the local bagel place. For us, it was never too late for any item on a breakfast menu. We sat in the back under the ceiling fan next to a large ice machine, which later I commented about getting one for our apartment. She looked at me like I had ten heads. I like my carbonated drinks extra cold.
On our way out, we grabbed a few empty lottery tickets and asked the teller which was best to play. She shared the common dream of striking it rich but for uncommon reasons. Sure, traveling the world sounded nice. Saving every feline in Manhattan, that’s going to take a little more work, but I would like to think she knew that my unconditional support was always with her. In retrospect, the thought of probability versus utter chaos baffles me. A million-to-one random occurrence could leave ones life either purposelessly over-joyed or completely shattered. But what do I know, mathematics were never really my game.
I had my errands to do but they would have to wait. After a buzz of the iPhone alarm, we went back to the laundromat and retrieved the massive heap of overheated laundry. The focus of my errands was interrupted by her request to help with a few tasks unachievable alone. We lifted the heavy box spring and set the top sheet. I was instructed to reassemble the futon on my return. Reaching first for my errands list then for the doorknob, I heard her voice in the distance. “Would it be okay if I went out for a run?”
I’ve always had a great appreciation for her gestures. It was evident she did not need my permission but this showed a polite, perhaps even old fashioned style that I never took for granted. It was the thoughtfulness that reinforced my sense of importance. “Of course,” was my response and I left.
Okay, fishing-line to hang the pow-wow crystal stone, reed diffuser to replace the vintage cracked vase from Ruby Lane, calligraphy pen for a new design to give her star and dolphin tattoos some company, and a black backpack which could come in use to carry all of this home. Oh and let’s not forget the pineapple and the coconut, main ingredients for our evening drink of choice. But how long was I at the supermarket? I would have never thought to keep those receipts for investigation, in order to provide an exact location in time.
My first impulse as I opened the apartment door was of an anxious void. I stopped for a moment then quickly replaced the thought with remembrance of her last words. As I looked up at the bedroom, her final efforts amazed me. I could not remember a time when the bedding had ever looked any better. The pillows were packed perfectly against the freshly tucked comforter, ending with a gentle tight fold of the eggplant-colored fleece at the foot of the bed. The idea of sharing this plush wonderland with her tonight filled me with warmth.
I hastily unpacked the goods, casting a small rainbow on the hardwood floor after hanging the crystal stone on the window sill. I placed the calligraphy pen on the bed as a notion of inspiration. Gathering the sparkling new blender and cutting board, I set them next to the ingredients on top of the John Boos butcher block. After taking a deep sniff of the diffuser, I thought it would be better to wait for her approval before pouring the contents into the new vase. I fed the cats, although François was totally uninterested, put the cover back on the futon, and then sat at my computer in the office.
Routine signals often fail to break the distraction of electronic devices. Without the reference of her exact time of departure, it took the drop of the sun for me to understand something was very different. It’s a natural instinct to toy with the worst possible scenario. Once the worst is thought of we quickly scout through the more feasible alternatives. I’ve never been much of the over-protective type and I wasn’t about to start now.
I decided on a quick walk up and down the block, giving her a chance to sneak in behind me, perhaps with an unusual but excusable excuse. On my return I checked the bathroom for the fifth time, longing to hear the sound dripping from the shower head. No clues other than a charging cell phone and a silver case filled with identifications. I returned to the front stoop.
I sat and thought of what one could accomplish within an hour’s length of time. I figured many things could fit within that time frame, which led to my decision of that particular duration. Although not a terrible amount of time, I wasn’t asking for much. I didn’t count the cigarettes, but sixty minutes ticked faster than what I had imagined. Once the last allowed second was up, I began the construction of my white flag; for something was definitely wrong.
It began to rain. I managed to dig up our old umbrella along with an imaginary handbook and I set off. I was in no hurry to reach my destination and was quite hopeful to be interrupted along the way. It wasn’t long until I passed the large lit letters reading Emergency, rejoining with mankind. I figured this would be fast. Surely somebody in here could tell me I have come to the wrong place and I can set path back home to the fresh sound of the running shower.
I muttered a name to the security guard and he checked his records to find no match. The response was good enough for me to happily escape, until I remembered the silver case. He handed me the receiver of his telephone and I repeated my cause to the voice on the other end. The word “jogger” led me to be transferred to another voice. After another repeat of my story, I was advised to come to the hospital. I informed him I was already standing there. He asked to speak with the security guard so I handed him the receiver. He hung up after a brief conversation and asked me to follow him.
I followed, absorbing only what I could process. Awaiting a punch-line to this cruel practical joke, passing bright lights I was eventually instructed to stop. As the security guard left, another faceless being approached. He or she raised a fist full of keys, unlocked the door titled Family Comfort Room and then disappeared.
I entered the room. Panic would not allow me to sit so I quickly propped the door open with my umbrella and escaped back into the hallway. I remember thinking they must have me mistaken for someone else. Someone will help me understand, but I wasn’t about to ask the nurse wheeling that poor body covered in white sheets. My rationality was not about to make a connection. Then the physician came.
“…dolphin and a star.”