Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dignity (Part 2)

His head's spinning. He doesn't want her to die. He doesn't want her to suffer.  Shit, he'd be kind to a dog or a cat but her? This is different, and for the first time, he doesn't know how he feels. All confidence melts from his soul and he is in a state of confusion and uncertainty. And he's angry.

It's not spoken of for weeks. He wants to, she doesn't. He broaches, she changes the subject. She's become the mistress of diversion, a skill he once practised to perfection whenever she wanted to talk seriously. He's not comfortable with the tables turning.

They travel, they see what they want to see, visit who she wants to visit. He's lovely as ever. This time, he makes love to her, not just sex. There's a desperation in his passion that she enjoys. He's more willing to embrace her, kiss her, feel her, hold her long after they're done.  The difference in their ages doesn't matter and he doesn't mention her waffling, her absent mindedness. He doesn't even comment on the way she drives. He's tighter, warmer, sweeter but he can't look at her. He can't look into those brown eyes; they burn and he doesn't like the pain.  These are Halcyon days which she knows are drawing close to her last.  These are end times, wonderful times and she's on cloud nine. She's standing her ground. Feeling confident, self-assured. These are alien emotions after years of being afraid and insecure.

She's cooks him lasagna but he picks at food he'd normally devour without it hitting the sides.

"Don't do this," he's staring into his plate.

"Sweetheart, I've thought about this. It's planned, it's organised. I know it's the coward's way out but I don't want to lose my hair, feel sick, be a burden."

He tries to interrupt but she puts a finger to his lips. Such a beautiful mouth, it pains her to shut it up.

"I don't want suppositories and palliative care, some stranger helping me shower, asking if I've shit myself today. I don't want long lost friends looking painfully at me. I don't want my kids to sit vigil listening to my breathing. I don't want anyone to have to make a decision whether I die at home or in a hospital. But...I don't want to die ALONE!"

She needs to gather herself because the emotion's swelling, "I need a friend now. A real friend. Just be there with me. You are my last love. My impossible romance. You've made me happy, sad, angry, elated, silly . . you're the light, always will be. Help me?"

He shakes his head. This time he clears the plates. She doesn't see his face as he rinses them. She'll never see that expression of sadness on his face, no-one ever has. No-one ever will.

They're at the airport, tickets for Switzerland on the bar. He drinks a beer, she takes a cocktail. She's a nervous in planes. Ironic that she's paid a small fortune to end her life and she's afraid of dying in a plane crash. They laugh nervously about it and she swears she sees him well up. His eyes are bloodshot, like they get when he's had too much wine but he's only had one drink.

"I love you" she says.

"Love you too . ." he whispers, for only the second time since they met. Although she knows his idea of love is different, she accepts it as true - for him.

"Take care of Louise for me. She's fragile after that asshole left her. You're what she needs, someone calm and devoted, someone who'll treat her as she deserves."

He ignores the request but he's thought about her daughter more than once since they met.
"Ready?" He kisses her hand in a rare moment of public affection and they make their way towards the departure gate.

He'd seen people die before. Usually in less peaceful circumstances but the pain of watching a friend give up her life was an unfair burden for him. He couldn't say 'no', didn't want to say 'yes'.  Holding back the emotion was hard, he'd never done anything so difficult although he feels the same way he does on Memorial Day and the 4th July or when he hears of a death too soon. The same feeling he has when  when he has to euthanase a pet.  He's happy he spent last Christmas with her and a family oblivious to their closeness, but he's empty, cold, remorseful. He wants to sleep and shut it all out but she won't give him respite. He wants to run on unwilling legs. He wants to sob and release, but he maintains composure.

Everything happens according to plan. They dine and he makes an effort to savour rather than shovel. They drink champagne and reminisce. He pays bill and they leave.

At the clinic, there are formalities all conducted with sensitivity and compassion. A final briefing i given to ensure she's making the correct decision. Her firmly stating that this is what she wants and an exchange of paperwork. They have a quiet moment alone. He holds her hand, stays strong and smiles.  They declare now 'dying' affection for each other and before long, it's over.  Peaceful, fast and merciful, just what she wanted.

***

Only when he closes his apartment door behind him does he realise the severity of the moment and falls apart, overwhelmed with emotion that she would have liked to have seen, since he rarely showed his fragility when she was still alive. The moment poignant to him now. Nevertheless, he cries for her, for him, for her children.

He's on a plane, taking her home. He knows her kids are going to be furious with him. He knows that in doing what she wanted, he's damned either way and terrified of the reception. She'd organised everything. Even left him money to ship the casket home and to travel with her. He was angry, upset, confused, scared about how he'd approach her son and daughter, but loyalty rules doesn't it?

Charlie and Louise pick him up. There was history there. Charlie, the son and a friend made over time.  Louise, the daughter who had never approved of the friendship between what she perceived as a young 'gold digger' and her mother.  She didn't like him. She didn't know him, but the letter left by her mother had explained the truth. Told her of his value, their  deep and enduring friendship and she'd softened a little with grief. He could feel her stony stare throwing desperate daggers as he walked down the ramp. He'd seen it before.

"I'm so sorry," he says, unsure whether to make the first move. He shakes hands with the boy and bear hugs with familiar friendship, "Good to see ya man!" 

Charlie slaps him on the back and takes one of his bags. His attention turns towards Louise.  This time she actually looks into his eyes and the glare dissipates. She puts her arms around his neck and kisses his cheek.

"Thanks for being with her, for bringing her home." 

The gratitude is sincere, the kiss is not. She too is confused, disappointed, upset.  Once through the doors and heading into the car park she opens up.

"You knew? . . You knew and you didn't tell us?" She hits him on the chest, she slaps his face and he takes it. A man who would normally retaliate stands there under the stark open sky and cops a beating from a woman he thinks hates him. He gently grabs her wrists until she submits and dissolves in tears.  She presses her forehead against his chest and he wraps around her. For now it's the best he could do to break the barrier between them.

"I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry but I couldn't. She wanted to do it her way. She was my friend. She was insistent. Lou, listen to me . . . she wanted to do this. We talked about it. I tried to change her mind but she wouldn't have it. You know what she's like, tenacious, determined."

Louise knew. She knew of all things that her mother was strong, willful yet fragile. She knew that her mother was lonely, sad, disillusioned. She also knew that her mother trusted this man.   Wrapped in his arms she began to breathe. She remembered her grandfather dying. Slowly, painfully, suffering the indignity of home nursing and palliative care. It struck her that yes, this perhaps was a better ending and that what he he did was braver than she gave him credit. The ultimate personal sacrifice.

She pulls away and looks into his eyes, he's crying, moved. The stone facade now broken, the arrogance gone. She sees someone different this time. Compassionate, caring, damaged but honest and she begins to forgive. He made the ultimate sacrifice for a close friend, and helped her mother through it. She takes his hand

Charlie man-slaps him on the shoulder, wiping his own surprising tears, "It'll work out man. It'll all work out."

A band of three, united by one common thread wonder towards the bulky items receiving dock and greet the waiting funeral director.

***

It takes months of correspondence, more months of healing and occasional visits but ends with a beginning. Wendy knew it might, and after the reunion with Louise, he hoped it would. Two bodies sweet and snug as the winter sun rises and the chill of dawn makes him pull the duvet over her bare but beautiful shoulders. She looks uncannily like the photograph of her mother at the same age.

Out of adversity comes opportunity and he made the most of his. They're together, happy. In love.



Posted for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Testing the Friendship"
Posted for The Tenth Daughter of Memory "Testing the Friendship"

4 comments:

  1. Good. Could be better.

    We need to work on varying your dialog, since nearly all of characters (and not just in this story) speak as though they're the same person.

    That out of the way, this is my early favorite.

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  2. Hell of a price for her to pay to get through to the "real." Excellent characterization.

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  3. Very sad. But very well written and I loved it.

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  4. ah, this is the Baino we know and love...beautiful writing. Concise, quick...could go on a joy ride with this one, you know. Love it

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