This story is by c Popp and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She sat perched like an owl in the night, next to his bed…listening, watching, waiting. Her ears had become so tuned in over the past years listening for his call, “C.” Now the only sound in the darkened room was that of the medical machines. Eyes wide open she stared at him in the darkness watching the slight rise and fall of his chest and the fluttering of the lashes on his closed eyes. Her tiny thumb caressed his soft, beautiful hand as she waited in silence.
There had been such a glimmer of hope, an excitement in the air just three weeks before. They had been accepted to a program that offered a graduation back to life approach to his medical condition. They had been so grateful. His team of health care workers were nothing short of amazing. She jumped in charting and monitoring every last detail so she could provide accurate information that they needed to find a solution.
He was much sicker than anyone knew. Hours ago he had been moved to comfort care and he had gone silent with tears on his cheek. They hadn’t really talked in some time. He was often delirious from pain. All that mattered was that he knew she was there for him just as he had always been for her. “Love…miss,” he would often say to her when he would come to.
“I’m right here baby,” she would reassure him. He was her very best friend, love of a lifetime, business and life partner. He was her everything.
They had met in Santa Fe in the Fall of 2001 shortly after 911. She was in from NYC and he from Madison, WI. Maybe it was a complete random chance they had met or looking back maybe it was fate or destiny.
Both were in Santa Fe to sort out the past and make sense of things. They intended to be there for 2 weeks but ended up being there together for 2 months.
To the outside world these two were so very different. He was brilliant in sales and could sell a hot cup of coffee to a nomad in the Sahara. She was in the fashion industry. He was an extrovert while she was an introvert. He was what medical standards would consider obese…a word she hated. She was thin…too thin. He moved slow and steady. She was always halfway between a skip and a slow jog. But they had a common language of the heart and that was all that mattered.
Both did a lot of individual soul searching. He was readier for this than she. She had been running scared for a very long time. She loved to watch him sit in the sun, even after the snow began to fly. His face became a deep golden brown over the months with his daily outdoor meditation sessions.
In Santa Fe they also had a lot of fun together. Trips to the Plaza, the Georgia O’Keeffe museum and even trips to Target were wonderful. Both workaholics never made time for the simple things. They walked labyrinth gardens and held hands and he never let her forget, she kissed him first. This memory always makes her laugh out when he mentioned it over the years because it was so out of character from her shy nature.
They were returning to their respective homes. She had an earlier flight and left first. Tears streamed down his face and she promised him she would see him soon.
She visited him often and they talked on the phone nightly. He wanted her to move and be with him in Madison. She wanted to as well but she was scared and stubborn. Eventually she did move and it was the very best decision she ever made.
She joined him in building the business he created on his own after Santa Fe. A niche internet retail store that sold amazing Buddha statues. For her it was a business with a spiritual heartbeat. She did customer service and all the physical ins and outs. She had taken thousands of calls and correspondence over the years from people across the globe who had a story to tell about why the item they purchased or the daily inspiration he had written had moved them. Some of the stories were tragic and some were joyful…a few a little nuts. But all of them were amazing and she loved to listen to each.
He was always perfectly comfortable being the center of attention. He had a booming voice and a charisma that just drew people in. She was more of a listener and a behind the scenes person….and not in a director sort of way….more of a pillow fluff-er or Kraft Food Service person. But she also was the fixer. Computers, appliances, ways to make him more comfortable…she took it all on. She chose to look at problems as opportunities or challenges.
Looking back it all made sense. He had walked her through open heart and other surgeries. When his health had become an issue and he was no longer able to leave their home she put her doing role to the test and he was her rock at home behind the computer. It was complicated at times but they stuck together through all of it… the good, the bad and the ugly.
She felt his cool hand pull her over to him. His large bigger than life voice now barely an audible whisper.
“C, put your mouth by my ear baby.”
She was stunned. He was quiet, but very clear.
Once she pressed her ear against his beautiful swollen lips, he began;
“C-lo, when I met you I was all in,” he started slowly but then in an audible rush of words, excitement came over him. In his clear but soft voice he continued, “when I met you it was woosh woosh, zim zam, pow wow. I was all in. I was totally in love. I had won the lottery.”
Tears were streaming down her cheeks.
She tried to comfort him and she meant it from the bottom of her soul, “I am right here baby, right here with you, it’s okay.”
“I totally and completely love you,” he said.
“Me too, me too!” she screamed out.
Then he was gone… lost in a world of delusion or dreams…unconsciousness.
She was afraid like she had never been.
Yet as she looked at his body, there was a calmness. He was peaceful. He had a few moments of clarity with his very best friend.
For the next 40 hours she only left his side every thirty minutes to prepare his medications to inject into his cheek… rub chap stick on his lips and pass a few cubes of Crystal Light she had made through his lips. He chomped down on the ice chips. Good old CL…always his favorite.
And then he is gone.
She had a few trying to prepare her, but she was not prepared at all.
She wanted to cry out ‘why?” It was the end of his life but it felt like hers.
His body remained in their apartment overnight. His large size made it impossible to be removed on a Sunday. She wept. She felt his blood on her lips as she kissed him good bye.
The next night after he was gone she went into their room and stared up at the picture of the two of them so happy where they had first met and said “you want to write Baby…let’s write.”
They had always talked about writing together but he was too sick. Now it seemed important. She had made a few promises of a lifetime to him and she had to proceed. She didn’t know how but it was a must.
A few months after he passed she found this unopened in her mailbox. Personal e-mails had seemed trivial in light of the situation.
“If You Ever Doubted Me
You made a mistake
I am here for you
Through rising floods
And hissing rains
I am fighting for you
Whether you know it
I am here and always will be
Right by your side.”
And when she read this, she knew he was nudging and pushing her along. She had to keep the promises, no matter how hard they were because he deserved it. They deserved it.
She also found this on a post from 25 days before he died.
“It has been a tough couple of weeks, back on the oxygen to breathe. Overall my health has taken a big set back. As much as I’m a talker, I keep a lot to myself…lately that I am hurting all the time and that struggling to breathe puts shit into perspective pretty quick. I want only to create more memories with my little c-lo. Beyond grateful, still swingin.”
Through unbearable sadness she is beyond grateful and making the promises come true.