Friday, October 2, 2015

Meeting Strangers

“Shit,” she said a little louder than under her breath as she stubbed her toe on a box near the subway doors. “What the hell is that guy bringing boxes onto the subway? Where’s he think he is? Asshole.” she thought to herself as her face got hot and she pushed through the morning commuters to get to the top of the stairs. Getting off one stop early was meant to take up extra time as she was going to arrive at her interview too early, but giving herself a bruise on her toe on the way was not the plan.

Arriving early was never Samantha’s problem. Being on time is something she has always excelled at. Doing her homework, showing up on time, being responsible -- these are things that she lived for. They not only defined her against her unreliable and passive-aggressive older brother, but aligned her with her mother. Her staunch and strict mother whose approval she was always looking for. If she could organize herself into a straight line to get her mother to notice, she’d stretch herself as straight and narrow as possible. Of course this didn’t always garner the attention she wanted. Mostly disregard from her mother and mockery from her brother. But she kept at it. Knowing that her tidy room would get her silent brownie points with the woman in charge. Because if she wasn’t being lauded, at least she wasn’t being yelled at. The way her mother dressed down her brother in the most concise way possible was not only terrifying but impressive.

But that’s neither here nor there at this point, what is important is that she was, again, early. After showing up 30 minutes early for her last interview at the legal aid agency, she learned that being too early was not a good thing. She also learned, very quickly, that a legal aid agency was not the best place for an English major fresh out of undergrad. Helping people at what is likely their lowest moment is not where strong writing and editing skills come to shine. At least today she was called in to a hot, downtown magazine. The internship wasn’t to support the editing staff as she has hoped, it was for marketing and promotion, which basically meant being a go-for for anything the top brass, and any department head, needed done. She wasn’t even sure if anyone she knew had even ever seen the magazine, let alone read it. But, honestly, she didn’t care. An interview was an interview and an unpaid internship was better than nothing.

All her friends were doing the same. No paying jobs and lots of competition. Unpaid sucked but experience was what got you in the door to something better. “Keep reaching up” -- isn’t that what Mr. Marcos her senior seminar prof always said? Reaching up to what, she wasn’t sure, but she was reaching out to anything that even half-way seemed to make sense.

“Where is this place? Prince and what?” she mumbled looking for the address on a slip of paper she shoved into her wallet before she left home. “Broadway, but I’m… here?” she thought to herself, looking up at the imposing, brick building that was so indescript she almost didn’t see it. “163, here we go,” she said to herself as she took a deep breath and stepped into the building’s front door. Squeezing herself into the undersized elevator, she noticed she was holding her breath as the doors closed. She wasn’t sure if she was trying to make herself smaller, lighter or less obvious in the easily overcrowded elevator or if she was really just nervous.

When the elevator opened up on the third floor, she knew it was her stop but it just opened up into a huge loft. She wasn’t sure if it was the right place but it really couldn’t be anything else. Stepping off timidly, she looked around for someone who appeared to know what they were doing. She caught the eye of someone and smiled broadly, saying, “Hi, is this the Fast Pop Magazine office?”

“Yeah, you lookin’ for someone?” replied a half-interested, 20-something white guy with long hair and clearly slept-in clothes.
“Actually, I am.” Samantha replied, straightening herself. “Dotty Phalen. I think she works in HR?” she said while simultaneously thinking to herself how similar this guy was to her brother. She wondered how many more disheveled guys there were with jobs while she was still trudging about looking for even unpaid work?
“Ha. Yeah, she’s at lunch, she should be back in a sec. Why doncha have a seat over there?”
“Okay, thanks.”

Looking in the direction she was pointed to, Samantha looked for a clean space to sit down. It wasn’t that the place was dirty so much as it was excessively modern and unwelcoming. Everything about the place was discord. The space was clearly an early 20th century factory building that was converted into open space in the 70s when the artists moved in. And now, twenty years later, being used as uber-cool office space for a better-than-you cool magazine. Every magazine cover was framed on the wall. All thirty two of them. She didn’t recognize half the famous people on some of the covers. She really figured she was in the wrong place and was never going to be deemed cool enough to even intern here. Although, looking around, it didn’t seem like there was much order to the place. So, maybe anything is possible.

“Hi, uh, Samantha?” said a woman’s voice so grating it made Samantha spin around to see her.
“Yes, hi. I’m Samantha. Are you Dotty?”
“Yes. Come with me, we’ll get you started.”

Walking briskly to a desk about six feet away, her hair bounced with each high-heeled step, and then Dotty motioned to a clear chair next to her desk; Samantha sat down.

“So, Samantha, did you find us okay?”
“Yes, no problem.” she said as she settled against the hard backside.
“So, says here you’ve got some experience with editing, and a degree in English, but you’re looking to work in marketing? Tell me about that.”
“Well, I’d love to work in writing but there really isn’t much available, so I thought branching out into Marketing would be helpful.”
“So there’s nothing better and you’d like to just get your foot in the door?”
“I don’t mean…”
“Ha ha, that’s fine. I completely understand. It’s hard to get experience when you first graduate. We’re overrun with English majors but having a hard time filling the Marketing and Promotions position. I’ll be honest, no one stays long. It’s not easy, but if you impress them,” motioning to the closed double doors across the room, “then you’re in like Flynn. They make everything happen.”
“Who works in there?”
“Those are the founders. They are brother and sister team, and they’re geniuses. Really amazing. They expect a lot and if you impress, they will make it their business to keep you around. So, do you have any questions?”
“Could you tell me a little about the position?”
“Oh, Tom didn’t tell you? I thought he would have had a chat before I got back.”
Samantha looked confused, to which Dotty replied, “He’s the one who told me that you were here. I assumed he ran down the job with you. He’s the one you’d report to.”
“Oh, no, then. He didn’t tell me anything.”
“Heh. No surprise there,” Dotty muttered under her breath, continuing, “Right well, basically it works like this: There’s no salary, you get two college credits a semester, hours are 8.30 to 6, and all transportation is taken care of.”
“So, still, what would I actually do?”
“Do? You’d do anything Tom tells you. He needs you to deliver a box of chocolates to a studio uptown, you grab some subway tokens from the bag and get to it. You have to pick up a costume from the seamstress and deliver to the photo shoot? Take a token and go. Quick as you can. Anything that needs to happen so that the magazine keeps running, you do it. The bag of tokens is by Tom’s desk in the Marketing and Promotions area over there.”
“And that’s it? I’m a delivery girl?”
“Well, there are events you will work and special promotions, but basically, if it needs to get done -- you do it. Oh, and you get your name on the credits page of each issue that you work. So, what do you say?”
“I… I don’t know. It wasn’t what I was expecting.”
“Then think quickly, because we need someone to start immediately.”
“You mean today?”
“I mean as fast as humanly possible.”
“I suppose I can start tomorrow. But… Well, you know I’m already graduated, so I can’t use the credits.”
“Well, technically, we can give you the internship as long as you’ve been out of college less than three months. And since it’s summer break, you could just tell me you’re thinking of returning in the fall to take some additional classes but haven’t decided yet.”
“I… I’ll think about it. Can I let you know later today?”
“Sure. I have a few others to interview. But just so you know, if one of them takes it, that’s it. I only need one intern.”
“Right. I got it.”

Wondering to herself who on earth is going to even want this job, let alone take it when the HR woman is selling it this way, Samantha wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. She didn’t really care for the magazine, it wasn’t going to pay her anything, she was going to be spending most of her time on the subway -- during the summer -- why bother? But getting to say she worked at a magazine was maybe enough to get the next job. Besides, she would have her name in print and she had only had her byline in the college newspaper a few times. But, man, that did feel good. A kind of validation of her accomplishment that even her mother couldn’t trump.

Walking around TriBeCa she realized she was mulling this over so much she hadn’t had lunch herself, and it was blisteringly hot. Sweat was running down her back and her polyester dress blouse was sticking to her back. She checked her wallet and found only $2.70 in there. Where was she going to have lunch for $2.70? And then she noticed that a hot dog vendor was across the street, $1.50 for a hot dog and a dollar for water? Well, at least she’d have 20 cents left over to make a call home.

“Ketchup? Mustard?” asked the vendor when it was Samantha’s turn.
“Uh, ketchup. Yeah, please. Oh, and a water.”
“You got it. Two fifty.” he says as he smoothly laid on the ketchup and handed her the dog.
Taking the hot dog into her hands, she used one hand to stick her hand into her purse and pull out her wallet. As she tried to unzip it, the hog dog slipped out of her hands and on to her blouse then straight down her skirt and finally landed on her right foot. The foot with the stubbed toe.

“Shit!” she exclaimed to no one in particular.
“Are you alright?” asked a soft voice from just behind her. Samantha turned half around to see who spoke and found herself eye-to-eye with a stooped-over elderly man. The man had on a brown suit and brown striped tie, a faded fedora over soft, white hair with kind eyes and a warm smile.
Taking a breath, Samantha replied, “Not really, no. I’m covered with ketchup, I just dropped my lunch, I’ve got twenty cents left, no job and my prospects are worse than I thought, it is hot as hell out here… I honestly can’t make this day get better and it keeps getting worse.”
The vendor reached out with some napkins for Samantha and the old man took them and handed them to her.
“You look like you could use some help. Can I help you?”
“No, really. Thank you,” taking the napkins from the man and started to wipe the ketchup from her blouse. “Really, I’ll be fine. I just need a break. But thank you. Really.”
“It’s no problem. You know, my mother would say, When it gets too hard to breathe, take a look up and close your eyes. Take a deep breath and God is on your side.”
“Well, that’s really lovely, but I don’t believe in God. But that’s nice.”
“Well, even if you don’t believe in God, he believes in you. And even if you don’t believe that, you can still look up and take a deep breath. Nothing ever got worse by giving yourself a moment.”
She sighed in exasperation, “I suppose you are right.”
“Here, let me get you another hot dog.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t. Really. It’s alright.”
“No, please. We don’t want you losing all faith in humanity in one hot afternoon… Two dogs please, one with ketchup.”

As the man hands the hot dog with ketchup to Samantha, he tips his hat and smiles and says, “Keep looking up, dear. No matter what you believe, just keep looking up.”

After thanking the man again, and wiping off the rest of the ketchup from her clothes, she started looking for somewhere to sit in the shade. At least getting out of the direct sun would be an improvement. Noticing a bus stop across the way that was in the shade of a building, she headed straight toward it. The bus stop was overrun with chatty kids after school and grownups sweating in the summer heat.

She took her hot dog and water and went to lean against the building just behind the bus stop. Eating her dog, surrounded by swirls of people walking uptown and downtown, waiting, yelling, sweating, complaining, it was all like an unending tide of everything. Everything she could think or feel was happening all around her. While the sweat snuck down the back of her neck and her temples, she realized she loved this. Loved the bustling of it all. She was absolutely surprised at herself. There was nothing tidy or neat or organized about any of it. It was all out there, messy, and still, still there was a dance to it. People coming and going, and somehow staying out of each other’s way even as they bumped into each other. There was a beauty in the unspoken choreography of it all, and she wanted in. She wanted to dance with them, even if it meant she had to race uptown to deliver a hat to a photo shoot in a place she’d never been to, or hail a cab in the rain to get a delivery of flowers to her boss’ stylist.

There were stories to hear and tell, and maybe that could be the next move up. The next step up the ladder. Observe people around her and create their stories, or maybe find out their stories and tell them. She had to be able to turn this into something. If no one was going to pay her to do what she was trained to do, she was going to have to find a way to get paid to do what she could do -- to keep reaching.



The screaming kept happening, it was completely unhinged screaming from a woman down the hall that was clearly in very real pain.

“Make it STOOOOOOOOOOOP! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”


“My God, that woman is screaming loudly enough for everybody to hear,” I thought to myself. “I hope my wife is alright.”

Sitting in the Maternity Ward’s lobby at the local hospital, John was waiting for his wife’s mother to come pick up their daughter, Emma. They were about to have their second child, but he needed to get his “big girl” to grandma so that he could get down the hall and be with his wife. Since they’d done this once before, he was pretty sure he knew what to expect but even though there are a lot of women in pain but this one sounded really bad. Every few seconds she wailed in agony. John looked around nervously every time the woman screamed, and kept checking the time on his watch. Willing it to go faster and for his mother-in-law to show up at the doors.

“Why is that lady screaming so loud, daddy? Is she okay?,” Emma asked.
“Yes, darling, she’s okay. She’s just in pain. She’s going to have a baby like mommy.” John replied.
“Is mommy in pain, too? Is she okay? Can I see her?”
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I mean, mommy is fine. She is not screaming like that lady. She is okay. She is not in pain. She’s going to have your sister and everything is going to be fine.”
“She sounds bad, daddy. Are you sure she’s okay?”
“Yes. Yes, she will be fine. I promise you. And grandmom is coming and she will take you out to have lunch. You can order ANYTHING you like. You just tell grandmom what you want and she’ll get it for you.”
“Is grandmom coming soon, daddy?”
“Yes, sweetheart. Yes, she’ll be here any minute.”

Just then the grandmother came. John kissed Emma goodbye and promised her when she came to visit mommy tomorrow, she could meet her new baby sister, too. Just as Emma took her grandmother’s hand in hers, a man blew through the lobby doors and nearly ran Emma over. John was about to say something to the guy but he hurriedly apologized to Emma and continued toward one of the nurses.


“Wait, what do you mean you’re in labor? I thought you were fine?” Gerald asked anxiously.
“I am… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… I am fine. Shit this hurts. I… ahhhhhhhh… I have to go. Gerald. Meet me at the hospital… I have to… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Shit. I gotta go.” Molly said.
“Wait! Molly! Wait don’t hang up. Where is the hospital?”
“ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? YOU’VE BEEN THERE! Christ, Gerald, I can’t…. ahhhhhhhhhhhh…. I can’t deal with this right… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… now. Shit. Shit this hurts.”
“Molly, seriously, what is the address? I’ll get in a cab right now.”
“It’s Broadway and…. ahhhhhhhhhhh…. FUCK YOU GERALD. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… shit, shit, shit. Broadway! Fuck, it’s Broadway… ahhhhhhhhhhhh.” and then she hung up the phone.

“I can’t believe I don’t know where I’m going. Where am I going to get a cab this time of day?” Gerald thought as his mind was racing. He was searching the streets for any available taxi and they were all taken. He started walking very quickly toward Sixth Avenue, “Maybe there will be one there”, he thought. At least they’d be going uptown.

Spotting a cab pulling to the opposite curb, he ran across the street through traffic to get into a cab that some elderly lady had just left, he pushed his way into the cab and told the cabbie, “Columbia, uptown. And go quickly!”

As the cabbie took off as fast as possible in after-work traffic, Gerald nervously settled into the back seat wondering if Molly was going to bite his head off for taking so long. He started texting his family to let them know that Molly was in labor and he was on the way to the hospital. Everyone had been on “baby alert” for the last two weeks as Molly had been experiencing labor pains every couple of days, but they were all false alarms. Gerald was half expecting the pains she told him about this morning to just be that, but, clearly, this was the real thing. At least she was already in a cab and nearly at the hospital.

Then Gerald was filled with extreme panic at this thought: “What if she delivers the baby in the taxi?” And at that moment, he asked his cabbie to “Go faster! I have to get there quickly.”

To his surprise, the cab driver told him that they were there.
“Wait, we’re not there. Wait, where are we?” a puzzled Gerald nervously asked.
“Columbia, just like you said.” replied the cabbie.
“Wait, this isn’t the hospital. Where are…”
“Hospital?!”, replied the cabbie, “You just said Columbia. This is the University, not the hospital.”
An overly panicked Gerald asked, “Oh, my god. No, no, no. Oh my, god. Can you get me to the hospital?”
“Yes, but which building? There are a dozen up there.”
“Just drive. I’ll find out. Just drive.” Gerald said as he quickly tried to pull his cell phone out of his pocket. He Googled “Columbia baby hospital Broadway new york” and came up with the address. “Thank god,” he mumbled to himself, “Molly would have ripped off my head if I called again to ask for the address.”
“165th Street,” Gerald blurted out to the cabbie. “Broadway at 165th St! And as fast as you can. My wife is in labor and she is going to KILL ME if I’m any later.”
“I’m going, I’m going.” replied the cabbie.

Ten minutes later they pulled up to the building, and Gerald quickly threw some cash at the cabbie while thanking him even faster, and jumped out of the taxi. Sprinting toward the entrance, he stopped long enough to get a visitor’s pass at Security and then up in the elevators. His heart was beating so fast he could feel it through his chest. He was so nervous and excited that he thought he was going to pass out. As soon as he got out of the elevator doors, he was in the Maternity Ward lobby and nearly ran over a little girl and her grandmother, “Oh, sorry. Excuse me,” he said hurriedly and then immediately turned his attention to the anguished screaming from down the hallway.

He checked in with the nurse at the front desk and she asked him to sit down and wait a moment. While listening to the woman screaming, he remarked how much like Molly she sounded but not quite. His heart was slowing down a little as he was able to catch his breath, and started to think about the baby coming. Their first! He was so terribly excited. He was also so very nervous. He had been ready to be a father for as long as he could remember, but now, at the precipice of it actually happened, he was overwhelmed by the nervousness and excitement of it all.

“Mr. Lopez? You can go down the hall now.” the nurse said as she motioned to Gerald toward the double doors, beyond which the woman who had been screaming so loudly had now stopped. As he pushed through the double doors, he was so pleased he thought he would burst.


“It’s Broadway and…. ahhhhhhhhhhh…. FUCK YOU GERALD. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… shit, shit, shit. Broadway! Fuck, it’s Broadway… ahhhhhhhhhhhh.” she screamed at him and then hung up the phone as hard as she could. She wished for the old days when she would’ve been able to slam down a heavy “Ma Bell” landline. She wanted that satisfying release of aggression, but pushing the button to hang up the call on her cell phone was going to have to do.

Molly was too busy screaming in pain to be of much use to the cabbie, who seemed to be more nervous than she was. She wanted to tell him to take a different road but every time she started to get the words she just screamed.

She made it to the hospital curb before the pain got REALLY bad. The porter at the entrance heard her coming and got a wheelchair to the side of the cab before she even had a chance to open the door, and, gratefully, he opened the door for her and helped her out. Whisking her up to Security and then to the Maternity Ward.

Molly reached into her back to get the papers she had already filled out so that the nurse on the ward could just process her quickly. At this point she could barely speak and barely breathe. All that practicing over the last two months her Lamaze breathing went out the window with every wave of pain getting more and more intense. She thought she was going to pass out when they helped her out of the wheelchair and wanted her to get up on the examination bed. “They must be crazy,” she thought to herself. But she managed to find a moment between contractions where she was able to get strength to get on the bed. When they asked her to pull down her pants, and another wave of extreme pain came over her, she just screamed. Mostly out of pain but also out of frustration. When it stopped she cried and said, “I can’t. I just can’t. I can’t do this.” and as the pain washed over her again, she screamed, “OH MY GOD! MAKE IT STOP! PLEASE!” and started crying again.

They got off her pants and the nurses did a quick exam, noting that she was seven centimeters dilated but not quite ready to deliver. They explained that her water hadn’t broken and if she proceeded this quickly, she would tear her skin, so they wanted to slow it down. Molly processed this information as another wave of pain came on and screamed in agony. She was beginning to realize that probably everyone in the hospital could hear her scream. She actually couldn’t believe how loud she could scream. It made her a little more nervous but at the same time, every scream was a relief to the pain she was experiencing. It was now surging all over her body, and each unbridled scream was a release on the pain valve.

On the way to the delivery room, one of the nurses asked Molly if she wanted an epidural. Molly just had enough energy and focus to shake her head yes. The nurse asked again and said that Molly had to verbalize it before she could give it to her. So Molly held her breath, grimaced, and got out a breathless “Yes” before yelping through another wave of pain.

As she was wheeled into the delivery room she realized she was alone. Her husband, Gerald, wasn’t there and it was just her with the nurses. She wanted to cry but the pain coming again was too great, so she just screamed out “I WANT TO DIE. PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. MAKE IT STOP.” And as if on cue, the anesthesiologist rushed in. The nurse started to explain what stage I was in and he cut her off, “Yes, I can hear her from everywhere. Let’s get her up.”

“Now, I need you to sit up and not move. You must hold yourself perfectly still.” he said to her in a reassuring voice.
“Okay…” Molly mustered, but meanwhile she started the shakes some women get in labor and couldn’t stop. This frustrated Molly that she couldn’t control herself for a few seconds so the anesthesiologist could get the epidural in her spine, she was afraid she wouldn’t get relief and the baby would come and it would split her and… she had to stop. She realized she desperately needed to get a grip, but still, she started crying out of panic.

“I can’t stop moving. I’m sorry. I… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…. I can’t. Please. I’m trying.” Molly said in almost total anguish.
The nurse who was helping hold her upright, grabbed one of Molly’s hands and looked her squarely in the eye and said calmly and with confidence, “I need you to take a deep breath.”
“I can’t,” Molly whimpered.
“Yes. Yes, you can. You can do this. Do it with me. Breathe.”
And they both took in a deep breath and let it out through their mouths. After they did this a few times, the nurse kept encouraging Molly to keep going and assured her she was doing a good job. The anesthesiologist acknowledged that he could give it a try.
“Okay, now hold still.” he ordered Molly.
And for a few seconds, she could hold herself still. She felt a sharp pain enter her spine and some movement, and then heard the anesthesiologist say to the resident, “OK, put it in.”
The nurse reminded Molly to keep breathing, while the anesthesiologist’s resident administered the epidural medication.

They quickly finished taping up Molly’s back and let her lie back down.

Slowly, Molly realized the pain was subsiding. The anesthesiologist left the room.
“I think I scared him with my screaming,” said Molly -- realizing she was finally calming down.
The nurse leaned over to Molly and said, “You should be fine in a second, I’ve never seen him give so much to someone so small.” Then patted Molly on the hand, explained what was happening and that she’d be right back.

At that moment, Gerald walked in -- all smiles.

“Hey,” he said gently, “How’s it going?”
“Better,” Molly replied. “Did you hear that woman screaming down the hall?” Molly asked him.
“Yes, actually.” said Gerald, “It sounded pretty bad.”
“Yeah, that was me,” Molly said as she laughed to herself. “Your wife scared the hell out of the anesthesiologist and he doped me up, so I’m better now.” And Molly then felt the full effect of the drugs and allowed herself to be enveloped into the wobbly, feeling-free sensation of her lower body and take a few deep breaths.

“You’re doing great, honey,” said Gerald as he took Molly’s hands into his and kissed her on the forehead.
“Thanks,” replied Molly. “I’m glad you got here when you did.”

Star Wars

“Shit,” I mumbled as I checked my pockets. “Where are my glasses? Ah, here they are. Right where they should be on the book. I know, I know, you’re thinking ‘Of course they’re not in your pocket. You always put them down in some place that you forget about. Never in the same place so you can find them.’ I know. But see? I’ve found them, so no harm done. So where was I? Oh, yes, the end of our first date.”

I said this to her, lying there on the bed, as I noticed someone out of the corner of my eye. It was a nurse passing by the room. I put on my glasses and adjusted the frames so they didn’t slide off my nose. Your hand is in between both of mine and your face looks so peaceful like you’re sleeping the most restful sleep ever. The methodical beeping of the heart monitor could easily rock me to sleep but I’m struggling to stay awake to finish our story.

“Are you still listening to me? I want you to hear this before I go tonight.” I said to you gently.
“Mr. Da Silva? Five more minutes,” the nurse says to me with a wink before sliding back out of the room and down the hall.
“She’s so nice to you, that Jean. Well, looks like she’ll be able to let me stay with you for a little longer. Maybe I’ll be able to finish my story,” I whisper to you before continuing.

“So that was when you ordered your coffee and you ordered one for me, too. Remember that? I was so impressed. We were twenty-one years old and you were ordering for me! We split that cinnamon cake. It was delicious. I’ll never forget that crumble on top of the cake. Remember how you tried to make it after we got married and burned the whole thing?” I reminisced while laughing out loud.

“The kitchen filled with smoke, and there you are pregnant -- big as a house -- opening the windows in the middle of the night like it was nothing. I come in asking you what is that smell and you just said, remember what you said? Ha ha ha. You told me, ‘It’s nothing to worry about. Just a cinnamon cake with a mind of its own. It trying to escape by some kind of dehydration trick!’”

“What were you doing trying to bake that cake in the middle of the night, I’ll never understand those food cravings,” I said as I kept laughing.

“Okay, now back to our story. So there we are at the diner, late at night, talking about everything and nothing. Sharing that cake and having coffee. And then you ask me the big question, remember that? The question that broke the evening: What was my favorite movie! That’s it, that was the question. Now, let me think, how did you put it? Oh, yes: What movie makes you feel the most wonder? And it took me a little while to answer you but then I told you, do you remember? Of course you do, I said, ‘Star Wars.’’

“Now, you were really going to let me have it. You insisted that that couldn’t be my answer since the movie had only just come out a few weeks before. You said to me, and I’ll never forget this, “How can you even consider that movie? It’s so new? You haven’t even had time to mull over the potential of other movies in contrast just yet.” But I was certain that Star Wars was the movie that made me feel the most wonder. It was as if everything was possible after I saw it. I really wanted to believe that with enough talent and confidence, I, too, could battle the evil empire. That was when I decided to try for law school. It was that movie that made me want to fight for the underdog. Remember that? But you backed me up on that. You told me that if I was going to fight for the “little guy” that I should do it all guns blazing. And you were right. You were right. But you’re usually right. Isn’t that so, my dear?”

I looked carefully at your face and I could see no change, but I felt it. Your hand was lighter. I moved the sheets and blanket closer to your neck to make sure you were warm enough. You hadn’t moved in I couldn’t remember how long. It was really that long. Days. Weeks. Months. It must have been three months by then. But something was changing. The air in the room. There was something about something that I couldn’t put my finger on but it was there. It was different. I could feel it. The coldness, even though you were warm as you ever were. Same look on your face. Everything looked the same but it didn’t feel the same. I kept thinking the light bulbs must have been changed or something. It just wasn’t the same. I was feeling like maybe I was going a little crazy, or I’d spent too much time in that room with you. I honestly felt like if I could stare hard enough just across your bed that I could see... something, but it… There was nothing there. Just the equipment they had hooked up to you to keep monitoring, to make sure you were still with me.

“So I became a lawyer, but before that happened. Before I went to law school and we got married and had three great kids, before all that happened. We had our first date. So I tell you ‘Star Wars’ and you give me grief. Then I turn the tables on you and ask you what was the movie that gave you a feeling of wonder? And you said, that’s right, you said “Breathless”. I had no idea what you were talking about. Breathless? I said. Breathless? Did you just make that up? I really couldn’t believe there was some movie called Breathless. But you and your film classes, you loved that movie. Godard, you tell me. That’s the director. And he filmed the last sequence inside of a shopping cart. A shopping cart! Just to get the final steps of the main character smooth and to be able to keep up. You loved that movie. You thought that movie was genius. I couldn’t understand how a death sequence at the end of a depressing movie was genius, but you were convinced it was perfect. And in its perfectness was the wonderment of what else is possible, even in the face of an existential crisis. So, Star Wars and Breathless were having a date. It was too funny. I still can’t believe you went out with me again after that. I figured that after that conversation you were going to check me off the list.”

And I stared blankly at the wall behind your head. My mind went blank. And then I smiled, and I said to you, “But you didn’t. You didn’t check me off. You, somehow, loved me more. You’ve always had my back. Always. You’ve seen in me the potential to make a great ending, even when all I was looking at was the fight. But you were right. You were right. We were a great team.”

I started to weep quietly, and just then Nurse Jean popped her head in, “Mr. Da Silva? It’s been thirty minutes. I don’t mind you staying, you know that, but you should head home to get some rest. She’ll be here in the morning.”

“I know. I know,” I said patting your hand gently. “I was just about to finish up our chat anyway. I’ll head out in a minute. Thank you, Jean.”
“Good night, Mr. Da Silva.”
“Good night, Jean.”

“Well, my darling. That was a worthwhile first date. I got to keep my best girl, and you got, well, you got an old man telling you stories in the middle of the night is what you got.” I leaned over the kiss your cheek and I felt that what I was about to say was a lie, but I needed to say it outloud anyway.

“Good night, sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning.” And I took one last, long look at you and your room before I left. I lingered as if I was trying to memorize every detail. Making a bookmark of this moment.

As I got into my car I realized just how truly exhausted I was, and decided to close my eyes before turning on the engine. Just to get some quick shuteye before driving away. I was awoken, what seemed like only minutes later, by my phone ringing in my pocket. My glasses were askew and I had drooled slightly on my cheek. I fumbled around for my phone and saw that it was the hospital number. And I knew, but I pressed the green button anyway and spoke, “Hello?”

“Mr. Da Silva?”
“Mr. Da Silva, this is Jane. I… She’s...”

“I know.” I said as my eyes filled with tears and my voice cracked. “Thank you, Jane. I’m just in the parking lot. I never made it home. I’m coming up.”