Practically running to the back of the pub, I heard the sound of someone throwing up in the ladies room. I knocked at the door and then headed in. For some time, I hadn’t felt very good about the person I’d become, but seeing her hunched over the toilet seat made me flat out angry with myself. I could have avoided this for her. I should have avoided this.
“Kelly, I’m terribly sorry. I am going to make it right. Maybe you should stay at my place. I can stay here. You would have more privacy.”
She wiped her mouth and then turned her head my way.
I reiterated my offer, louder this time. She watched me and then motioned for something to write on.
Pulling out my small blue notebook and pen, I sat down next to her and put them in her hands. She scribbled a few words and then started getting sick again. I held her hair, back away from the toilet. When she paused, I ran to get a hand towel from behind the bar and brought it to her. Finishing her note, she handed it to me.
I’ll stay with you.
I’d rather not be alone.
By the way,
I’m mute…not deaf.
Forcing an uncomfortable smile, I asked, “Are you ready now? Or do you need more time?”
She put out her hand and I helped her up. Taking the towel from her other hand, I dampened it and wiped off her mouth and chin. Hidden in this less than perfect situation I stumbled into a perfect moment. A moment of pleasure completely intertwined with just being there for her…taking care of her when she needed someone…actually being a friend.
The cool of the day welcomed us as I escorted her out the back door. She rested her head against my chest and I responded my putting my arm around her. As we walked toward my place, I whispered “I’m sorry” into her ear at least ten times before she finally put her index finger to her lips indicating that she’d heard it enough.
By the time we reached the apartment her body felt like dead weight. I seated her at the sofa in my living room. I offered her some soup. She declined. I offered some Ginger Ale. She accepted and I fetched it quickly. Her eyelids drooped as she sipped on the cold liquid.
“Give me just a sec, to change the sheets on my bed. I’ll be right back.”
Less than five minutes later I finished up. Entering the living room, coming up from behind the couch, I didn’t see her until I reached the edge of it. Scrunched up on the cushions, nothing moved other than her chest letting the air in and out. Trying not to wake her, I slipped my arms underneath her and lifted her. I managed to carry her into my bedroom and lay her down on the bed. After removing her sneakers, I pulled the covers over her.
And then I watched. Minutes passed and I just sat there. I’d never seen her like that...without the fire or the constant activity…wearing a sweet, peaceful smile like it belonged there…like she owned it. I wanted her to be happy more than I wanted to be happy. Hours passed before I moved from her side and parked myself in my sleeping bag down at the foot of the bed. I listened to her soft, gentle breathing and thought about how I could come up with three-hundred thousand dollars.
My pub and my business, mortgaged to the hilt, provided no help whatsoever. I didn’t own anything else of significant value….other than my parents’ place, and that seemed like a sacrilege to share it with a bank or anyone else…if I sold everything I owned that would net me about $2.89. It’s not like I could ask the Plants or anyone else for the kind of money I needed. Maybe ten grand would be feasible, but three-hundred….ridiculous. I worked and I worked and I worked…every angle trying to find a financial windfall. Not having success, I tried every combination of all the angles I could think of….nothing.
She changed positions from one side to the other. Like a nurse at the bedside of a patient in critical condition, every small adjustment on her part brought a reaction from me. I couldn’t imagine anything more significant than finding a way out of this. A way to end this ZAP craziness. I owed that to her.
After exhausting every other alternative, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that only one feasible option remained: I must sacrifice my inheritance, the Tahoe getaway. My initial reluctance soon gave way to an overwhelming desire to make things right for Kelly. After that it became a matter of financial logistics…most of which I didn’t understand, yet hoped could somehow be accomplished…must be accomplished in the next couple of days. Practically a financial magician, I believed my buddy and CPA, Jake, would help me find a way to pull a rabbit out of the hat. I’d call him first thing in the morning.
Having made the decision, I felt the weight of the undecided-ness lift from my mind. I rubbed my temples, closed my eyes, and then fell fast asleep. A few hours later, I woke with her lying next to me, snuggled up against my sleeping bag. Opening up my bag, I gently pulled her in next to me and wrapped my arm around her. Her eyes opened to barely a slit and she nodded her head. I smiled and stroked her hair with my fingers. Her soft breathing signified her return to the world of dreams. I had the sense that I should remember this moment. And so I did.
Her hair, her ears, her nose, her cheeks, her lips, I memorized every feature, every crease, every freckle…the texture and color of her skin…everything. I closed my eyes and asked, “Please don’t let this moment ever end.”
The sun broke the plane of the horizon. I finally fell back asleep…and dreamt…
Kelly and I stood, a few feet apart from each other, at the edge of a forest. Maybe more like a jungle… impenetrable. I knew if we could somehow get in, we would be together, forever. She ran one way; I ran the other. We searched for hours trying to find an opening, even a few inches would have given us a starting place…and some hope. But nothing. Miles of impossibility stretched out before us.
Exasperated, I threw myself into the greenery. It felt like hands caught me, and then tossed me back out. Almost in a caring way, and yet unrelenting in its duty. I tried digging underneath, but no matter how far down I went, the jungle went further. Days passed and our hope dwindled. I did my best to put a good face on it, and so did she…but the reality of our situation continued to nibble away at our optimism until almost none of it remained.
Many days later, so many that I lost count, I knew that I’d given all that I had – my strength, my energy, my optimism, my analysis, and all my effort. I looked over at her, she shook her head, and put words to our reality, “I give up.”
And then the light went on.
“It’s not your fault. We did the best we could.”
“No, not about this,” I clarified, waving my hands toward the trees. “I’m sorry for wasting time. Searching and plotting and running and sweating…when I should have just been with you. I’m sorry for always living in tomorrow or the what might be, rather than living in the what is. I’ve been a fool.”
She reached out her hand and it occurred to me that we hadn’t even touched since we arrived in this strange place. Her hand clasped mine. I pulled her to me, stroked her hair, outlined her features with my fingertip, and gazed into the emerald green. Her eyes smiled; mine smiled in return. And then her lips met mine…hours may have passed, even days…I had no idea, nor did I care.
The spell broke when my peripheral vision caught movement just beyond where we stood. Almost in a bow, the branches parted…making a way for us to walk in. We laughed at our good fortune, took each other’s hands, and headed off into the great unknown…
Exploring our new world, we encountered waterfalls and countless variations of other-worldly plant life that gave off unique aromas blending citrus and flower and herb. And trees filled with fruits and nuts that exploded with flavor in our mouths. Eventually we found the beaches. An island! Entranced by the translucent blue waters lapping gently on the tan shore, we laid down next to each other.
We traded smiles, leaned toward one another, and kissed. All was right in our idyllic new home…until a small tremor shook the ground, followed by a larger one. With our eyes locked in mutual gaze and our lips still pressed together, everything else began to disappear…
Piece by piece, my mind returned to reality - Kelly’s malady, my financial predicament, ZAP, Timmy…all of it. I scanned the room. Everything seemed just as I remembered it before falling asleep – the bed, the lamps, the sleeping bag, the crick in my neck, and Kelly right next to me. Every remnant of our dream island had vanished…almost every remnant. I blinked several times trying to force the final changeover. Instead of disappearing, the last scene of my dream completed its transition to reality…
…the emerald sea reflected in Kelly’s gaze…her lips touching mine.