Firstly, this is a rework of an unpublished, almost year old, piece. It is a piece about great love and the stupidity of people. It is a story of a wasted life but also a life of great beauty and love. It is a piece where the gods look down and wonder at the stubbornness and idiocy of humans. And as in the first time I read my own work I will admit I cried again. That is an understatement. I sobbed my heart out.
But most of all it is a love story for all of that.
THE STORY BEGINS.
Today is a special day for me, a sad day. April the 25th 2058.We have been divorced for 40 years now. I always… well I don’t celebrate it. It’s a kind of Remembrance Day for me. It is also only two months before I celebrate my 105th Birthday. I laugh but it comes out as a cackle before descending into a rasping dry cough. How I possibly have survived to this great age. I had been surprised when I had made it into my seventies, let alone becoming a centenarian. But somehow, I know I won’t make it to 110.
Just this act of coughing seems to drain me of all of my strength, but I slowly recover and take a drink of the glass of neat whisky the nurse has allowed me. I told her what day it is, and she allowed me a double this day.
“To commiserate Mr Fawley.” she laughed.
I smiled back at her and admired her figure. She was a local girl and she was a tall girl with long legs. She had a sweet, almost cherubic face and many years ago she would have stirred lust in my groin. But no longer. Those days are long gone now.
I was left substantial funds when my mother passed many years ago and with a few shrewd investments over the years that money has grown, allowing me to inhabit this superb nursing home overlooking the Gulf. It is I suppose, luxurious but I have little use for the baubles of luxury in my 104th year.
Yes, I was from the UK originally, but I always found it to be a drab dreary place compared to here, and besides, all of my pleasantest and sweetest memories were here in the USA. I had moved to Ohio back in 2020 and bought a small apartment but it had eventually been too much for me as I reached my old age and I sold everything to move into this home in 2043 just before my 90th Birthday.
I smiled again as I remembered those now far off days. Only a mere eight and a bit short years starting in 2009 but they were wonderful days mostly. Such a small part of the 104 I had lived now but they were the only ones I would choose to live again if I could. There had been bad days too, but I had long chosen to forget them and nowadays I just remembered the good times I had shared in those eight short years with my beautiful Raven. The simple pleasures of walking on the banks and paddling in the Olentangy River on a hot summers day, visits to the Franklin Conservatory, trips to Amish country. Lots more beautiful memories and I remember us strolling hand in hand into one of the local cafes, of laughing as we ate ice cream at Jeni’s in Dublin.
And that was why I had returned. Although I had returned for good in 2020, I had paid many visits before that. I had adopted various simple disguises and I would sometimes watch her clandestinely. I knew the stores she shopped at and the places she had visited, and I would occasionally see her, walking into the store, visiting the mall. I suppose it was stalking but I didn’t care. I would drink in her beauty in those brief stolen moments. I did see her with men occasionally too and I would often imagine her locked in amorous embraces with them which would leave me shuddering in pain and want but she never knew I was there. The worst times were when I saw her walk by hand in hand with another. But she never seemed to be with the same man for any great amount of time.
I did follow her on social media, as much as I could anyway, and my heart would break each time I saw that she was in a relationship but eventually I saw her less and less and then not at all. But I was merely content to be there in Ohio breathing the same air as her, walking in the same stores, watching the same stars and sunsets, feeling the same breezes on my face and imagining her beautiful black hair blowing free. Being close in my own way. And so, as the years passed she passed into obscurity from me, although never from my mind where the bright flame of our earlier love burned eternally. I guess that physically she passed from me in about 2030 which was the last time I saw her. She had moved to Florida by then and of course I had followed. I just wanted to breathe the same air as her I suppose.
So how had we ended up apart? Well it was my fault. It was I who had left. I who had told her I wouldn’t return and my own stupid decision to agree to a divorce that I never even wanted. I regretted my decisions almost immediately, but I suppose it might have happened sooner or later anyway. Maybe we could have shared another year or two together, but I think she had grown so frustrated with me that the end was maybe inevitable. Her love for me I guess faded although mine would never die. Perhaps she regretted our parting, I like to think she did, but I guess I would never know how low I feel. I had hurt someone I loved so very much, and I didn’t know why. How could I have done that awful thing? And that is the thing that is destroying me even all of these decades later. All I want to do is to take her in my arms. Tell her I love her. Tell her that I care. But how can I tell her that now ? How can she possibly believe the sorrow I feel at my behaviour? My betrayal of her was complete.
And so, I never knew what happened to her, maybe she had passed away even. She was only three years younger than me and so would be celebrating her 101st birthday this year, if she was still alive and that is what I presumed. I regretted never trying to find out, but I left her to her own life or death, whichever it was. I had thousands of our photos and emails from those distant days which I would view and read most days and so I remembered her as she was, not what she may have become.
I finished my whisky and called for my nurse. It was dinnertime and she pushed me to the dining room chattering away although I barely heard a word, so much was my mind in the past. We entered the dining room and a large screen tv was tuned into a football game. I tried to follow it, but American Football has I am afraid never raised much interest with me. I eat very little nowadays and so my visit was brief. I asked to be returned to my room.
As I was pushed along the corridor to my room I noticed one of the room doors was open and a frail old grey-haired lady was being hooked up to tubing. Probably IV drips and a naso-gastric feeding tube. The poor old girl looked like she was on her last legs. The nurse carried on chattering inanely as she pushed me back to my room. Maybe I could catch the BBC World news. And then it hit me.
“Stop.” I tried to cry but it came out as more of a croak. “Stop!”
The nurse did as I asked but looked at me with a worried look wondering if I was suffering from a heart attack or something.
“Who is the lady in that room? I asked.
“I don’t know Mr Fawley. Do you know her?”
“Wheel me back I demanded.”
She did so, and we stopped outside the frail ladies room.
I saw a woman who had obviously enjoyed great beauty many years ago and I pushed myself closer until I sat beside her. It couldn’t be surely? The nurse was studying the ladies chart, so I leaned forward. I lifted the sheet surreptitiously and there it was. No doubt about it. On her lower right leg was the Eye of Horus tattoo I remembered so well. She had it done before she had met me all those years ago. Oh yes, it was smudged and pretty illegible after all of these years, but I recognised it straight away. It was my Raven. I was spellbound. Yes, she was old and frail now, but I could still see that beautiful vivacious woman that I had loved so intensely all those years ago.
The nurse turned back to me and asked me if it was the same lady I had thought it was. My words came out garbled between my sobs.
“Yes, it is. We were…. (I thought for a few moments) we were good friends many years ago. I haven’t seen her in almost thirty years now.”
The nurse walked over to me and placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
“I am sorry Mr Fawley but she is here for end of life palliative care only. We are making her as comfortable as we can and giving her something to ease the pain, and I think I can tell that she was more than just a good friend?”
I nodded in agreement and took my Raven’s poor hand again.
“May I stay with her tonight?” I asked pleadingly.
I think she was going to refuse me at first, but she could see in my face the need I had to stay. I had to stay.
“I think that can be arranged. she smiled. Her family have already said their goodbyes.”
And so on her final night we were together at last. I asked the nurse to bring me the old journal that I kept in my room and
I read the poetry I had written for her so many years ago.
I chose to read her the first poem I had written for her. Ravens Wing
I could swear I saw the hint of a smile upon her lips as I read but maybe that was just wishful thinking. My old voice cracked as I choked on several of the poignant words. Once again, we shared love warm sheets, once again we share latte frothed lips. I leaned closer and she managed to speak. So quiet, so weak, I could barely hear her as she whispered.
“I love you.”
And then a last gasp and exhalation of breath as she passes, still weakly squeezing my hand I swear
Did she know it was me? I don’t know. But I had always promised her that my love for her would last until the end of time. And it had. For her and me both this was indeed our end of time and I had fulfilled my promise. I hoped she had recognised ‘her guy’s’ voice and touch and even my words but I didn’t know. There had been no movement on that once beautiful face, not even an eyelid fluttered. Only those last sweet whispered words. I pressed the call button and as the Doctor ran into her room I asked my nurse to wheel me back to my room.
Later I gaze out of my window enjoying the rippling reflections of street lights on the coast road, lost in thought for a while then I wheel myself over to my desk. Sitting on the desk is Boofie, the cuddly toy she had bought me in 2013 for comfort during an operation I had then. He is a little more careworn now, but he is 44 years old after all He still wears his ‘loved like crazy’ badge from all those years ago.
I pull him to me and hug him against my feeble chest as if part of my Raven resides in his stuffing filled body, and I suppose it does and then I pull apart the Velcro pocket I had arranged to have put in him. From within I pull out the packet of pure heroin. Then I sit Boofie on my lap as I wheel myself back to my view of the Gulf out of the window. I pour the contents into the large glass of whiskey and water and give it a good stir with my finger. And as I watch the cars drive past on the coast road below I turn on my stereo with its remote. Soon Mozart plays gently, and I sip on my poisoned chalice.
A sense of serenity overcomes me as the drugs start to take effect. A warm comfortable glow diffuses through my body and I take the last sip. And as Mozart plays gently (she loved Mozart) I can feel myself start to drift away.
From behind me as the music plays, I imagine I can feel gentle hands on my shoulders and I swear I hear her beautiful voice asking me.
“How’s my guy?”
She walks to my front and I see that beautiful face I remembered so well. She smiles that radiant smile and takes my hand. I stand, and she leads me from the room. Into times end.
…. The memorial rose in the cemetery six month later. It read
“For two people that loved even when apart. They lay here reunited and released. They reached the end of time together.”
© 2018 Stan M Rogers. All rights reserved.
I will include the poem I was reading to her as she passed in its entirety with one small edit.
Ravenswing black and lustrous as jet.
I long to touch your hair… inhale its scent
I want to run my fingers over your soft cheek.
Feel that smile I love with gentle fingertips
Kiss your waiting parted soft lips
I need to see past your eyes
Into that gentle immaculate soul.
Embrace your mind and discover it’s secrets
It’s kindness and it’s truth.
And I want you to know mine,
And let us share each other
Forever. As no other
As dawn comes, grey early morning light through a window
I want to waken beside you, touch that hair
Wake you to a day of knowing you are mine
As I am yours always. Kiss you awake with love
With care. With pleasure at your sleepy face
I think you will be at your most beautiful
In dawn’s grey light. In love warm sheets.
And walking, cold chill Sundays with Autumn leaves underfoot
Breath misting as we talk, hand in gloved hand.
Exploring our souls, discovering each other
Before coffee in a warm bistro
Smiles on latte frothed lips.
A kiss to taste it and its sweetness
And laughter at shared intimate jokes
Returning home to be alone. Apartment warmth, such pleasure
To run my fingers through that raven hair
To feel your want, your need, your love
Bright stars through the frost whitened windows
Our only light of choice
Let us reach out to those stars with joy. Let us love and be loving.
Let us be alive. And fear nothing.
Let us be one. Until the end of time.
©2009 Stan Rogers