(I’ve been in a fiction writing mood lately, and this scene came to me tonight)
Her breathing had become soft and shallow, and her eyelids heavy. Rays of the evening sun shone brightly through the picture window. The little square fan he had positioned in the small windowsill across from her labored steady and inadequate, softly pushing the stale hot air through the room and to her bed, causing a slight but rhythmic waving of the stray strand of iron grey hair that rested on her cheek. He was sitting in his favorite chair, positioned at her bedside.
“Can I get you anything?”, he asked.
“No, no, don’t bother.” Her voice was soft and weak.
“It’s no bother”, he insisted. “How about a glass of lemonade?”
“No, that’s okay.”
“Are you sure? I was just going to fix a glass for myself.”
“Well, if you’re going to fix one for yourself anyway, sure, I’ll have a glass”
“With some ice?”
“That would be nice.”
He smiled and got up and went to the kitchen. Alone in the living room, she could hear the drone of the fan, steady and soft but strong enough to drown out the ticking of the grandfather clock. The sunlight was starting to fade and the early evening shadows were lengthening. It was still hot and humid, but somehow, if only for the moment, between the fan’s hum and the cool darkness of the shadows, a sense of contented comfort overcame her. In that moment, she looked across the room and saw the familiar bookshelves, the grandfather clock, the lamps and furniture, and the framed photos of children and grandchildren that were hung on the wall or propped up on end tables. In the half light of sunlight and darkening shadows, with the hum of the fan as the soundtrack, she felt a profound sense of beauty and peace, and there was no pain. She was centered, in the world her lifetime had created, and the quiet familiarity of her surroundings was suddenly extremely satisfying.
He came back into the room with two tall glasses of lemonade, ice cubes jangling as he walked. He set one on the night stand next to her bed, and leaned over to turn on the lamp.
“Leave it off”, she said. “It’s nice and cool without the light”
He sat back in his chair and took a long sip from his glass. She leaned forward and gripping her glass with two unsteady hands, slowly raised it to her lips and took a gentle sip, tilting the glass far enough back to let ice cubes brush her lip. She held the sip, cold and tart, in her mouth for a moment before swallowing it. It was just a swallow, but it was wonderful, as she felt its refreshing cold travel deep down inside her. She couldn’t help it as a broad smile formed upon her face as she returned the glass to the night stand.
He saw her smile and he couldn’t help but smile, too. He started to say something but he stopped, and they sat there, in the warm shadows of the early evening, silent with fading but contented smiles.
She looked around the room again, then into his eyes.
“John?”, she said.
“Do you think tomorrow we could go for a ride?”
He leaned forward in his chair. She hadn’t wanted to get out of the house for weeks and he wasn’t sure she’d be strong enough. At this point, he didn’t even know if he’d be able to get her into the wheelchair.
“Sure, sure we could. Where would you like to go?”
“I think I’d like to go by 18th Avenue and drive by our first apartment.”
“I’d like that very much,” he said. “I haven’t been by there for the longest time.”
“We could stop and walk through the park, like we used to. Then maybe we could stop and have lunch at Buster’s. They always had such good lunches. Do you think we could do that, John?”
She looked tired, but tranquil and content, as the deepening shadows moved across her face.
“Of course we could”, he said. “That would be nice.”