I’ve tried to remain strong, and positive, and mindful, and all those things they say you should do. Who are “they” anyway? What do “they” know about what it feels to be dying? I’d bet they would say “but we are all dying”. I wish I could stop the racing thoughts. I can’t still them. Okay, Robert, take a deep breath and be mindful. Right now, I can feel Elise’s hand in mine. It feels warm and soft. Her slender fingers interlaced with my stumpy, calloused digits. The air feels nice and warm on my face. I can feel it. I am still alive. It is the time of the “golden hour”, making the scene before us in the park grander than at any other time of day- people are moving past in varying states of urgency. You’re doing well Robert- mindful, stay mindful. Elise squeezes my hand. It must be hard for her too. I turn my head to scan her face for what it may reveal. A smile. She smiles at me, but before I can return it, a little red sweater that I see an old lady knitting competes for my attention. I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach, as thoughts of yet another life experience I’ll be denied catches me unaware with its sudden announcement. Elise and I won’t have a child. I feel the whole seven or whatever number of stages of grief in the span of seconds, the length of time it takes for my eyes to flood and spill tears, forcing me to let go of Elise’s hand as I cover my face, in an effort to cool my flushed, hot cheeks.
I feel his tight grip on my fingers. I can’t free my hand discreetly; it would be a very obvious intention to remove mine from his. It will only be a short walk through the park to the car and then I can let go. I don’t love him anymore; I haven’t for a long time and kept putting off the inevitable. Do I have to continue with the charade now? Do I tell him? Is there any point? Should I just stick it out for the month he’s been given? I feel like I am bearing the whole burden of someone else’s final moments. Telling him will mar any happiness he may experience, but by not telling him, won’t I be denying him the benefit of a real, honest view of life before he goes? Feeling guilty, I squeeze his hand and feel his arm brush against mine as he moves close to me and stops, turning a little to look at me. I manage a smile but he returns a pained expression of quivering lips that refuse to reciprocate my offering. He is crying. Has he read my thoughts? Following his gaze, I turn to my left and see that he is looking at an old lady sitting on the park bench, knitting a red pullover.
I love whiling away the hours in this park. Sometimes I’ll sit with a book, and sometimes whatever knitting I have on the go, but always with a cup of hot tea from my thermos, and a spare cup in case a passerby looks like they could do with one. I was just thinking I hadn’t yet seen anyone I’d offer a cuppa to when I saw a tall, slim man and a short, plump woman walking toward the park’s exit, hand in hand. I’m good at reading people and could see that even with the intimacy of the clasped hands, they were far too far apart for real intimacy. There was no conversation, just a silent walk as they both looked ahead. I was intrigued by the sudden change to their pace, with the man slowing to a stop and catching my gaze. I smiled, well used to being caught out in my pastime of people watching, but was caught off guard by his tears as he kept his eyes fixed on me while the woman turned to look where he was looking. Do I offer them a cup? I didn’t know what would be appropriate in this instance, so I reached to rearrange the ball of red wool and continued knitting the little jumper for my grandson.
Prompt from Writing 101, Day 9 Point of View. Today’s Prompt: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene. Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.