Without speaking, she led me quickly down the corridor toward a moonlit window at the far end. A pale violet light shimmered back from the surface of her loose, voluminous clothes and we were enveloped by a hushing, rustle of sound as we moved forward.
Finally, we stopped, and she turned to face me. Her dark eyes glimmered with the intensity of spirit for which she was known so well.
“Do you remember why we are here?” she asked me.
I did. I said so.
“Yes,” she replied when I had finished. She seemed relieved to hear the answer. Then, she shifted into a softer posture. “And now…we part ways again.”
She looked to the window for a moment. The ocean was an amazing sight in the near-dark, waxily reflecting the huge moon above. “And we will go on.” Quietly, then. To the sea.
“Will I see you again?” I said.
“Yes.” She turned to me and smiled. “Of course. As you always do. But you won’t know me. Nor I, you. Not in words.”
There was a moment, then, of nothing but the distant roar of the waves falling onto the beach below.
“I may even be your schoolteacher next time! Or maybe I’ll beat you up at recess,” she said, grinning.
We both laughed, then. It was good, there. In that safe, joyous space we’ve shared for so long. And then, suddenly, I felt my face began to wrinkle into tears. It surprised me.
“I’m afraid,” I blurted out, feeling utterly ashamed of myself and my tears. What was wrong with me? I wiped my face with the soft, satiny sleeve of my robe.
“So,” I said, feeling irritated. “I’m an old, weak, fear-filled fool at the end of it all, is that it?”
She hushed me. ”No, my love.” Put her hands gently on my cheeks, looking into my eyes and making me look into hers. “You are as wise now as the day you were born.”
Her laugh was gentle, and she pulled me close in an embrace. Her long, black hair was smooth and cool against my face, which I realized suddenly felt very hot. Feverish, almost.
“You are playing one of your characters, silly,” she said into the side of my neck. “Stop pretending you aren’t a boastful, successful and famous playwright. False modesty is so…not you!”
“That’s not funny,” I said. The odd feeling persisted that I had no idea of what I was about to say, and when I did, that it wasn’t my voice at all.
She drew back from me slowly.
“You don’t remember the celebration, then?” she whispered, her question ending a little flat.
“Where did the moon go?” I heard myself say, sounding a bit frantic. Over her shoulder the sky had grown darker. I couldn’t see past her, now.
“It is beginning,” you said, your face growing smaller. “Oh, dear Emil. Be at peace. You have done good for many in this world, my darling. I will remember you well. And I will see you again.”
“What is beginning?” he asked the nurse, his voice rising now to a high pitch. “What’s beginning?”
He tried to sit up but could barely move his body, and slumped back into the scarred, metal headboard with a sigh. The streetlight glared dully against the window, its weave of shatter-proof wires and dried, yellowy, spackle deflecting the weak rays.
“Where is the damn moon? It was just there!” Ed Hernandez yelled from the only bed in E3.
“Shhh, it’s gonna be fine, Mister Hernandez,” said Sharon, who was exhausted and couldn’t wait to get out of CCU and back into Public Health and doing home visits. “Let me open the curtain a little for you, okay, darlin’?”
“…the ocean…” he said, in a whisper.
“Hmm?” Sharon asked over her shoulder, tugging on the curtain.
And he was gone.