The room was very dark. The old man was lying on his right side in a foetal position with his eyes open, blinking occasionally. He could only see a very narrow ribbon of light which extended from the top of the doorway to the floor, as the door was only slightly ajar. He was motionless on a single bed with the bedhead against the wall. He could not see the window behind him. Light did not penetrate the window, because the blinds were closed to obscure the external lights. There was a stainless-steel cabinet on castors on the right-hand side of the bed. Hospital equipment on the left-hand side. There were a couple of chairs against the walls. He could not see any of the items in the room because of the darkness.
The man was considered “old” rather than elderly because of his longevity and frail condition. Two elderly women had been to visit during the day. They said that they were his twin daughters, but he remained aloof through suspicion. He did not know if he should believe them. He was angry because he remembered his daughters from when they were first born. He still had memories of happy times with his wife and daughters, like Christmas day when his daughters were six years old. They received new bikes as Christmas presents. He remembered their laughter as they rode the bikes in the cul-de-sac in front of their home. They had long hair which looked golden in the sunlight as the mild breeze blew their hair backwards.
He remembered that his daughters were always beautiful and had blonde hair. They used to say that they didn’t like their hair because it was ginger. He thought their hair was mostly blonde with a hint of rose gold. The two elderly women had grey hair with different colouring. They looked old enough to have grandchildren. They still smiled, but it seemed to mask a sadness. They talked constantly. That was similar. He remembered happy banter between the girls and their friends. He remembered their laughter when the family talked at the dinner table and when the extended family or friends visited.
The girls were very athletic and competed through high school and university. There were often discussions about athletic techniques and training. In fact, they continued their athletic interest beyond university. He ran with them many years ago, when they could all coordinate work and times to run. The focus was more on running than swimming. The elderly women looked fit enough to continue running, but they seemed to talk more about friends and fashion now. The old man felt absent from the conversation, because he no longer knew most of their friends and fashion was of little interest to him. They kissed him on his cheek before they left. He managed to produce a smile and a slight wink of one eye.
The old man was alone now. He wanted to see his wife, the mother of his daughters. He asked the elderly ladies earlier in the day, when he would be able to see the love of his life again. He didn’t comprehend a direct answer. They may have said that she is always with him. Or they may have said that she had been there earlier.
He remembered the first time that he saw the girl that would become his wife. It was at a function that was held in a local hall. People were starting to dance and he saw her in the distance. He felt like he had been struck by a bolt of lightning. She had an aura about her, with beautiful eyes and a captivating smile. He gathered the courage to introduce himself and to start a conversation. That was the beginning of a lifelong relationship. He now remembered her smile, many years later, as he was laying on the bed. The ribbon of light from the doorway seemed to slowly engulf the room, not from the doorway itself but from his peripheral vision. It was as if he was looking through a brilliant white cloud with a central space that presented an image of his wife during the first meeting. He would never forget her smile.
Words by David Hood
Image by Grace Plunkett
More from Edition 25
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