Sunsets and Cigars

The walls were brighter, their gloss more reflective. Aurion, for the first time in two months didn’t give notice to the ward’s redolence as she walked down the corridor. The ritual good mornings at the nurses’ desk was a shadow of the arduous task it usually was. ‘Good morning’, she sang-spoke, her full lips not…

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The walls were brighter, their gloss more reflective. Aurion, for the first time in two months didn’t give notice to the ward’s redolence as she walked down the corridor. The ritual good mornings at the nurses’ desk was a shadow of the arduous task it usually was.

‘Good morning’, she sang-spoke, her full lips not able to hide the gap left by missing incisors from her lower jaw.

‘Good morning’, the three nurses chorused back in dissonance, half amused and half surprised at the appearance of the old lady.

‘You look…. different. You’re wearing lipstick’.

‘You are looking so sweet’.

Aurion threw her shoulders and rolled her eyes upwards gleesomely, and bobbed her head from side to side. It was no doubt a surprise for the nurses and the hospital staff seeing her gaily adorned and in an exceptionally happy mood. It was more peculiar, because her husband’s condition had kept deteriorating every day for the past two weeks.

‘The doctor is with him, but you can go in’, one of the nurses said, and they watched her prance away into the ward room, the cuffs of her loose fitted pants doing a dance to a tune of their own.

Aurion pushed in the door to meet the doctor on his way out. His eyes popped as he looked up to her face, for she was a tall woman, and he, a short man.

‘You’re looking gorgeous today Mrs. Mustard’, the doctor said smiling at her. The smile disappeared in seconds and his voice lowered into a whisper.

‘He’s not doing good at all. He’s had his medications, but, it might be anytime now’. The seam of her smile ruffled momentarily. She blinked slowly in understanding, and then resumed her smile.

‘I’ll excuse you’, he nodded off and disappeared into and down the corridor.

‘Sam’, she called softly, as she took her seat on the bedside chair, leaning in and bringing her chin to rest on the back of her hands, faced down on the bed; her face in front of his. He opened his eyes and stared back at her, looking beyond her well wrinkled face, and seeing into the shared youth that was the journey that brought them this present.

‘She’s beautiful and she’s wearing lipstick’, he announced, the cracks on his lips tearing as they stretch into a smirk.

‘You never did’, she whispered back.

‘I never did what?’, his voice weak.

‘Disappoint. You never disappointed me like you said you would. You were so sure’.

They both fell silent and this time he stared past her, through the window and into the Island’s skyline.

‘I’ll be damned. I’ll be damned’, he said, his voice lowering off into a voiceless mouthing. Then he shut his eyes and smiled.

The monitor went off in a burst of repeated monotonous beeps. A doctor and two nurses rushed into the room. A third nurse rushed in behind them wheeling a cart.

‘Don’t’, Aurion instructed.

‘Let him. But leave the smile’, she said, and exited the room, her cheek wet with a slow tear, her smile lingering.

***

Aurion went home, and on to the beach that was the front yard of their house. She walked on until her wrinkled feet hit the cool water. There she stood all day, throwing kernels and pebbles as far as her feeble hands could, until the sun retreated past the firmament and below the surface of the water.

Then, she went back into the house, smoked one of his Cuban cigars and fell asleep in his sweater.

***

‘Aurion, one day, I’m going to screw up. And if you’re kind enough, you won’t hate me’.

‘Why are you talking this way? Sam why are you saying this?’

‘It’s what I always do. I disappoint. Love is my friend, yet patience, my enemy. That’s how it always ends’.

‘But it’s different, isn’t it?’

‘Aurion, it always is different’.

Sam stood up from where they sat under the porch and ran down the beach till his feet hit the cool water. He picked up pebbles and began throwing them far into the water, trying to out throw each previous attempt. Soon, she raced down and joined him in the water. They exchanged smiles and took turns at throwing pebbles, one trying to out throw the other.

There they stood all day and until the evening, when the sun retreated past the firmament and below the surface of the water.

Then, they went back into the house and smoked his father’s Cuban cigars. And when she fell asleep, he lay his sweater over her.

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