Says Laura Boggess:
I started this little story as I waited for Maureen Doallas’s Neruda’s Memoirs: Poems. I had been so looking forward to the release of the book, had ordered it the second I heard it was available–and then was frustrated by what seemed like a terribly long delivery (it was only a few days, but felt much longer). It was very windy that week–I watched religiously for the mailman each day amidst flying little bits of this world–leaves, papers, my neighbor’s flag. As I waited, I entertained myself with the story of Amy Pinkleberry–a young divorcee who struggles with depression. Amy’s depression is characterized by auditory hallucinations–destructive voices that prevent her from finding the happiness she so longs for. Only one thing stops the voices and that is…well, you’ll just have to read on to find out…
Waiting on Neruda’s Memoirs
Oliver called hospice the next day. The nurses came and went like ghosts—helping Justine with pain management and soothing the rest of them with knowing words. Amy was shocked at the sudden deterioration in her friend. She brought a bag of clothes and moved them in to a spare bedroom. Just for now, she told Oliver, who simply hugged her. He moved a cot into the living room for her after finding her on the couch nearest Justine that first morning.
Moments of lucidity were scarce and Amy grieved quietly the loss. Most often, Justine mistook Amy for her daughter, which Amy found unsettling.
“I love you, Marylynne,” she said one day. She gripped Amy’s hand with untold strength and stared fiercely into her eyes. “Don’t you ever forget that, Ok?”
Amy stared into those milky eyes and felt her insides melt like sugar in water.
“I love you too, mama,” she said.
She knew it was right by the peace that settled over Justine’s face. She lifted her hand and smoothed the old woman’s hair back from her brow.
“I love you so much.”
She continued to read the poems to Justine’s limp figure. And though it seemed a pointless task, Amy noticed that during the reading, her friend slept less restlessly. Amy whispered the words deep into the night, grateful for the way they calmed her too.
Alice was another story. The girl had taken on insomnia, and often Amy would wake up in the wee hours to find her standing over her grandmother, still and watching. She said nothing to her at first, knowing the way fear can gnaw away at the insides. Alice’s world was about to change.
Amy awoke one night to the sound of muffled sobs. She found Alice on the couch, a crumpled ball of a girl.
The sniffing slowed to a drip.
The girl padded over to Amy’s cot. Amy said nothing, just lifted the blanket and let her climb on in. She wrapped herself around that bundle of sad, willing her arms to be strength enough for them both. She slept better than she had for days and she thought Alice did too. In the morning, she was aware of a shadow standing over them. She opened her eyes to Oliver’s. His were soft from looking at his daughter in sleep but she saw something else there too. Was it…fear? Grief? Maybe both she decided.
“Call me if you need me, ok?”
She nodded again. He turned to leave but stopped. Slowly he turned back around, kneeled beside the cot and kissed Alice’s forehead. Then he searched out Amy’s hand under the covers and lifted it to his lips too. His eyes were glistening and he spoke without looking at her.
“These are your best parts, Amy. These pieces of you…you were right, that first time we met. Can’t put this on a resume. For what you give…I am so grateful.”
The last was said in a whisper. And then he was gone. Amy lifted her hand to her nose. It smelled of him. She slowly inhaled and fell back to sleep with his daughter breathing soft beside her.
To be continued…
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