I sat alone with my dying friend
in the back room of her house, where she reclined
on a bed of pillows. It was getting close,
and even the ice chips weren’t effective any more.
She was delirious and drugged, just like mom
all those years ago in the hospital back in Logansport,
lost in the morphine of that Indiana spring. I sat next to her
for hours that night, trying to slip between the haze
of the drips sliding into her arm; to find my way in once more,
back to her heart. But it was a closed system, and I was empty
and outside it. All I have is her brief surfacing
long enough to flutter her eyelids like butterfly kisses, and
(is this memory or what I wanted to happen?)
– a reach of her hand to mine.
I know she said, “Oh, you’re here.” And I was, even now.
I thought of that moment as I sat vigil next to my friend,
and considered what it was I wanted to say to her,
her son in the next room with other family and friends.
Her eyes opened wide then, and she sat upright. In a rush
she threw her legs over the edge of the bed, and tried to stand.
“Where do you want to go?” I asked as I gently stopped her.
“I have to leave.”
“I know. Wait a little bit first, ok?”
She sat back. I struggled to find my words, and watched her
raise a glass that only she could see to her lips,
lips that hadn’t felt a sip of water for days.
She took a long drink. She looked at me as she wiped her mouth
with the back of her hand. “You know it’s ok, don’t you?” I whispered,
my throat suddenly parched. “We’ll take care of him.”
She nodded as if she heard me and relaxed a bit.
I helped her lie back down on her pillows.
I don’t know if I got through to her either. It seemed to me
she was breathing a little easier when I finally tiptoed from the room
on my way to the kitchen for a glass of water.