Of course you remember the little house. The way the light from the nearest streetlight danced through the stained glass, illuminating it from within and shooting refracted beams of color that bathed the whole area in an otherworldly glow. You remember the busker belting out “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and him grabbing you and holding you close, spinning and dancing as if you two were the only people in the world. And you remember him singing the words of the song in your ear, his gesture sweet, his voice comically off-key. You don’t have the heart to tell him it was the Hudson, not the Seine.
“What made you think of that, dear?” you ask.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he says. “It just popped into my brain, I guess.”
You watch as a sublime smile spreads across his face, lost in thought and time and place.
“We should go back there, after the kids are grown,” he says. “A second honeymoon. Just the two of us.” His wrinkled hand wanders across the little table that separates your two recliners until it meets yours. “We could try to find the lock that we put on that bridge.”
Your body betrays you, a sigh rushes from your lungs like air escaping an untied balloon. A single tear wells in the corner of your eye and hangs a moment before dropping down your cheek.
“What is it?” he asks. “What’s wrong? Is it because I haven’t done anything romantic lately? Honey, I swear…”
You have to think quickly. You have to get yourself under control. For his sake, just as much as yours.
“No, it’s not that,” you answer. “The other night, on the news. They had to cut off all of those locks. It was just too much weight for the bridge to bear.” A feeling you know all too well.
“Oh, really? I don’t remember that.” He pats your hand. “That’s okay. We’ll put another one on there.”
You want to grab him, you want to scream.
When the storm has relented, you crack the door. You watch as he rereads the same magazine, the one he has read countless times before. Watching his eyes track across the page, you drift back to those nights so long ago, entwined in his embrace, listening to the rhythmic swings of his voice as he reads aloud to you. You never made it more than a chapter before you were fast asleep. And you recall eavesdropping in the hallway outside your daughter’s room, listening at the way he brought her bedtime stories to life; the low, lumbering voice he would use for dragons and ogres and the eruption of giggles when he would break into a shrill falsetto for the princess. These are the little things you are going to miss, that you miss already.
A passage from Vonnegut creeps into your mind.
After the stroke, when his motor skills started returning, you had so much hope. The doctors tried to warn you, to tell you the truth of it, but you wouldn’t listen. They showed you the CT scans and MRIs, pointing out the gaps in his temporal lobe, little black holes that looked like scattered buckshot, but you couldn’t bring yourself to see them. And now the doctors were saying there was damage to the hippocampus as well. That soon even his muddled memories would start to fade.
You don’t know which is worse: the man that you love getting your entire life together wrong, or the thought that someday he wouldn’t recognize you at all. That you were going to sit helplessly and watch as he disappeared, day by day, memory by memory.
You look out the crack of the door again. He is humming to himself. It takes you a minute to place the tune and for that you are ashamed. The words come to you. You close your eyes. Once again you are dancing in the night, the glass house shimmering behind you.
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Anthony Delanoix