By John Clise
Trying to remember the last time he shaved as he rubbed his chin stubble. He preferred to be clean shaven. He sat perplexed for a while contemplating just the nature of what it even mattered if he ever shaved again.
He had a tune in his head that he couldn’t quite put his finger on though he liked it greatly. It was soft and flowing through his mind. It calmed his raging mind.
His hands were shaky. He hadn’t got used to it but it had become more like background noise when he sat quietly in the morning sun. He could still feel the warmth on his skin as he had before. It was a way, of sorts, to walk again through what used to be what he called a normal life.
Normal, though, he had learned changes and may even just be something different for everyone. Normal is certainly fluid and changing daily. And it’s unlikely to stay the same for long.
He hadn’t had a haircut in six months because he couldn’t hold his head still well enough for any barber to trust their skills to give him a trim. He missed a nice haircut. He liked the crispness of a new haircut. Every hair in place as it should be. Now it was rather straggly and unkempt, though he did manage to brush it at least once a day.
That was second to missing being able to button his pants and tie his shoes. Slip-ons and running pants weren’t exactly his style. He’d always worn a shirt and tie when he worked but those days, too, were long behind him. People had told him to have his clothes tailored with Velcro snaps on the buttons, or have a home healthcare worker come each day to help him dress. He was polite, yet firm, in the fact that wouldn’t be happening.
I took him 20 minutes a day to take his medicines. The lids were hard to get off the bottles. The bottles were hard to hold. Getting the pills out one by one was an entirely different struggle. He did use a weekly pill box that made it easier until it needed filled again. Plus, it’s hard to swallow pills when you can’t get them to your mouth. Or the water glass to your mouth.
Visitors come and go all wishing him the best. He lived alone still. Not that bad really. No need to share the slow spiral into nothing with others. Not many hung around for long. He figured they were just there to do their penance or clear guilty hearts.
He had a neighbor, Jean, that came over every day to check on him whether he wanted her to or not. Jean was much younger. She was 23 or 24. Just out of college. She’d been living next to him in the apartment building for a couple of years.
Jean brought him food, flowers, opened the windows to let the sun inside. She made sure he was taking his medicine, but never interfered with his wishes not to be bothered about getting dressed.
Because he never locked his door, she would come over in the middle of the night when she heard him coughing his lungs out to be sure he was okay, and to get him a glass of water.
And, occasionally, because he didn’t lock his door, he would wake up with Jean curled up next to him in bed because she was afraid of thunderstorms.
He never minded that much. Having a beautiful young woman, less than half his age, curled up next to him was nice. That was about it. His anatomy down there hadn’t worked in years. He had been injured years before, so that was the end of that.
That’s probably why he changed his sheets every three days. No one wants to have dirty sheets for an unexpected guest.
She’d been offered a much better paying job in another city, but had declined it because of him. Jean never said a word about it. She was just too worried he might fall, or get sicker, or not eat, or not take his medicine, or any of the million other things that could happen each day if she wasn’t there.
Unlike so many others, Jean never judged his life or how lived it. She knew most of his secrets. They didn’t seem to bother her any. She knew the story of his life. He knew the story of hers.
He sat on is couch every morning looking out the window at the world out there. The sun was always there to talk him through the day, even if it was hiding behind clouds.
The morning sun was always a welcome friend that never looked longingly at him with great sadness and sorrow. The sun and Jean had that in common. And they both lit up a room.
The sun was just a friend, like Jean, who didn’t care he couldn’t golf any longer or that 10k runs were just dreams of the past. His only 10k now was the 100-yard walk to the mailbox and the 100 yards back. Sometimes he keeps time just feel like it’s a race. It was a fun game to play from time to time.