That’s all they are. Inanimate, silly little things. Nothing too interesting, either. Just stuff.
Her eyes dart across the surface of the extended window frame, from one item to the next. Taking them all in as if they were about to get up and walk away. She wanted to make the sight of the simple things last as long as possible. Like trying to enjoy every bit of sunlight before the dusk sets in.
Her eyes focus in on a pocket watch near the middle of the collection. Very old, a rusted-over brass pocket watch about the size of a silver dollar. It stopped working a long time ago, and she never got around to taking it to the watch repair shop. Even though it was right around the corner from her house. She tried to laugh at the thought of not having the time to fix a watch, but the air in her lungs wasn’t strong enough to produce that much sound.
It was Timothy’s watch. Given to him by a friend in the military, Sam Cartwright was his name, a nice man. They had just gotten back from a stint in Europe during the second World War, and Sam had gone out and bought the watch for Timothy, slipping a picture of their platoon inside with a simple engraving:
“Brotherhood Outlasts The Flesh”
Ironic, that it was the his bond with this “brotherhood” that would eventually end his life in the flesh.
Her eyes moved to the left, staring at the dull gray surface of the window-shelf. A slight layer of dust appears much more apparent in the late-afternoon sunlight that filters through the blinds, casting a pumpkin-orange glow across the collection. Leaving eerie shadows all around, almost as if they were bound to the objects by some unseen force.
Her eyes settled on a warn LP sleeve that sat propped up against a vintage player. Ella Fitzgerald. Without even putting the record on, she could hear the songs resonate in her very soul. Timothy had brought her the album when he came home from the factory one evening. Said he stopped by the music shop in town. Had it special-ordered the night they returned from seeing Lady Ella herself at the ballroom a few miles down the road from town. Just staring at that LP reminded her of the many nights spent by the fire, with “Someone To Watch Over Me” playing in the background. Timothy was dog-tired from the factory work, and the war had left a permanent stain on his once gentle features. Be even with all that, his eyes would still light up as they caught the reflection of the flames. Those eyes, brightened by the music they both loved so dearly as they darted back and forth across a newspaper he was only pretending to read.
Her flesh felt as if the very blood beneath the surface had reached a boiling point as she recalled those warm nights. How she longed for him to be here now, to put that record on one last time, and dance with her into the wee hours of the night. But, he was not here, blown away in Vietnam some years later, never to be danced with again. She’d shed a tear for these memories, but her tear ducts don’t seem to work anymore. So, as is the case with him, she can only sit by and remember what it was like to cry for beautiful moments, past and present.
A pile of prayer beads sat near the record, a childhood keepsake that had been with her since she could remember. They were her grandmother’s from long ago, and had moved down since. She could only hope that Karen was here to take those beads home tonight. But the airport in Minneapolis was closed for weather reasons, a blizzard of some sort, and Karen was stuck trying to find another way there. Those beads, the multiple hues faded over time and over-handling, had ran through her fingers many times through the years. Almost every night he was away in those exotic places, killing those men. Every child born, every bedside vigil for the sick, every moment spent in dew-soaked grass staring at the cold stones bearing the names of so many lost friends. Those beads had seen as much as she had, and that meant something.
And not too far from the beads, was a beautiful burgundy colored candle. Thick as her graying, withered old arm. The candle was one of many her and Agnes had made in the past few years. They called them “Wish Candles” because whenever they would give one to someone, they told them to make a wish before lighting, and when the candle burned out, it would come true. They knew this was a silly gimmick, but the people couldn’t help but smile every time they heard it. A smile that was only amplified as they held the candle up to their nose and let the sweet smells waft through them.
It was the very last candle her and Agnes had made before Agnes passed away last year. A bittersweet candle, to say the least. The candle was burned about halfway down, and then snuffed out. This was done at the wake, near a picture of Agnes. When Agnes came to her that day and tossed the threat of dying of cancer at her feet, she made a promise to make a special Wish Candle just for them. The plan was to burn one half when one of them died, and the other half when the other died. They worked all night in their “Laboratory”, as they called it, to finish the candle. She died three weeks later. And the first half was melted away. Waiting to be burned to the bottom.
Then one final wish would follow: That the two lifelong friends could be together in the afterlife. With all their loved ones.
A bittersweet candle indeed.
She attempted a sigh of content knowing the wish would soon be upon her, but her chest felt too heavy to muster even that much. Instead, she just lay there, waiting for the next item to move her into her past.
The glistening reflection of the sun bouncing off a small, silver cigarette case brought to her mind the years she spent trying to quit. She took up smoking shortly after Timothy died, and it became a habit she couldn’t stand almost instantly. She had done it because of the talks of it “lifting burdens” and “relieving pain and stress”. As Agnes would say, “That is absolute rubbish!”
Even now she could taste that bitter menthol taste on her tongue, causing her to try and draw up some saliva and wash it away, only to find her mouth as barren as the deserts in Arizona. The deserts her and the kids spread Timothy’s ashes that uncharacteristically cold and raining day in May. Even in the middle of the sands, the weather was unforgiving as they let the winds carry him to his final resting place in the dunes he loved to wander.
This brought up memories of cold desert nights spent walking hand in hand for miles, watching the sun go down over the rocky edges of horizons that seemed almost unreachable.
This brought up memories of Timothy telling her he wanted to be cremated, because the thought of his body being worm food struck him as quite unpleasant indeed.
This brought up memories of the kids, and how they were so strong that day. Letting the wind whip wetness up into their faces as they held handfuls of their father. Opening fingers, a grip released just slightly and leaving their memories in a trail of white-gray dust behind them. The father they once played Jacks with in the backyard of their summer home. The father that took them to the soda shop in town, Orange creams all around. The father who had fixed their tree houses, received the tosses of millions of baseballs, walked them down the isles of churches to be wed locked away.
They were all adults by then. But for those few moments, they were just kids again, sitting on his lap and watching Saturday morning cartoons on the television in the living room. She remembered him getting just as much enjoyment out of the colorful antics of overly animated talking animals that flashed before them as the little ones. Laughing those deep, content belly-laughs that could warm even the coldest of winter mornings.
She tried to shake the sudden flood of emotional flickers out of her mind, but found her body too stiff and sore to even attempt movement. She instead blinked a few times to try and gain back some composure. It wasn’t like her to get overwhelmed in dwelling on the past.
The case, she noticed, was in need of a good tarnishing. She always wanted to keep it nice and shiny. She even kept it up after she had quit, the tin a reminder of the things she could overcome if she just put her mind to it.
She overcame his death.
She overcame the cigarettes.
She overcame the breast cancer.
And she could overcome this as well. Not in the literal sense, but in more of a deeper meaning of overcoming. As if she could move beyond the events and into the uncertainty with her head up, the Wish Candle’s flame dancing in her eyes, and her hand warm from his gripping it tightly in the moonlight.
She concentrated so hard on those items as she felt her eyelids grow heavy. Those trivial little trinkets, her favorite things. Gathered by the kids and laid out on the sill to ease her in these moments of such unrelenting pain. Pain that seemed like nothing now, as the happy thoughts battled the demons of ache back into their holes.
She was happy.
She was content.
She was ready.
Her focus grew blurry, but steadfast nonetheless. Staring warmly at that little collection of her life’s wares. The things that followed her through the many, many years. She wanted to capture the image of each of those things in her heart. Not letting go. It was a peaceful moment, after many months of a suffering. And that peace was what she needed.
That’s why she watched those objects slowly fade away into nothing. She wanted them to be the last thing she saw.
And from those simple things, the last thing she would see was their faces. Smiling faces. The last thing she would see was happiness and love. Instead of that EKG Machine by her bedside, as it slowly went…