"Portrait of a Doctor"
Vincent van Gogh
In the still of the morning, I press my cheek to the solitude and my mind takes flight. The coolness of morning's dark touch soothes my fevered brow. Nose to the window, I look into the moonless night and greet the stars. You are there, among them. You must be. There is nowhere else in the universe for you to hide.
There is a picture of you in my mind, ever present. It is an old picture from some years ago, when you were healthy and strong. The blue eyes still twinkled with mischief and the proud back towered straight and tall. You always looked really good in your jeans. Did I ever tell you that? I think I did. I think I told you when we first met. And I know I told you the day we last stared into the face of time together.
"Are you afraid?" I asked.
"Terrified," you replied, your voice rasping through the oxygen mask.
I held your hand a little tighter. "It's been a rough and rocky road, hasn't it?"
"Oh, God ... yes," you gasped. The memories flooded back. Your eyes filled with tears. You gripped my hand hard, the energy flowing so intensely that the two hands became as one. I laid my head on their coupling. We were both motionless there, transported and transfixed. Captured in a moment when time stood still. Then your breathing became labored as the tears flowed. I wiped the moisture from your eyes and cleared your mask. Our hands remained entwined as time raced onward.
It was so hard to let you go. It was not the first time I had sat at your bedside. Knowing it would be the last time I would ever do so was almost more than I could bear. There were so many things I wanted to share with you before you left. I wanted you to know that in my eyes, you had always faced life's tests with courage, honor, and determination. So I told you that. I don't know if you believed me, but I told you anyhow.
I told you what a good friend you'd always been. How you had tolerated my selfishness and arrogance and foolish pride, and loved me in spite of it. You needed to know those things had not gone unnoticed. Or unappreciated. And you needed to know how much fun you had always brought into my life. How I will never forget you. How my love for you will never die.
The face of time lies heavy in my hand, Terry. I can't imagine you wearing it the way you did all those years. But it probably didn't feel one bit heavy to a man like you. I donned it when Sharon first gave it to me after your funeral, and wore it bravely, unflinchingly, as you had worn life. But I finally had to take it off. It was far too heavy for my slender wrist. The band almost wrapped around twice. It flipped and flopped and banged against everything. But I tried. I felt close to you encircled in its uncertain grasp.
The gold casing around the crystal is worn smooth with the years. Sharon didn't know how long you'd had this watch, but she said she thought it went back as far as Vietnam. Stroking this weathered face of time, holding it tight in my hand, I can feel your energy there. It takes me back to so many wonderful times we shared. So many special moments when I looked at this very face against your wrist to see if we had time for one more adventure. It takes me to the Mother's Day we sat on the stairwell at Rock and Roll Heaven, downing Bacardi 151, when you told me about your tour in the 'Nam. As you spoke I could see you there, going about the task at hand with deadly precision, yet hating every moment of it. Questioning your part in it. Carrying the smell of it in your nostrils for the rest of your life.
Inking its tattoo on your soul.
What stories would this timepiece tell if it could give life to words? You were never without it. It went everywhere with you, night and day, from cesspool to pedestal, in triumph and tribulation, even unto death. I wonder sometimes why Sharon gave it to me. She said she wanted me to have something of yours, and for some reason she chose your watch. The face of time. The face of your time, and mine, and the time we spent together.
The hands stopped moving at 16:12:27 on Tuesday the 21st, some years ago. I didn't wind it, or replace the battery, or do whatever it would take to make it operational again. Everything remains exactly as you left it.
Tick tock. Time is ticking away. I don't have to look in the face of it to see that. Don't have to follow the slender hand as it sweeps past, marking off the seconds, racking up the minutes, wasting away the hours.
All I need is the still of the morning; a moonless night with the stars twinkling above. And the time I had with you.
Youngblood Brasket is a storyteller who shares her home, with cats Harmony and Bandon, a rabbit, a field mouse and various creatures of the forest on the Texas Gulf Coast. Her varied background includes freelance work in petrochem, the oil patch, trucking, and construction. Youngblood has also tried her hand as a rigger helper, ironworker, demolition technician, roadie for a Rhythm & Blues band, and as a member of the aerospace industry, where she still works today. She is a regular contributor to the Song & Story Section of Moondance. Email Youngblood Brasket Web page: www.io.com/~stargazr
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