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This is not where I went to sleep.  The air is different.  And the light.  And I’m sitting in a chair.  It’s a good chair.  Even if I don’t remember how I came to be sitting in it.

Did I have a cold?  I feel remarkably fresh.  Like my sinuses have been cleared with steam, and my fingers have bath wrinkles but they’re younger than remembered.  Or was I aging in a dream?

And indeed there will be time.*

There are people now.  They measure the blood beating at my wrist and ask me if I’m cold.  No, but why do you wear masks?  My protection.  So are you ill, or am I?

‘Welcome Back, Ronald,’ it says upon the wall.  Yes, why thank you.  Always good to be here.  But from where did I come?  They only ask what I remember.  That’s why I’m asking.  No, Ronald, the last thing.

Mary scolding me, I spilled a glass of wine.  That shirt is ruined now.  The children will visit tomorrow.  I’ve put my pajama trousers on backwards.  The bedsheets smell of laundry soap.

There will be time.

Does Mary know I’m here?  Good.  Otherwise she’s prone to worry.

The very very last thing?  Why on earth would it matter?  Sleeping, I suppose.  And waking.  And sleeping.  And sleeping in the cold.

The masks nod with certain interest.  I ask what it’s about.  They ask if I remember my funeral arrangements.  What absurd… A wake if I was decent.  A service with a lunch.  No, it was a windowed casket – like a capsule.  You see, I’ve arranged for…

Their eyes are looking at me.  The masks crinkle with their sympathetic smiles.  The cold.  Welcome back.

There will be time.

I wasn’t sleeping, was I?

 

 

———

* A line from “The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot.

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