At The End of The Day – Living On Borrowed Time
Freddy S. Zalta
Henry was nervous.
Doctor had called him late the previous evening and told him that he wanted to see him first thing in the morning.
Henry didn’t tell anyone about the call. Anyone being his wife, two kids and his mother. Although he had a brother and sister – they had lost touch over the years and he had no desire to share anything with them.
The Doctor came into his office where Henry was fidgeting by the book case and didnt waste time.
“Henry, sit down.” The Doctor pulled a box of tissues and placed them across from the chair where Henry sat down.
Henry disappeared from reality at that moment. He knew something was wrong, something was terribly wrong. He began to hear a faint ringing in his ears, felt his heart begin to race and a cold chill run up his spine.
The Doctor looked directly into Henry’s eyes and began to speak.
“Are you sure you do not want any family members with you?”
“I am sure – what is it? Am I dying or something?” He said this jokingly but when he saw the Doctor’s face he realized this was not a joking moment.
He walked out of the building in a stupor. He tried to push the buttons on his cell phone but his fingers could not be still from shaking. The Doctor had said “Inoperable; could be a day could be a year. But if I was you I would get my life in order.”
Henry sat catcher style under an awning of a bodega – he was mentally paralyzed and did not know what to do.
He stood up and called his wife.
“We need to talk.” Henry said.
“They called you too? I cannot believe these people. I paid the minimum of the bill and now they are threatening to send it to collections. They already took away our-“
“Stop. I need to talk – can you come pick me up? Meet me by Starbucks on 13th St.”
“I can’t go there now I have a million things to do.”
“Honey, its important.”
“Did you lose your job? If you did screw them – you didn’t like doing what you were doing anyway. You can find-“
“Honey – come we can speak when you get here.”
His eyes were wet, he was shaking and felt as if he was walking in a house of mirrors and couldn’t figure out which way to turn. The sun was shining and it was warm outside – but it seemed dark and he had a chill. He wasn’t sick, he didn’t need an operation, he didn’t need anything other than a misdiagnosis or a miracle.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity she walked in.
“What’s going on?” She asked. “Are you have a panic attack?”
“No, yeah, well, yes but for an actual reason. Apparently I am dying.”
“OK take a deep breath.”
“No honey. I just came from the Doctor and he told me that there is a real reason for my headaches, dizziness and forgetfulness.”
“Can i call him?”
“Call, I don’t know what else…”
The Doctor called her back within 5 minutes and explained the situation. It was true, he was dying and it could be at any time.
They went outside for some air and walked along the avenue until she stopped him.
“I don’t mean to sound like a bitch here but I need to ask you; you are up to date on your life insurance, right?”
“Yes I am. I need to go see Mike and draw up a living will and an estate will. I think that’s what you call it.”
“So what do I do now? How do we go on? What can we do? Do we just wait for you to die?”
“I don’t know but we need to tell the kids…I need you to tell the kids.”
“I don’t want to be alone, babe…I don’t want to die.”
They wanted to get second opinions but the next available to appointment was 7 days away. Henry decided he needed to go for a drive one night alone.
Henry had lived a cautious life more out of fear than anything else. He married Nancy right out of college and had two children within four years. They never traveled since he had a fear of flying and spent more time dreaming than doing. His children had resented him for his neurosis and his wife had once had an affair. Fear was causing the things he feared most to occur and once they did he had no idea what to do other than keep on working.
He was a Professor at the local University – he had gone to school there and had received his Doctorate at that same institution. While he was still a student he began to teach and once he graduated he continued to teach. Before he knew it he had be given tenure and became the Chair of the English department making a six figure salary.
His children grew up and traveled with their mother who was adamant to not stop living because of Henry’s fear.
“Why should I stop living because he is too scared to face his demons?” She would tell anyone who would listen.
There are spouses who improve each other by being together.
There are spouses who drag each other down and there are spouses who inspire each other to be more, to do more.
Henry and Nancy were the kind of couple that kept things cold and safe. It could be why she was in an affair with a friends husband for several years. Everyone knew about it – besides of course Henry and when the wife finally left her husband Nancy decided to break it off.
“I never loved him; it was a sexual convenience.”
Henry confronted her and she shrugged and said, “Why should I stop living because you are too scared to face your demons?”
He realized that there was some twisted perverted truth to what she said and wasnt really in the frame of mind to get divorced.
“Who is to say there is anything better out there?” But he was depressed and it was killing him.
He drove towards the neighborhood where he was born and raised. It all seemed so much smaller now than it did in his head. The lake, the railroad station and the “Main Diner” on Main Street and Penn Avenue. He hadn’t been to this part of town since his father died around 15 years ago. Him and his mother didn’t get along very well and she moved to live with his sister who lived an hour away in Marlboro. His brother lived in the town next to Marlboro and they barely kept in touch other than family gatherings.
He went into the diner and sat at the same booth he used to sit at before Nancy, before fear and before he ever thought that he was on borrowed time.
Henry watched as the waitress served the diners across from him. Three college girls who seemed to be craving fried foods – possibly having the late night ‘munchies’ on this Monday.
There was a miniature jukebox on the side of the booth where he sat and a Mexican bus boy dropped a menu and poured water into a small glass cup. He opened the menu and began to look for a healthy meal, as he always did as a false sense of controlling his destiny. He was about to decide on grilled white chicken with string beans and brown rice on the side when he had an epiphany. The waitress came over.
“Hello, my name is Wendy and I will be your server tonight. Can I start you off with something to drink?” She was maybe in her mid-twenties, dusty blond specks on dark brown hair. She wore a black and white waitress outfit with a name tag that said, “welcome my name is Wendy.” Her skin was smooth chocolate while her eyes were gray with a hint of blue and green. She was too pretty and too young to be working the night shift at the local diner.
“Hi, do you need a minute?” Wendy asked him with a forced smile.
“Um, no I am good. I want a…you know what I am gonna, you don’t know me from Adam. But I am a good guy, not that old but I am in a bit of a crisis and I don’t want to be – can I buy you a drink or dinner or something?”
Wendy smiled and let out a half-laugh.
“You are cute. I get off in 20 minutes and I am meeting some friends at a bar called ‘Walt’s Last Waltz.’”
“Walt’s last Waltz? Where is that?”
“Right by Penn and 2nd Avenue,”
“Well, where Oscars used to be. Its been almost 15 years since it was Oscars.”
“Oh – wow. I guess I haven’t been around in a while.” He felt a pang in his head.
“Are you alright? Drink some water. Al? He looks like he is going to faint – get me a wet towel please.”
“No I am fine…I just need to get fresh air…” He walked towards the front of the diner, pulled the door open, wind chimes sounded and stepped outside, Wendy not far behind him carrying a cup of water.
A cool breeze was consistent it seemed that autumn was blowing into town. Henry sat on the bench by the entrance of the diner, Wendy sat beside him.
“I get migraines all the time. How is your eyesight? Are you seeing a bright prism like thing?”
“No, its not a migraine…I have an issue with my head-“
“Should I call an ambulance?” Al opened the door and asked them.
“No I am fine – thank you.”
“What kind of issue with your-“
Wind chimes. “Wendy I need you back here – table 14 is looking for you.”
“OK…I have to” she pointed back to the diner, “Are you going to be ok?”
“Yes don’t worry – maybe I’ll stop by Oscars later and I’ll buy you a drink.”
“OK that sounds like a plan.” She stood up, stared back at him and said, “my dad was Oscar, he died a month after they closed it down.”
“I am sorry to hear that – he was a gentleman. We used to talk-“
Wind chimes. “Wendy.” Al.
“Coming.” She looked at Henry. “Come by later I would like to hear about Oscars, Oscar and some old stories.”
“OK – I would like that.”
He stood up slowly – he felt better – if not a bit queasy. Walked out of the parking lot and was on the sidewalk across from the park.
The wind was still blowing, once in a while a car would drive by; some parked by the diner and some moved on. It was early fall and he was feeling cold, scared and alone. His life was ending, literally, any time. He didn’t want treatments to keep him alive for another month – he wanted to be alive while he was still living.
He laughed to himself, “This fear I have felt – what good has it done me? It truly imprisoned me and kept me behind bars with a false sense of safety from pain. But emotions can walk through doors, fit between bars and head straight to your soul. Why was he still standing behind the bars on the floor in the corner of his cell, cowering from something that can get to you whether you are dancing, hiding, singing or silently retreating back behind the lines into a cave? The enemy here was the ticking bomb that could not be defused.”
He crossed the street and walked into the small park where people ate, drank and read during the day. He found a bench and sat there, put his feet up and closed his eyes. Without his knowledge he fell asleep and was still sleeping when the sun began to come up the next morning.
She had the kind of smile that caused one to question every decision ever made in their life. She used it, perhaps unknowingly as a weapon or a moat to deter any strangers or visitors. I can do no justice in describing her smile; in a clumsy and inadequate manner I will try.
When she smiled her high cheeks would fill and her eyes would shine like dancing water in the sun. Her mouth would twist in a perfect shape…and oh those lips…plush and filled with honey with a hint of a jasmine scent. She was 33 but looked as if she were 23 – her skin was bronzed and smooth and her hair was dirty, Streaked with colors and stains from the different stages she had taken life on. She did not have the conventional assimilated agreed upon body – she was a woman who in the middle of the past century would be considered a dame, a broad and a woman.
“I was hoping to see you last night – you were a no-show.”
“I know that – I am sorry. How about tonight, can I buy you a drink, or two?” He smiled, she smiled.
“I get off early today – I have a daughter at home.”
“How old is she?”
“She is an old 10 years – going on 40.” She laughed.
“Ok so, another night?”
“How about I meet you at Oscars at 9?”
“You got it – I will be there this time.”
Henry left the diner and did a google search for a hotel in the area. He ended up at a Marriott on Industrial Way – he took a junior suite with a king bed. Lay down and fell asleep. Woke up at seven, showered and headed out to Oscars.
His cell rang, it was his daughter.
“Dad, what’s going on? Mom said, well she said, you are not feeling well?”
“I am feeling ok, actually. But according to the Doctor…it doesn’t look very good right now.”
“Dad I want to come home and see you.”
“OK, whenever you want. Book a ticket I will pay for it.”
“I cant right now, I have 4 term papers I need to write. As soon as I do them I will come to see you.”
His heart sank and he felt nauseous.
“OK. Don’t worry I will try and hang on for you.”
“I gotta go – I’ll call you tomorrow?”
As if planned his son called two minutes after their call and he had the same conversation with him. He pulled over to the side of the road and began to shake, shiver and cry. Not because the kids couldn’t come or wouldn’t come – but because he had failed as a father to inspire them to care enough.
He parked his car down the block from Oscars – well, actually it was called, “Walt’s Last Waltz.” As he got out of his car he felt a dizzy spell coming and he sat back down again. His heart began to race and he felt himself beginning to sweat.
“Not now, not now…I really want to live tonight. I want to see Wendy…I don’t want to die…at least not now.”
He began to take deep breaths and opened the air conditioner. He woke up around 10 minutes later, the back of his shirt was wet as was his scalp and hair. He pulled a brush out of the glove compartment and brushed his hair back and left the car.
“Thank You…” He whispered and then thought to himself. “No more holding back, damn it I am dying, its time for me to live.”
As he walked up the stairs to “Walt’s Last Waltz,” he spied Wendy walking up the block towards him. She was smiling and he felt something inside of him awaken.
They sat by a table in the back and ordered burgers and a pitcher of beer. He sat there and looked around.
“You know I used to spend a lot of time here. I would spend time talking to Oscar and I remember his daughter would always be there by his side.”
“What was her name?”
“Oh, I don’t remember. Oscar was a good man – a baseball fan – we used to talk baseball all the time.”
“A big Brooklyn Dodger’s man – until they ran off to California – that broke his heart.”
“He became a Met’s fan because he could never imagine rooting for the Yankees.”
“He hated them – he loved the Met’s though its a shame he never got to see Citi Field and the Dodger’s shrine. Remember the picture of Ebbets Field he had on the wall?”
“How do you know so much about him?”
“Before tonight when was the last time you were here?”
“Over 20 years ago.”
“More like 25 years I think – I was 8 years old.”
“You? Oh my her name was Wendy!”
She smiled and a tear or two formed in her eyes and then she smiled.
“Oh I miss those days – my father put me on a pedestal and my sisters could never understand why I would want to be there day after day. It was because, I was a poet at heart.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“When I think back on those days and those nights…” Her eyes began to well up. “There was so much…there was a sense of family among the strangers. I remember the lawyers, the writers from The Eagle, the students – you and your friends and the nurses from Mount Sinai. They were regulars…you were a regular. My father really loved talking with you. He used to talk about you to my mom all the time.”
“Well, it was mutual – I used to come in just to speak with him, ask his advice, talk about sports. He was a gent.”
They spoke for what seemed like ten minutes but was actually four hours.
“Wendy – we need to go home.” The manager told her.
Henry paid the bill and left a tip. They walked outside and there was a chill in the air. He pulled his jacket off and draped it around her. She smiled.
“I always remember how you were always so nice to me. You were also one of the few who never got sick in the bar.”
“I am not a drinker. I was nice to you because I found it so adorable how you would be working like an adult and seemed to be loving every minute of it.”
She stopped walking and faced him.
“So, now that you left your cheating wife – how are you getting along?”
“Well – I am feeling kind of lighter…and being with you tonight just reminds me that there is still a spark of life and love in this world. And you got my heart aflutter…” He felt a sense of excitement – a sense of trespassing into another person’s world – a person he always wanted to be but never took the steps out of fear. No more fear – his new mantra.
She smiled – he kissed her and she opened her mouth for him. He felt alive for the first time in years. They kissed standing up in the middle of a quiet sidewalk. They kissed in that same position and they each felt their world changing. He felt her tongue and he felt her breasts against his chest. She felt his excitement and felt her breasts against his chest. She wanted him inside her – he wanted to go inside her.
He fell to the ground and all was dark. She knelt beside him and let out a silent scream. He opened his eyes and felt a rush of adrenalin.
He jumped up.
He was engulfed within a white bright light; he covered his eyes and then felt a warm breeze blow. The breeze was incessant and slowly the brightness began to dissipate.
The was a distant sound of a song once played on a radio – from a different time – he knew he had heard it before but could not place it. It had a familiar beat and the piano seemed to be professing some sort of hurried, buried sadness from deep within the player. Henry felt it and suddenly he was on the floor and he was crying. Crying for his father, for his lost relationships, for the chances he never took and for the choices he had made. He was crying because his daughter did not care enough to drop everything to be with him before he would be gone forever. He was crying for the broken dreams, the broken hearts and because his wife pointed her fingers at him as an excuse for her fucking around.
The piano kept on being played and the pain inside Henry was overwhelming and causing him to stay curled up on the floor in a fetal position…crying out in pain.
The wasted years kept on tearing up his insides…
The wasted love kept on ripping his heart into shreds in shapes of music notes that can only be heard within the mind of the broken.
The piano was being pounded now as the player kicked back his chair and it fell to the ground.
The beating of the drums outpacing the rhythm of the music, the bass was deep and overwhelming but it was the piano that permeated the atmosphere and caused the rain to fall,
Henry lay on the ground crying…
For the lies that were told to him by the people he trusted – he cried.
For the choices and the voices that led him to this dead end in his life – he cried.
For the vision of his wife promising fidelity only to find her asleep with her lover – he cried.
He cried for his failure as a father, a teacher and a friend.
He cried because he was dying but had yet to live at all.
Soft whispers, like a soft breeze, the words unintelligible with a voice soft and soothing.
“Who is speaking? What are you saying? Are you talking to me?”
Voices louder now – still wordless but full of accusations and condemnations.
Suddenly silence. He opened his eyes and he was in a park, alone, sitting beneath a tree by a lake. Empty row boats in circles, ducks and geese separated by a break in time as if both within two different time periods at the same time.
Suddenly people appeared dressed in clothing from the past – what he somehow knew was from the past and the faces were familiar. They all one thing in common…they were people he had known who were now deceased.
Dogs appeared along with birds and squirrels. Flowers blossomed and the hill across the lake began to be covered by tulips of millions of assorted colors. Different hues of red, brown and yellow. Suddenly dark clouds appeared and the earth began to shake beneath him.
“Henry, your brother is the valedictorian of his class! What will you be?”
“Henry, I love you but I have been seeing another man…but its your fault.”
“Henry, Henry, Henry – no, no, no – you are not good enough, not strong enough. Its not possible, no way you can do it if your brother cannot. Your too, scared and weak.”
“Daddy why can’t you just try and understand? You are so absent.”
“Henry, your situation is dire – inoperable, you are dying, you will be dead soon. There is nothing you can do – nothing we can do – you are dead already.”
“Daddy I am too busy to come to your funeral – can they change it to next week? But not on Tuesday…”
Clouds formed, the sun all but disappeared and the breeze became cooler. Dark clouds above him – but no rain. A bridge loomed ahead, from clouds to sun. Beneath the bridge there was fire and across the bridge there was ice. In the distance he spied a couple walking – between them there was a wall of fire separating them. They continued to walk across the bridge until the ground beneath him began to shake and they were gone.
He saw his father walking towards him with arms open wide and a smile.
“Hank,” His father was the only one who called him that. “I want you to live, son. I understand the pain you have inside of you – but you need to reconcile.”
“But I am dying, Pop, or maybe I am dead already if you are here.”
“You have been given time on earth to live – but you have not lived at all.”
“I am scared…”
“I am scared to fail, pop.”
“Oh son, if you fail what happens? You brush the shit from your clothes and get back up to it again and again until you get it right. But only you can know when its right. As long as you are doing what you love how bad can it be?”
“When we reveal ourselves completely we are are diarmed and unshielded. We are at our most vulnerable and open for attack from the enemies of happiness. Arrows are cast towards us by the jealous and bullets shot by the ones who are living in fear. I am scared – I have been hurt enough.”
“Living in fear is an oxymoron. How can you be living if you are full of fear?”
“Dad where were you when you were supposed to be with us?”
Suddenly his father faded away and there was a complete and deafening silence.
“Henry wake up, are you ok?” It was Wendy.
He opened his eyes. He was alive and back outside with Wendy, his mind was clear and his heart was lighter.
“How long was I out?”
“Less than a minute – the ambulance should be coming soon, stay down. Maybe you had a stroke or something.”
“No I am fine – its a long story. Wendy, yesterday I went to the Doctor…”
Henry stopped speaking, stood up and said, “You drive.”
“But, don’t you think we should get you to a hospital?”
“I’ll explain in the car – the last think I need right now is a visit to the hospital.” In the distance he heard a siren and it was getting closer. “Come on let’s go.”
She pulled out just as the ambulance was turning the corner – he let out a sigh of relief.
“Can you explain to me what happened? Are you diabetic?” Wendy, still shaking, blurted out.
“I am sorry – let’s, turn here.” She made a sharp left and they were across from the yacht club. “Park around back.” Wendy steered the car and parked by a “No Parking” sign and was facing the bay. She cut the engine, surveyed the scene. She used to walk here sometimes and wonder how it would feel to be a member of this club, to have her own yacht.
There was the “Esmerelda” with its hull jetting out like the chins of their owners, the Williams family. To the left of the Esmerelda was the “Mantle” with a Yankee insignia on it. That belonged to the Riccio family who must have used it once or twice in the past 20 years.
She focused back and stared at Henry who was now sitting, head back, right hand rubbing his eyes.
“So talk to me.” She said taking his hand.
Henry spoke and explained to her what had occurred the day before. The prognosis, his family reaction and then apologized to her for dragging her into this mess.
“Its not that bad Wendy. Well, technically it is bad – but its sort of like a wake up call. I may be late for the dance but as long as I am here I have this sense of freedom, this absence of fear-“
“But what about your kids? Doesn’t it hurt you that they are kind of lax about you dying?”
“Of course it does…and I will address it to them tomorrow – but in the meantime I need to hold steady and move forward. I wont call on you again – I don’t know what I was thinking, if I was thinking at all. But there was something about the way you moved and looked while you were waiting tables…”
“That’s not fair to say, Henry. You cant romance me…when you know you are going to die any second.”
Her eyes welled up again – this time for herself and then she caught her emotions. She thought, “How can I have this self-pity when the man in front of me can die at any moment?”
She sat back and closed her eyes – he looked out the window and watched as the lights flickered in the distance. It wasn’t fair – he did have feelings for her – he wasn’t sure if it was lust or love but it didn’t matter.
“Hey, take my car home tonight. I need to walk, get fresh air, do something, call some people – I don’t know but I can’t – please do me this favor?” He asked her and she nodded.
‘OK but you need to call me and let me know you are ok.”
“Wendy…I dont want to lead you down this dead end I am on – don’t waste your time with me – pretend we never met.”
“Oh Henry – you cant just delete memories like things on a computer. We have met and I do have feelings for you – the bell rang, the hammer hit the nail – come on Professor what other phrases can I use to explain to you that my heart is beating faster and its because of you.” She began to tear up again. He looked at her and then pulled the handle on the car door, stood up and closed the door behind him.
Book 2 Chapter 1
She pushed the cigarette into the cereal bowl, push the bowl to the side, put her head down on the table and closed her eyes. She had barely slept the previous night having spent the first four hours at the Tavern and the rest of the night at a Frat party. She drank way too much, smoked too much and ended up waking up with “what’s his name” laying next to her on the floor of her friend’s dorm room.
She wasn’t sure anything had happened with “whats his name” and didnt even want to think about it. She had a mid-term running towards her in an hour and needed to somehow uninebriate herself.
Her phone vibrated; it was Michael, her brother.
“Hey Mikey.” She answered.
“I am going back home to see dad.”
“Tonight after my last class. There is a train leaving at eleven and I pull into the station at five. Do you want to meet me and ride in together?”
“I don’t know – I will call you back after this mid-term.” She didn’t bother saying goodbye just hit the red “end” button.
She knew what the right thing to do was, she knew her bitch mother was probably not shedding a tear and was probably with Frank or Bob or whoever. Her father had been become almost a non-presence in the house since he caught her sleeping with his boss six years ago this Christmas. He seemed to be blaming the kids for his wife’s infidelity as if we had a hand in it.
That Christmas he walked out of the house and walked around town for several hours while Mikey and Pam cried and their mother stayed locked in her room. They were 12 years old then – twins – and that is the year that Christmas went from the most exciting day of the year to the worst day of their lives.
She walked around the college perimeter, smoked several cigarettes, drank vodka from a flask and cried. She never went to take the test, didnt see the point. All she kept replaying in her mind was her father sounding disappointed when she told him she could not come home.
She remembered the way he used to be, how her family used to be before that Christmas. It was as if he was a balloon and her mother punctured a hole – he began to fall and fall until he was just a shadow of who he once was.
Its been over 6 years now and she is still waiting for that man to surprise her – to love her as he once did before.
Mikey feels it, she knows that for a fact.
They never understood why their father would stay in that house of cards while their mother would be rocking and shaking its foundation.
She went to grab another cigarette but her pack was empty.
She went to drink some vodka but the flask was empty.
She went to call Mikey and tell him that she would meet him at the station – but her phones battery was dead.
She thought to herself that she still had time – then remembered her father ‘s time was running out and there was nothing she could do about it.
So she ran back to her dorm, jumped into the shower, packed a bag, called her brother and headed out to the train station.
With nothing but time on her mind.
At the End of the Day Book 2 Chapter 3
Michael walked up the stairs towards the entrance to the Train station. It was around ten oclock and he still had enough time to buy a ticket, get something to eat and to meet Pamela.
Michael was almost six feet tall, with a boyish face and an uneven beard. His hair was covered by a baseball cap and his eyes were brown. His coat was a black pee coat and his dark jeans ended with leather boots he had bought at a flea market near his campus.
He had a satchel across his chest which carried his laptop and in his hand was a Duffel bag with his clothing. He had the kind of face and build most men wanted to have for themselves and most women wanted for their men. He was an average student who was an artsy type. Some called him a loner others called him a snob. He was guilty of both since he preferred himself over others and found most of his contemporaries boring and predictable. He had a group of friends who were good companions and added levity and intellectual conversations to the mix.
He walked up the stairs, walked through the doorway and into the booming station.
“The 1033 train to Washington DC with stops in…”
He stopped, put down his duffel and went to text his sister.
“Hey pretty boy.” He jumped. It was Pam. They embraced and she spoke in a soft voice.
“How you doing?” He smiled.
“Well, someone I once knew and loved who I thought had died a while ago – has suddenly been diagnosed with an actual life ending sickness.”
She looked at the ground and spoke.
“I feel so guilty now. I feel like the time when he needed us we deserted him. But we were so young…”
“Don’t blame us – lets face it mom kind of destroyed his spirit, emasculated him in front of us.”
“I know but I was so uncaring when he called me…”
“So was I. That is why I realized we needed to go home and be there for him.”
The train rolled into the station at close to five o’clock – the sun had yet to rise so the darkness of the station was broken up by a line of street lights. There were several taxi’s lined up waiting for fares and a couple of pedestrian drivers waiting for their friends or family. One of those cars was driven by their mother.
She ran up to them and gave them both over dramatic hugs and tears. They both let her perform and just went into the car.
Wendy sat in Henry’s car for what seemed like several minutes. She was too tired to think about what she would do with the car in the morning which was not so far off at this point. She turned the ignition to off, pulled the keys from the console and walked inside her home.
Pamela woke up with a hangover. She lay in her bed, checking her Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr accounts. She texted her friends to let them know she was home and she texted her father to let him know that she wanted to see him. She stood up, walked to the kitchen, made a cup of coffee, took two advils and went back to her room.
Michael was on his 2nd Mile and was about to run back when he noticed his father’s car parked outside of a house on Blue Street. He wanted to knock on the door but when he saw the door opening he stopped. What seemed like a mother and daughter walked out and went in to his dad’s car and drove away. He watched as they drove away and wondered if his father was staying there. He walked to knock on the door but there was no response. Tentatively he rang the bell and then he heard footsteps walking towards the door. The door opened.
At The end of the Day Book 2 Chapter 3
Henry threw his phone in the water, checked his wallet to make sure he had his credit cards and drivers license. He walked towards the train station and got there just as a train was pulling in. He went to the machine to buy a ticket and bought one for New York City. He thought he caught a glance of Pamela but it couldn’t be her and when he went to look again there was no one there. He sat by a window on an empty car and closed his eyes. Three hour ride to Penn Station in New York City. Just an idea about taking a hotel room for a night and sleeping. Then he would pull out cash from his bank account and buy a ticket somewhere hot. He gave his ticket to the conductor and then closed his eyes again. When he opened them again the train was pulling into Penn Station. It felt as if he had just closed his eyes but 3 hours had passed. He thought to himself, “Still alive. Tired but I am still alive.” He walked up the stairs to 7th Avenue and waited on line for a cab. While he was on line he decided to go to the Plaza Hotel. The cab got him there in 15 minutes and at 830 in the morning on a weekday that was quite an accomplishment. His nausea confirmed that the driver had driven quickly and recklessly. But he didn’t care – what was the worst that could happen? He walked up the stairs and into the Plaza, veered right towards the reception area and got himself a room. “One key please.” He replied. The desk clerk smiled, “If there is anything I can do for you to make your stay comfortable, my name is Juan and you can reach me by calling the front desk.” “Thank you, Juan.” He took the elevator to his room, opened the door and was upset that the room was so small for the amount of money he was paying. “Its just for one night anyway.” He went to lay down and couldn’t sleep. Went downstairs, got a cup of coffee and went to do some clothes shopping. “We are now accepting all passengers on Jet Blue flight 757 going to Aruba…” He stood up with his carry on and walked onto the plane. Found his seat, 11A, sat down and waited to take off.
Wendy was going to Starbucks to meet her friend, Kathy while her daughter, Janice, was at school. She was still in a daze about Henry and had tried calling him several times but it just went to voice mail.
Michael and Pamela were sitting drinking coffee at Starbucks and trying to figure out what their next move was.
“I want to be with him Mike, I don’t want him to think he is alone.”
“Well, we should have thought about that when we spoke to him.”
“Yeah well its been a while since the real Dad has be present.”
“That’s not his fault and we should have realized that instead of acting like -”
“What? ‘children?’ we were children.” The door opened up and in walked Wendy – Michael recognized her from that morning when she walked out of the house where his father’s car was parked.
“That’s the lady I saw this morning coming out of the house where dad’s car was parked.”
“Let’s go talk to her.”
Later on that day Henry’s flight landed in Aruba and he took a cab to the Ritz Carlton where he had booked a room the night before. The room was not ready yet so he walked to the bar and ordered a rum and coke.
At The End of the Day Book 2 Chapter 4
Henry walked on the sand and let the warm Caribbean Ocean refresh his bare feet. He had purchased some shorts and t shirts to wear as well as a pair of flip flops. He also bought a couple of pairs of light pants and several shirts. He didn’t know what he was doing there other than running away from himself.
As the sun began to set he decided to sit down on the sand. He was thinking on overdrive now and couldn’t stop.
“Why Am I here and not at home?”
“How come no one even gives a crap about me…is anyone wondering where I am?”
He thought about Michael and Pamela – felt that old familiar pang of missing them.
“I let it go…”
He let his head fall and he began to cry. Not just a sniffling cry but a cry like a form of release – letting out all the hurt he has been numbing all these years.He lay back and let it all out – like a dam breaking down during a hurricane – the water, the tears just overwhelmed him.
The cheating, the lying, the hiding and the wasted years. The cowardice and the medals of dishonor he has pinned on his own chest.
He cried for his naivety. (How could he have been so trusting?)
He mourned for his courage which had died so long ago. (Why?)
He bled for the lost time he spent like a turtle with his head in his shell – protected but never experiencing life, love, feelings…a prophylactic worn to protect himself from people who only seemed to hurt him. A prophylactic that broke him down into a flaccid soul.
He fell asleep and awoke when the music from the bar began to play its after dinner music. He woke with a jump, unsure of where he was he felt cold and confused. He stood up, got his bearings and headed back to the hotel.
He walked up the six stairs where the pool was, there were a group of college aged kids there, some in the pool and others sitting, drinking in chaise lounges. Laughter, taunting each other, celebrating their youth in bright colors. He walked passed them up another six or seven stairs towards the entrance to the hotel. At the elevator there were plants with pink flowers and signs pointing towards a Spa. The elevator announced its arrival with a ding. Out stepped some more kids in bright colors while he, in black and white, walked in as the only occupant of the elevator. The doors closed and it began its ascent.
When the doors opened at the lobby there was a scream and a cry for help.
Henry lay on the floor of the elevator, face up with blood running from his nose and eyes wide open.
“Mr. Stevens, Mr. Stevens,” Fingers snapping, “Mr. Stevens, can you hear me?”
Henry opened his eyes.
“Mr. Stevens, do you know where you are?”
He nodded, side to side. Then tried to speak. “No.”
“You are in Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital in Aruba. You seemed to have a concussion. Do you have any friends or family with you here?”
Henry just stared back at the man – didn’t know the answer to his question.
“I don’t understand.”
“You are in Aruba, The Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital. You were staying at the Ritz Carlton-”
“I remember…Pam and Michael…I am sorry…” He closed his eyes.
The morning came and Henry was poked and prodded. Blood tests, blood pressure and blood sugar.
“Can I leave now?” Henry asked.
“The Doctor will be here in an hour or so – he will check these results, have a look at you and then decide.”
Henry knew if they looked at the results they would not let him leave. He had to leave on his own. He stood up, took the plastic bag which contained his clothes and went into the bathroom. He quickly changed and fixed his hair to look unlike the patient he was.
It was an easy walk out the door as no one stopped him. He immediately found a taxi dropping off some people and he made his way back to the hotel. It was only a 10 minute or so ride but it seemed to exhaust him. When he got to the hotel he paid the driver with a twenty dollar bill and went to his room.
He realized that he couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel too much longer – so he scheduled a check out for the next day. In the meantime he went to have lunch by the pool area.
He sat down at a table beneath a bamboo umbrella and drank an iced coffee concoction. He watched the girls; not much older than his daughter’s age, walked around in bikinis and stood in the pool drinking umbrella drinks. He watched as one girl sat alone at a table across the room reading “The Fountainhead” and drinking out of a coconut. She looked up as she sucked in the straw and saw him, smiled and went back to Ayn Rand.
His food came and he ate voraciously – seemed like a week since his last meal. Ask the waiter what the girl reading Ayn Rand was drinking, ordered her another and one for himself.
She stood up, motioned him to come to her. He nodded and motion her to come to him. She smiled, brought her book, bag and drink and walked towards him.
Henry greeted her with a question. “Howard Roark – what are your thoughts about him?”
“Well, Roark never compromises or deviates from his principles. He has a strong belief system and the world can isolate him and deride him – but nothing sways him. I want to meet a man with half of his backbone. Half of his strength to not give a shit and to stand by his ideals.”
“Hmmm; I take it this is not your first read of ‘The Fountain Head?'”
“Not really – I am kind of an Ayn Rand expert.” She smiled.
“That is not an easy expertise to have – also not so popular among the popular crowd.”
“I never have cared about what people think.”
“Like Mr. Roark?”
“I can relate to him and so many of her characters. The inner strength to live a life based on ones own ideals.”
“The Selfish life?”
“Some say ‘selfish’ is a bad word – it depends on how one defines it.”
They spoke for over an hour, moved the conversation to the beach, walked along the shore line and found their way back to the bar and two coconut drinks.
At The End of the Day Book 2 Chapter 5
Pamela and Michael decided it was time to be concerned. They had kept in touch with Wendy since they first saw her two days earlier. She had no idea where their father had gone and had gone searching around town, went to the Marriott and asked for him. As far as they knew he had checked out 3 days earlier.
She went to the diner and asked if he had been in at all during the past 48 hours, when they told her no she put up a sign in the window with his picture and her phone number. She went to “Walt’s” and gave them the same picture to put up after asking and being told no whether he had been there as well.
“Have you heard anything?” She asked Mike.
“No, how about you?” Mike asked her.
“No, I did put up the flyer with his picture all over town. I am sorry…”
“I am going to speak with Pam – I’ll keep you posted. Wendy, thank you. I know you only knew my father for -”
“Don’t – I really like your father and I can tell you he really loves you and your sister. He will show up.”
“OK” Mike hung up the phone.
“Good morning kids.”
“Mom can you at least pretend to be concerned?” Pamela told her.
“I am concerned, I am concerned about being left alone.”
“Mom – please.” Pamela added. “You are never alone – unfortunately you never tried to hide that.”
“Please get over that already – it was one time…”
“One time that we know about and it was a Christmas mom. What a great present, right Pam?” Mike added.
“I would have preferred a card.” Pamela said, “I am sure dad would have too. You killed him that day mom.”
“I don’t have to hear this from you.” She pulled up her pocketbook, pulled her phone from the charger and left the house. Neither of them went after her. She stood outside the front door waiting for them to come – when they didn’t she shrugged, went into her car and drove away.
“I think we should go to the police.” Michael said.
“And tell them what? That a terminally ill man, who told his family he was going to die at any moment, left home is no where to be seen? They would arrest us for being insensitive pricks.”
“We fucked up and hurt him – we are hurting too Pam. I want to see him, to be there for him.” He stopped speaking, put his head in his hands and began to sob.
Pamela – walked over put her arm around him and then walked to her phone.
“I want to file a missing persons report…”
Henry was feeling invigorated. He had been spending the day with his new friend Lisa, and had actually forgotten that he was sick.
They rented a boat the next day to go snorkeling – they packed a lunch, there was a stacked refrigerator with drinks and a boat driver to take them where they wanted to go.
They went snorkeling at a place called “Mangel Halto,” ate lunch, drank too much and then went for a walk on the beach. Henry told her that he had been to the Doctor the week before and that, “Apparently, I am dying.”
She let out a laugh, looked at him and then said, “Are you telling me the truth?”
His look said it all.
“Then we need to write down a bucket list of things you want to do. Did you ever make love in the ocean?”
“In the ocean, no and that is number 1 on my bucket list. Make love with a beautiful young lady in the warm waters of the Caribbean.”
She led him into the water – the water was warm.
She led him in deeper until they could not touch the floor.
She looked him in the eyes and he threw her a grin. She put her arms around his neck and parted her lips and kissed him. They wandered towards shallower height and he went in behind her.
He spied another lady in her mid 30’s watching them and she gave him a smile.
“I think we have someone who is jealous…”
“Have you ever…”
“No – have you?”
“I have wanted to try it…”
Her name was Lucy and she was from Hastings Minnesota and had just gotten legally divorced from her husband of 12 years.
“He was cheating on me.” Was all she said. “I want to do all the things I would never have done in the past.”
Lisa and Henry smiled and pulled her into their embrace.
Henry woke up in the middle of the night to a throbbing headache.
“I don’t want to die…” Lisa woke and then Lucy saw Henry crying.
They each held him, encircling him for support. He closed his eyes and lay back down.
“Maybe this is heaven?” He said.
Michael found an american express bill in the mail. He opened it and read through the charges.
Ritz Carlton Aruba L.G Smith Boulevard # 107, Palm Beach, Aruba Dutch Caribbean Deposit $498.75
He called his sister.
“Pam? I think I know where he is.”
At the End of the Day Book 2 Chapter 6
Lisa was leaving the next morning. Aruba to Miami and then Miami to Los Angeles.
“I can stay if you’d like?” She told Henry.
“No Lisa – you go live your life – I am almost done with mine. I have some other stuff I need to add to my bucket list.”
“Hmmm,” She smiled and placed her hand on his chest. “Can I be a part of that?”
“Ha – nothing sexy or fun – just some loose ends I need to tie up. Some people I let down who I need to speak to and clear things up with.”
“But in the meantime…I still have several hours to go…” She crawled on top of him and he smiled.
Michael tried calling the hotel several times but apparently no one with the name Henry Mann registered there.
“So how do you explain the credit card charge?” Michael responded.
“I can’t explain it – you can dispute it with the bank and they will investigate. Even if I see the name on our registry I cannot provide for you any information.”
“Can I please speak with your supervisor?” He was put on hold.
“Good afternoon this is Junaida how can I assist you?” Michael repeated his request and Junaida, the daytime manager responded the same as the first person who answered the phone. Michael hung up, put his head in his hands and began to cry.
Henry stepped onto the balcony and surveyed the view. With both hands on the railing he was praying for answers and what he should do next. He had stopped praying or even believing in any God or higher power.
“Ain’t no atheists in foxholes.” He thought to himself. He smiled and then sat on a chair and thought about his father. He was a tough man – had to be.
He was born 10 years before the start of World War II and grew up in the refugee camps before he found a way to New York City. He was a French Jew who’s family was spared extinction because his father’s non-Jewish mistress took them in and they spent two years in her home before the authorities came in and took them all to a refugee camp. The next week France was liberated and they were left to go home. Unfortunately there was no home to go to and they were able to find a way to America. His father stayed in France with the mistress and they never heard from him again. His father became the man of the house and built himself a business selling radios and then television sets. By 1955 he had 3 stores and was a millionaire at the age of 30.
He met Laura when he was invited to a dinner party by a friend. They married 3 months later and had three kids. Henry, being the youngest.
His father, Joseph, passed away one night before his 80th birthday in 2005.
The fall out with his mother began when Henry told her of his marriage situation.
“Leave the bitch.” She told him.
“I don’t want to mom.”
“Until you leave her – don’t speak to me.”
It was 6 years ago and they had spoken several words since then.
He thought about his brother and his sister. Robert and Sylvia and wondered how their life had been. Since his father passed away and they sat Shiva in his house, they had promised to keep in touch. But since that Christmas they had listened to their mother, mostly in fear of losing out of her will. Their father had left everything to her and there was a lot. His estate was valued at 30 million dollars but had been undervalued since the several properties he owned in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; had increased at least, in value ten-fold.
He decided to fly back to New York and to repair some damage his fears and timidity had caused.
Pamela told Michael they should go to Aruba to look for their father.
“Lets wait a couple of days,” He said, “Let’s see if we hear anything back.” He had sent messages to his father’s attention to each of the major hotels in Aruba; if he was there hopefully he would see it and call.
“What if he died already.” Pamela broke down for the first time. “I can’t do this – I feel so bad that I ignored him that I didn’t stand by him…” Michael held her and told her it wasn’t her fault.
“Besides I called the hospitals there and no one with Daddy’s name had been admitted. I also called the American consulate in Curacao and they will be checking if his passport was used as entry. I don’t know if they will even get back to me. But let’s wait, today is Friday, lets give it until Tuesday at least.”
“OK…but I can’t see mommy anymore – I really can’t stand her.”
“I know…I did call Grandma, Aunty Sylvia said he hasn’t called. Uncle Bobby also hasn’t heard from him.”
“I keep having this crazy vision of him being dead in an alley somewhere…” She said. “I can’t tell you for sure Pam, but I truly feel he is alive. Have faith, go pray, light the candles tonight and say a prayer. Mom would love that.”
They both laughed. Their mother had basically outlawed religion in her home.
“We can have a Christmas tree but that’s it.” She said.
“We aren’t Christians – we are Jewish.”
“We are nothing – just because you are born into a religion doesn’t make you that.”
“Well, actually it does.”
“Not in my house.” She would say and, always, walk out after that decree.
Henry checked out – went to the airport and caught the 1:35 flight to Kennedy Airport. He arrived a little before 6p, purchased a prepaid cell phone and made some calls.
Back at the Mann home, Pamela lit candles and said a prayer.
At the End of the Day Book 2 Chapter 7
The runway rose towards him, New York…it felt like years since he’d left less than a week ago. He thought about Pam and Mike – he needed to make things right with them. He thought about his mother and his brother and sister’s families. What happened that caused him to become so meek? He thought about his hopes and dreams – writing screenplays, novels, plays…
“Those that can, do; those who lack the balls to leave their safety zone – teach. Well, sometimes. Being a teacher has been the one place where I have found fulfillment…”
The door opened and he walked off the plane and headed to buy himself that aforementioned prepaid phone.
He knew who he needed to call first.
Pamela and Michael went to visit their Grandmother who was living in their Aunt’s house. When Michael had called – his Aunt had invited them to come. At first he politely declined and then he called back and said that barring any craziness, him and Pam would be there.
Wendy stood in front of her bathroom mirror – she looked at her reflection and into her eyes and felt so old. 33 years old and her eyes seemed to be 103…
Her phone rang, unknown number, she clicked on the “do not answer” red button and went back to feeling bad about herself.
Henry left a voice message and then headed to his house where all his belongings were. He needed to shower and change his clothes. “If that prick is there with Nancy – I am not sure who I will kill first.”
As the car made its way across the Belt Parkway he felt a need to put things in their places. First he would go to see his mother, brother and sister. Then he would call both his kids for them to come tomorrow. He would try and explain his shortcomings – apologize for being less than a man. He just hoped that he would live that long. He knew he was running out of time.
The taxi pulled in front of his house and there were no cars in the driveway and the lights were all out. He paid the cabbie and walked up to the front door, realized he didnt have the keys. Rang the bell. He called Nancy.
“Hey I am trying to get into the house but I dont have a key.”
“Where have you been? The kids have been driving me crazy.”
“The kids? Where are they?” She opened the front door.
“They took my car and went to Sylvia’s house for Shabbat dinner.” She rolled her eyes.
“They went to – why?”
“Well they have been frantic about where you, if you were still alive.”
“But they said they were going to try and come – they didnt seem like they cared.”
“Oh Henry, they love you more than you think they do.”
He went inside, called a car service, took a shower and changed. Went downstairs and saw Nancy sitting in the dining room.
“What’s up with you?”
“I was just thinking about you and me. Why don’t we stay together, you know? Whatever time you have left – let’s spend it together. I love you Henry – you know that, right?” She stood up and put her face close to his and then put her arms around him. “Oh Henry…”
He just stood there and then he heard a car honk.
“Thanks.” He simply said.
“Thanks? What does that mean?”
“Thanks for reminding me just how full of shit you are. Oh you are beautiful, sexy and the mother of my children. But you are so not for me. See ya.” He turned and walked out.
She didn’t see it, no one saw it, but he sure as hell felt it. As he closed the door he felt himself freed. He looked back at the house and smiled.
Walked into the car and told the driver where to go.
In the car he fell into a deep sleep – he woke up when the driver shook him.
“Mr. we are here. Are you alright?”
“Yes, yes, sorry.” He looked outside and took a deep breath. Paid the driver and walked up to the front door and knocked.
When the door opened he saw the look in his brother’s eyes – a look of relief with a sense of fear.
“Oh my God…We didn’t know if you were…” He threw his arms around him and called out to his family. “Pam, Mikey – your father is here.”
All of the family greeted him with hugs and kisses – the last one to him was his mother.
“I am sorry mom, you were right – I was weak but now, for right now at least I am strong.” They embraced and she broke down and cried.
“Shouldn’t you be at the hospital or somewhere?”
“Apparently there is nothing to be done, Mom. But I am here now – lets just focus on that for tonight, ok?”
They both embraced again and they both broke down and cried.
Pamela was the first to address her father. “Can you, me and Michael speak privately?”
“Of course, come lets, Bobby is it cool if we use the den?”
“Yeah, yeah – just close the doors.”
“Oh dad…I am so sorry.” Pamela cried into his chest. Michael put his arms around them both and joined in the tear-fest.
They all stood there for several minutes.
“I am not going to let you down anymore – I am sorry about the time we lost. I don’t seem to have much left – but I want to spend it with you guys.”
They spoke for a couple of hours – alternating between laughter, tears, memories and hope. He told them about Aruba and his visit to the hospital there. “Apparently I was out cold and they thought I was dead. But, I guess I have some unfinished business.”
“Can you get a second opinion?” Michael asked.
“Yes I am going to – I realized I was giving up without a fight and thats not going to be me anymore. From now on, for as long as I have left I will not back down from who I am or what I believe in. Which reminds me, what made you light candles and call Grandma?”
“Michael suggested I pray for you it looks like part of my prayer has come true.”
His phone rang – it was Wendy. “Its a Wendy, I want to speak with her, is that ok?”
“Yes, tell her we said ‘hi’.”
“I didn’t recognize the number that’s why I didn’t answer before. I guess you are all right?”
“So far – listen I am sorry I left you as I did. I just didn’t want you to be hurt…when I…you know.”
“I understand and I appreciate that but don’t ever walk out on me again. Your kids are very special by the way.”
“Thank you – I know that.”
“I wish I met you a long time ago.”
“You did, only that was too long ago.”
“I want to get to know you more…but I don’t want to hurt you; apparently it can happen at any time. I am a ticking bomb.”
“Well, I already feel a kind of connection to you but its incomplete – I’d like to get to know you for as much time as we have left to spend together.”
“Are you ok for lunch tomorrow?”
“After 12n I am good, my daughter’s father is picking her up around 11 or so and she is staying by him Saturday night. So…”
“Sounds good to me – call you in the morning.”
“You have a lot of people who care about you – you are not alone.”
“I know that – thanks for reminding me though.”
He came out of the room and they all were sitting and eating – he sat between Michael and Pamela and made a plate.
“Shabbat Shalom.” They all laughed and answered him. “Shabbat Shalom.” His mother smiled and he thought about his father. “Help me pop…help me get healthy I want another chance.”
At the End of the Day Book 2 Chapter 8
Henry went to bed that night and dreamed that he could fly. It didn’t even take any effort all he needed to do was to concentrate and visualize himself rising above where he stood. He would fly above the streets of his neighborhood and find himself floating across the rivers and the bridges of New York City. He could see the home where he grew up in; traveled through time and watched scenes of his childhood replayed.
He would watch as his father would be throwing a baseball to him and his brother. As his grandmother sat on the porch drinking coffee and reading the days papers. He would see his mother in the kitchen preparing dinner while singing the song that played on the radio. His sister doing homework on the floor while watching reruns of the Jetsons or Scooby Doo. Suddenly he would fall but never hit the ground; just an endless sensation of falling, falling, falling…
He woke up, saw that the numbers of his clock were past the 5 O’clock cut off and he walked to the kitchen, made himself a cup of coffee and sat down. On the table was a notepad, nothing on it but a pen with its cap on, like a soldier wearing a Pickelhaube standing erect by a doorway – protecting something, someone…
He pulled off the Pickelhaube, and used the blood of the soldier to write some words on the blank sheet of paper.
“Why?” He began to cry – he didn’t feel sick – he felt sick but not deathly sick. He was just tired…
The appointment at the second-opinion Doctor was set for 10:30. The time was now 8:23 and he jumped in the shower, got dressed and left his apartment to get that second opinion.
He had called the original Doctor on Monday and asked him if he should get a second opinion.
“By all means, Mr. Mann. I will have all your medical records and test results ready for pickup with the front desk. I am hoping there was an error made or a better prognosis than what I have made.”
He got to the Doctor at 10:15; waited in the front room and read a magazine from a year earlier.
“Mr. Mann? Please fill out this form and do you have the medical records, any pathology slides or other test results from your Doctor?” She was a very pretty Russian woman with a strict demeanor which said, “All business and no bullshitting.” He passed the paperwork over to her and filled out the form she gave him.
The Doctor was ready at 10:30 for him; right on time.
“Have a seat Mr. Mann.” The Doctor instructed him.
“Call me Henry, Doctor.”
“Well, Henry I am having an issue with the tests and paperwork given to you by your Doctor.”
“Did I bend them or expose them to light?”
“No, looking at them I don’t seem – I need to re-run some tests, are you ok with that?”
“Yeah – but whats the issue?”
“I need to confirm my diagnosis before I say anything. The nurse will be coming in to guide you from one room to another one down the hall. Just three procedures and we can meet in my office once I see the results.”
“OK, what worse can things be? I am already, apparently dying so…”
“Lets not jump to any conclusion here, Mr, um, Henry.”
Henry went through the tests he had been put through two weeks earlier. It was kind of nerve wrecking since he was scared that some of the tests would cause him to die right then and there. This time, his two children and his mother were waiting for him in the reception area. This time he did not come alone – this time he was prepared for whatever they threw at him.
At the End of the Day Book 2 Chapter 9
Henry sat in the Doctors private office with his mother, Pamela and Michael. They made small talk and joked about the diplomas on the wall. His mother sat quietly clutching something in her hands and apparently saying prayers to herself.
Henry was at ease and at peace. He was not alone this time and felt a sense of protection and comfort. He smiled as he watched the banter between Pam and Michael, took his mother’s hand and kissed it.
“I’ve missed you. I am sorry.” He whispered.
“That’s all over now – lets get you healthy so we can move on with our lives.”
The door opened and the Doctor walked in hurriedly and seemingly in deep thought.
“I see you have the whole mishpacha with you.” He laughed.
“They are here to kick your ass if you tell us bad news.” They laughed.
“Well..” The Doctor began.
Six Months Later
Pamela was helping a little girl of around 10 or 11 put on her dress.
“You look beautiful, Sara.”
“Thank you Pamela – I am so happy we are going to be sisters!” They embraced.
“Dad, why couldn’t i just get a clip on – I cant make this tie.” Henry stood in front of his son and tied the bowtie in quick steps which took less than 10 seconds.
“Oh that’s how its done?”
“Yes, son, that is how its done.” They both laughed and they hugged. “I am so happy for you, for us, dad. I love you.”
“Thank you – I love you too kid.”
Six Months Earlier
They walked out of the Doctor’s office and were in a tentative sense of elation.
They drove to the Diner where Wendy worked – she had yet to arrive. They sat in a booth and ordered lunch in an suppressed giddiness.
“OK, so how do we react?” Pamela said.
“Well, relief?” Henry replied. “Apparently I’ve been cured.”
“Could it be? Should we get a third opinion?” His son asked.
“What can they say that’s different than, ‘he is fine the tumor is gone, healed itself.'” Henry’s mother said, “Its a miracle that happens more often than we know it. Apparently a lot of people walk around with these things and they dissipate without them ever being aware that they were close to dying. The Doctors call it ‘spontaneous remission’ I call it a ‘miracle.'”
“Its God’s way of giving me a second chance to do right with my family.” Henry added.
“Its God’s way of giving you a second chance to do right by yourself. The issue wasn’t our feelings or your accepting her as your wife despite the obvious ridicule and emasculation she put you through,” She turned to her grandchildren, “I am sorry if I offend you here.”
“No its the truth. As much as we seem to ignore it as mom being mom, it is the truth, she destroyed his identity and turned him into a -”
“No one turned me into anything. I turned myself into who I needed to be to protect myself. Unfortunately I took it to an extreme and didn’t remember to snap out of it. The ones I hurt were the ones I loved best and for that I am sorry.”
“You are better Dad – I want to get better now – all of us.” Pamela hugged her father. “We need to be who we used to be…or better yet – be the best we can be, all of us.”
There was a silence – as if each of them were thinking about what almost happened to Henry.
“Aruba was fun, by the way.” Henry said laughing.
“I bet it was – thinking your about to die any second gives you more incentive to enjoy yourself than anything else.”
“Oh yeah.” Henry replied.
From where he sat Henry faced the front of the diner and when he saw the door open and the image that floated inside – he knew there was someone he needed to speak to.
Wendy walked in and Henry immediately stood and walked towards her.
“Hey…” He said. “I am sorry…”
“You don’t need to-” He put his finger to her lips.
“We just came back from the second opinion…”
Six Months Later
Wendy was glowing and the light that surrounded her let out a warmth that spread across whatever room she would enter. When she walked down the short aisle towards Henry it seemed as if millions of rays filled with light, warmth and beauty were shooting off her.
Henry looked at her, walked the steps towards her, smiled, kissed her and they walked together up the steps.
Outside the sun was shining, a soft breeze was blowing and birds were singing. On a street corner a block or so from the Diner an older man was limping towards Walt’s. He checked his phone for messages, nothing, no one…He started to walk again and then fell on the street. Alone and no one heard or saw. When a person dies alone and no one notices – does that mean they never lived at all?