Death is Dancing All Around Me
I told her to call anytime of the day or night if she needed me, and she did. I rolled out of bed and threw on some clothes and drove over there.
He’d taken the oxygen tube in his nose for a catheter and wet the bed. She’d managed to get him up and into a recliner while she changed the bedding, but then he couldn’t get up again–his legs just stopped working.
When I got there he was giving orders like he always does but he was also sliding in and out of different realities, talking to his father who’s been dead for years, taking stock of his water supply and seeing that they needed to lay in a case of spring water from Safeway, calculating that what needed doing right now was to push the recliner across the room to the side of the bed, and from there he could pull himself up and in.
I leaned over him and said, “Better would be if I bend over and you lock your hands around my neck and I walk you to the bed.”
“It won’t work,” he said, panic in his voice, his eyes wide, his skin gray and smooth as a baby’s. “We need to get everything in place,” he said. “I need to be sure it’s right.”
“It’s right,” I said. “We’re good to go.”
“Are you sure?” he said.
“Hell yes,” I said. “So latch on now and let’s do it.”
“I’m in a lot of places at once,” he said, and I said, “I know.”
“That’s right,” he said, remembering, and he locked his hands around my neck.
I got him back in bed. I convinced him that he didn’t have a catheter up his nose, how silly would that be? His wife gave him two pills, one for the pain and one to knock him out cold, and then we stepped back into the shadows of the dimmly-lit high-ceilinged room, the walls covered with the art that he’d created over the years. She broke down then, cried quietly, and I held her and stroked her hair.
Death is dancing all around me, suicides and cancer, and just a couple of years ago I was right there where my friend is now, except he won’t make it back. The most terrifying thing about being in that place is that people around you start thinking you’ve lost touch with reality, when in fact you’re deeper into reality than they can possibly imagine. He’d seen me in that place, and the panic left his eyes when he remembered. He put his arms around my neck, and together we struggled across the room to his final resting place.