Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nicaragua 6

A man lies in his bed, his tattered bed sheets pulled taut to his chin. He is still cold, and he shivers occasionally. He is tired; exhausted like never before. His small, derelict house is lonely; this man is it’s sole inhabitant. At one time, this house would sleep twelve people, some even sleeping in the kitchen. The house was proud in those days, for it was valued, and people thanked the heavens for the house everyday at dinnertime. But slowly, people would leave it’s company, some off to the city, some to the cemetery three miles east. Now, this elderly man was the last guest of this once vibrant house. This house has gotten to know this man who lies in bed. It could be said (if we assume a certain depth of emotional range) that the house loved this man. The man had been raised since an infant in this house’s foundation. The house would be sorry to see this man leave. He was the last one, and the house’s favorite one.

There is much to be said for the man who shivers in his thin sheets, lying atop a sagging mattress. He is a good man, as good as men are made. He is a police officer. He has been wearing the same sunglasses for many years. They were given to him by an old friend. Everyone in his town loves the man; children refer to him as uncle. When children grin and call him that, he will give a toothy smile in return and call the child by name, wishing him or her to make sure and have a good day. They all thank him, and walk away. Young men come to him and ask for advice with women. He always gives good advice. There is no crime in the town, as no one could bear to have this man think poorly of them. Everyone in town loves this man.

This man is being destroyed. His arteries are thick with cholesterol. Nobody knows about the struggle his heart is going through, as it fights with everything it has. He has lain in the same position for two days now, only sitting up to eat tortillas or drink a little water. He thinks all day about those in town who he has gotten to know recently, trying to memorize the new children’s names. He needs to memorize them, he thinks to himself, because when he returns to his town, he will need to nod to them and call them by their name. He will never return to that town. His feet will never touch the ground again. He is going to have a heart attack in four hours. He is tired, exhausted like never before. His eyes close, and he dreams about his brothers, his sisters, and his father. He has not seen them for a long time, but he prays for them everyday. They pray for him, too. His dream falls into darkness, and he sleeps deeper.

The man wakes up soon after. There are three children standing by his bed. There are two girls and one boy. He cannot remember their names right now, but insists to himself that he knows them. They cheer as he wakes, happy to see their uncle’s eyes, which have been hiding behind heavy, wrinkled lids. He smiles weakly. They start to tell the man about the school day, and how their tests went. Their voices come and go in his mind, fading like a telephone signal, only to be picked back up minutes later. They ask why he is in bed, and not in the town. They are beautiful children, he thinks to himself. He begins to notice new things about them: a spot of dirt on the boy’s lapel, dimples in the oldest girl’s cheeks when she smiles, and an interesting birthmark on the other child’s neck. The boy repeats the question, obviously worried for the man. The elderly man forces another weak smile, and tells the children that he has been tired, and he needed to sleep in. He tells them that he will see them tomorrow. They laugh lightly, like little bells chiming clearly through a ballroom din. They begin to leave, and his eyes loose focus. Everything is fuzzy, then fades smoothly to black. His left arm twitches subconsciously.

Rain falls outside, a soft pitter-patter. Water falls from the house’s gutters as it weeps. The house cries for the gentle man who lies in bed, in the house’s east bedroom. The house is heartbroken, and sobs in anguish for this man. Who will care for the house now? Who can she love, after such a man as this fades into the floorboards? Her walls creak to and fro in the wind, as the house sings a parting lament for the man.

The man wakes from his nap, and finds his father at his bedside. The man smiles, and gets up to hug his father. They stand motionless in the other’s arms. There is a pleasant silence here; it comforts them both. They break from their embrace, and the father gives his son a smile. The man’s father is proud of him. He has seen his son’s children. They line the streets, young and old, large and small. He has many sons and daughters, and they all love him dearly.

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