I should have asked her. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret not asking her. How was I supposed to know an atrocious vicious monster would rip her from my hands? Slow enough to leave room for hope but not slow enough for me to ask her? I couldn’t ask her, not while she was slowly being taken from life. While we sat there, in the room that imprisoned her, she gave me one final wish; no, it was a mission.
“Mark,” she whispered.
“Yes?” I said, fidgeting in the uncomfortably cozy blue chair across from her bed.
“I want to tell you the things on my bucket list. I want you to do them for me after I--”
“Stop. Don’t say it,” I interrupted harshly. If she said it with her weak, raspy voice then everything would be too real. She’d be even farther from reach, even if she were still in my view.
“I won’t.” Her voice cracks, making her already quiet voice even more hushed. Her lips upturned into a crooked smile, her front teeth showing, but the way she gazed into a voice of nothing made her emerald eyes only reveal sadness. Neither of us wanted her to be here.
“Starting at number ten, we have scuba diving. I’ve heard that scuba diving in a coral reef is one of the most beautiful things you can do. Imagine swimming right below the surface but far enough to see almost the entire reed. Fish swimming beside you as if you’re one of them,” she paused, releasing a small sigh. “The blue, pink, and green coral will stand out - enhancing the rest of the view. Suddenly, a reef shark swims towards you, and for a moment, you feel your heart drop, but then you realize you’ll be okay as it swims right on by, not disturbing any of the peace.”
“You want that?”
She slightly nods as she pushes herself to sit upright. She looks away from me to stare at the end of her bed, or maybe her feet.
“Number nine is watching a meteor shower, or a least seeing a shooting star. Sitting in the cool grass with a slight breeze blowing, I’d be wrapped in a comforter watching the sky patiently but expectantly.” A glance my way, and she adds, “Of course, I would want you there, holding me tightly in your arms. Your warmth would keep me cozy and satisfied.”
I got off the chair and joined her, despite the doctor’s warning. I put my arms around her and pulled her closer. She leaned her head on my chest and took my hand in hers.
“Eight?” I ask, rubbing my thumb across the back of her hand.
“Shouldn’t that be first?”
An unintelligible sound escaped her lips, and it made her feeble body lightly shake. I only assumed it was meant to be a laugh or chuckle.
“I want to feel like I’m flying as if I’m a free bird, even if it’s only for a few minutes. And the adrenaline? I would live off of that!”
I couldn’t help but smile at her. She got so worked up over something so out of her grasp. She wouldn’t be able to do any of it, which is why I decided over the course of the rest my life, I would. For her.
“Next on my list is the Grand Canyon rim to rim hike. On my left I would be able to see the ancient rocks, a mix of red and darker shades. There would be some green along the way, but not as much as you might think. Looking off the ledge of the trail there would be a long way down. The bottom is only more rocks. The size of it all would be outstandingly shocking , with the beauty to double the marvelousness. It would be so gorgeous.”
“Not as gorgeous as you.”
“Stop, don’t be cheesy,” she said, a raspy laugh followed.
She shifted her frail body closer into mine, and I moved my hand onto her wrist. I continued grazing my thumb across her skin.
“Ready for six?”
“I want to go hang gliding. The freedom of it would be awesome by itself but imagine the bird’s eye view. Snow-capped mountains in the distance and an occasional bird in view. Looking down and seeing everything from above. Seeing how inanimately small it all really is and how insignificant it all seems.”
“You think everything is insignificant?”
She looked up at me. “No. I mean, not necessarily. I believe there’s a reason for everything but we make it all more dramatic and serious than it really is compared to what surrounds us. We ignore the beauty of the world and destroy it as if it will be here forever. Nothing lasts forever on Earth.”
Her words echoed in my mind. Nothing lasts forever on Earth.
“In the end, what will we have? We won’t even have life.”
I didn’t want to argue with her, but deep down I knew there had to be more.
“Off-topic, the most amazing thing to me is the ocean. The waves crashing peacefully against large rocks, the obnoxious failing at disturbing it, the scent of salt piercing the air. The idea always brings a warm feeling, but now there’s also a deep sorrow. I will never see the ocean again.”
I didn’t have to ask. I knew what she was talking about. No matter how much I didn’t want to hear it, she probably wouldn’t make it out of the hospital.
“Anyway,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes and looking back at the end of the bed. “The next one is bungee jumping. I’m not sure why, but maybe the idea of the thrill.”
“Bungee jumping seems absurd and reckless to me.”
“Exactly the reason to do it. If you die, you die. At least you’d be doing something you chose to do. Not sitting in a hospital bed slowly getting worse and knowing you won’t leave.”
There was nothing I could say to make anything better. She wasn’t showing signs of getting better and the doctors seemed hopeless.
“Thank you for being here with me.”
I responded by gently squeezing her hand. The room became claustrophobic and my mind was racing dead set on thinking about losing a woman I love.
“Well, in the fourth spot is snowboarding. Or skiing. There’s hardly a difference.”
I laughed. “I’ve done both and there is a huge difference between them… Why is that on your bucket list?”
“I have never been in the snow and those two things seem like fun things to do, apart from the common snow past times like snowballs.”
“Fair enough. I guess I’ll have to teach you.”
She attempted to smile, but I knew she didn’t want to. The ache was too much for her, I could tell but not relate. There were two different aches between us for the same reason.
“Number three is diving to a shipwreck. Being able to see the design of time before me and seeing how animals adapt to its presence is something I’ve always been curious about. The sea animals swimming in and out of the ship as if it’s always been there seems so fascinating. The idea of looking at the way the ship was designed and what was carried on it intrigues me.”
“That does seem amazing when you put it like that.”
“Yeah. The number two thing also includes water. I love water.”
“Swimming with dolphins. They’re such smart creatures and interacting with them would be so amazing. Feeling their bodies and watching them as they swim past and with me. They’re such an outstanding animal. I highly recommend you study them.”
“Will do,” I said, smiling.
“In number one spot I have is seeing the northern lights, specifically in Alaska. The snow would magnify the beauty by reflecting the lights. That’s the way I imagine it, at least. The green, blue, purple, and pink lights dancing on top of the white mountains would be the best thing to see. They come from Earth’s magnetic field interacting with the sun’s particles, and that seems like it might not mean much but then you get to see them. Only then would you understand how much so many people miss because of their busy lives. Everyone should just stop and look before it’s too late.”
The doctor came into the room. He said it was time for me to leave for the night because it was going to be a long night for her.
“I love you, Anastasia Anne.”
“I love you, William Mark.”
I brushed my lips against hers, oblivious to the fact that it would be the last time I talked to her. I miss her. All I have now is her list, and I will accomplish it so I can tell her all about it when I see her again.