I’m pouring us a cup of tea, just for the two of us. It’s not for the whole world, it isn’t even for the people down the street. It’s only for her and for me. The steam wafts up and warms my hands, wetting them. And it feels like a bit of it is melting, lightly like the way a flame slowly melts a candle. Mine, green. Hers, jasmine. She’s always been that way and in that is something I’ve always loved about her. Not too different, but different enough to notice. Maybe that’s the way she wants to be remembered, just a little different. Enough to be misunderstood and long for understanding but not so much that people think she’s crazy.
I feel as if I’m in my twenties again, though those days are decades away now. But right now, as my hands melt into the mugs of tea, it feels as if it were just yesterday that we were meeting on the train platform, each of us saying goodbye to somebody. Me, my father as he went away, and her to her brother. Each the last time we would see the other. Neither of us knowing that would be the last time we would see those people and not understanding how close we were to meeting the other. How close I was to meeting my brother-in-law, and her her father-in-law. I suppose that’s fate. How they died brought us together, and there’s something poetic about that. Something feels like they were our angels leading us to each other, and that makes it okay that we didn’t meet the other.
We were both crying that day. There were hundreds of people there, but of those hundreds of people, only our lives were meant to be woven together. Like a basket of yarn all knotted together, except two strings that found each other. I asked her to coffee the moment I saw her. She had curly hair that skipped on her shoulders. It was shiny and soft, and despite the cold weather, she was warm as a Summer’s day. She was in a red coat, bright red and suede. I would later find out she wore it so her brother could see her from as far away as possible, until the train turned the corner and the stop couldn’t be seen any longer. I cried when she told me that. I cried anytime she talked about her brother and how close they were and how he was only two years older than her.
I bring her her tea in bed, careful not to spill it down the sides, walking as if I’m carrying glass sculptures. She hates when things spill down the sides. The steam is caressing the air and the floorboards are creaking beneath my feet. Like that day at the train station, it’s cold outside. The snow is falling lightly, as if it were afraid to wake the ground it’s landing on. Through the window I can see that the road is covered by about eight inches of snow, and at least five more in the fields. The sky is gray but happy. The sun is trying to make an appearance, bursting at the seams with jealousy that it cannot be seen today.
I sit her saucer and mug down on the bedside table next to her. She smiles at me gently and softly closes her eyes. I take a sip of my tea, hot to the lips, and put it on her table as well. Our saucers touch, only slightly. I suppose that’s natural, that everything we touch must always touch, too. I pick up her mug and blow it, the steam whooshing away as ripples tickle the sides of the mug. I taste it to make sure it isn’t too hot, and bring the mug to her lips. With a smile she brings her lips up to her jasmine tea and quaintly sips one, two, three drinks. She can’t hold the tea because she hates for things to spill down the sides, and her hands shake too much to drink it herself. She has a water bottle with a lid and a straw that she has to use for water. Even with that she has to use both hands, and usually has it sitting on a table. She nods and rests her head back, that’s enough.
Her hair is much lighter now and it’s lost its curls. Though its bounce is still there, skipping across her shoulders. I sit in the green chair I have pulled up to her side of the bed. I grab the book I’ve been reading her, Wuthering Heights has always been a favorite. Dorothy was an English professor and always loved the classics. She especially loved the theme of love in Wuthering Heights, and she always found a way to forgive Heathcliff for his shortcomings, despite being abusive. She once said, “We often forget what it’s like to be hated, oftentimes never feeling it. But Heathcliff, he was loved and hated, he must have been so confused. I don’t know what it’s like to be hated, but I know what it’s like to be loved. Truly loved. I don’t know how I would be if that were ever taken from me.”
The spine of this book is worn like the others, and this is probably our fourth read through of this one. Next she wants to go through The Catcher in the Rye, and then 1984, then The Brothers Karamazov after that. Each taking a few days to get through. I’ll read to her during dinner, then after when we have tea, then before bed. When I’m not reading I talk to her. I talk to her about my day, about my feelings, about her, about what the kids said was going on in their lives. She can’t talk, not much. We don’t love those that can talk to us forever, we love those that speak to us forever.
She isn’t dead, but she is dying. They said she would only be this way for a few months, but after we made it through Crime and Punishment we started onto another book. Then we finished that one and started another one. Disease can only kill you as much as your happiness will allow it to. So I kept reading, and reading, and reading. And still I read.
I learn something new, take something different away from each book every time I read it. Dorothy is a lot like these books in that way. It seems I’m learning something new about her all the time, at least weekly, even after all these years. That’s what’s special about loving someone.
The wind is howling outside.
The snow is floating to the ground.
The tea is hot.
The book reads, “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”