Later – much later – Fiona realised she’d won.
“At first,” she told Phil when she felt like talking, “the pressure in my chest became so intense, I couldn’t think about anything else or even remember what we’d done during the afternoon”.
“You’re looking a bit better”, he said, coaxing her to sip some water from the carafe left by the nurse. “But I still don’t fully understand what happened.
“I hadn’t realised you weren’t in bed until I went to use the bathroom about 2.00 a.m., and saw the light from the office desk lamp glowing through the air vent over our door. I thought that you were meeting another crazy deadline and was about to tell you to get some sleep. But you were slumped in your chair, barely conscious and did not respond when I spoke”.
“I was beyond words. People are supposed to relive their past during their final moments. But I was left desperately trying to recall where we’d been only hours before. I told myself if I could achieve just that, I’d keep myself alive”.
“Thank God you are here. But it’s only because I called the Emergency Services!”
“Anyway as you came in, although I couldn’t speak, suddenly I remembered that we’d gone out for a stroll and that as we’d turned the corner at the top of the street, our Bedouin neighbours slowed their battered white SUV, allowing us to pass”.
“I remember that, too, and how you quipped about what they may advertise on the spare wheel cover!”
“Ha! I’d better not repeat my joke here! Then a little further up the street, we saw some kids playing on the whimsical sculpture that portrays an armed Jewish underground man with a horse defending a stockade during the War of Independence”.
“Yeah, that surprised me”, said Phil. “I didn’t know it was a play area”.
“I’m sure it’s not. I’ve never seen anyone playing on it before. I often wonder about that sculpture – especially where it’s placed almost outside the Bedouin encampment. Its pitch seems to be a deliberate provocation. But that aside, the horse is quite life-like and I began to fantasise about the kids trying to ride it away once they’d mounted it. Then we walked on, arms linked, heads bowed against the piercing wind. The cold made my eyes water and I couldn’t see much in the lowering, harsh sunlight. So we stopped trying to chat.
“Then as we turned again to walk though the public gardens near the observation point over the city you released your arm from mine, walked briskly ahead, crossed the road, leaving me to run between two vehicles that nearly pincered me as they came at speed from polar opposite directions”.
“’Sometimes’, you said, as I raced to catch up with you, ‘I wonder if you’re any older than those children we’ve just seen. I’ve never quite grasped how you’ve lived until now – playing cat-and-mouse every time you cross a road’.
“Then as we walked the last few yards home, basking in the lingering embers of the dying sun, the wind dropped and for a moment it felt unseasonably warm. That’s all, really. I feel I’ve won a major personal battle”.
“With a little bit of help from your best mate”?
“And that horse – of course!”
(© Natalie Irene Wood – 13 February 2014)