Write Before Thinking

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Purgatory

    Molly blinked a few times and opened her eyes.

            She was standing on an emerald green hill. In front of her the sun, seemingly frozen on the horizon, hung in a sky that was ablaze in purples and oranges and pinks.

            “The view never gets old,” she heard a woman say.

Molly looked to her right and saw a young woman. Somehow familiar.

            “I bet,” said Molly.

            “I love the clouds most of all,” the woman said. “Like slivers of mica.”

            “Where are we?” asked Molly.

            “The grass reminds me of Ireland,” continued the woman. “That’s where I’m from, you know. Well, Detroit really, but my mother immigrated here when she was a young woman. The most beautiful country you’ll ever see.”

            “I know.”

            The woman’s face lit up. Blue eyes sparkling. “You’ve been?” she asked. “What was your favorite part?”

            “The castles.”

            “Magnificent, aren’t they?”

            “Very,” said Molly.

            “Certainly you kissed the Blarney Stone?”

            Molly smiled at the memory. “Of course.”

            “Imagine me, an old woman, hanging upside down, kissing a rock,” said the woman.

            “I’d hardly say you’re old.”

            “I was then.”

            “A feeble twenty-five, ehh?”

            The woman started laughing. “Oh no dear, I must have been, let me think” she closed her eyes and paused, “that was in 1974, so I must have been seventy.”

            Molly laughed.

            “You don’t believe me?” asked the woman.

            “You’ve aged well then, haven’t you?”

            The woman held out her arms and looked at them, as if giving herself a once over. “This body was gone a long time ago.”

            Molly turned away from the woman. Hand on her hips. Motionless. There were no sounds but those of the swaying grass blowing gently in a breeze she could not feel.

            “I don’t get it,” said Molly.

            “I didn’t understand at first either,” said the woman. “Imagine my surprise when I realized this young lass had replaced the old bird.”

            Molly looked at the woman.

            “It was just before the war. I was twenty-six. I met him while on vacation. We we’re on a short cruise on Lake Michigan. He came up and introduced himself. His name was Jim.” The woman closed her eyes. A soft smile spread across her face. “We got married a few months later. Four months after that he was off fighting the Japanese. We didn’t see each other for five years. Can you believe that? Not seeing your new husband for five years?”

            Molly shook her head.

            “But that year, right up until he left, that year was the best year of my life.”

            Molly looked at her own hands and then slowly ran them across her face. She felt the lines time and stress and uncertainty had worn into her face. She felt the crow’s feet in the corners of her eyes- deep from years of laughing and smiling. And finally, she felt the familiar, yet subtle, droop at the left corner of her mouth- a product of the Bell’s Palsy- that was an unwelcome side-effect from the chemo.

            “You haven’t changed,” said the woman.

            “No,” said Molly. “Fifty-three was a great year.”

            “Despite the cancer?”

            “I was so happy.” She smiled. “We were so happy.”

            “You want to know where we are?” the woman asked.

            She did not turn to face the woman. “I know this is not the hospital,” she said.

            “No.” The woman chuckled. “It is certainly not.”

            Silence.

            “A dream?” asked Molly.

            “In a way,” said the woman.

            Molly closed her eyes and felt a solitary tear drop down her cheek. “So…” she could not continue.

            She felt a hand softly touch her shoulder and looked over to see the woman standing beside her.

            “It comes for us all,” said the woman as she pulled out a white handkerchief and handed it to Molly.

            Molly took it and wiped the tear from her face, noticing the letters ML embroidered on a corner.

            “ML?”

            “A gift from my husband a long time ago,” said the woman.

            “And has he…?”

            “Many years ago.”

            “Where is he?”

            The woman paused.

            “You’ve seen him, of course?” Molly asked.

            “Not for nearly twenty years,” the woman said. “Not since we lost him.”

            “So he should be here,” said Molly.

            The woman nodded.

            “Then where is he?”

            The woman turned to face Molly and smiled. “He’s here. Somewhere.”

            “But?”

            “But,” the woman said, “He was not waiting for me.”

            “I don’t understand.”

            “We wait for the one’s we love above all others.”

            Molly looked at the woman.

            “And he wasn’t waiting for you?”

            “He loved his mother above all.”

            “But you’ve been waiting for me?”

            The woman nodded.

            “But why?” Molly asked.

            Then slowly, and then suddenly, her body was flooded with a warm glow as an inexplicable feeling of happiness wrapped itself around her as she recognized the face of the young woman standing before her. A face seen only in old, long forgotten pictures.

            “Mom.”

            The woman smiled and pulled her daughter close.

            “I’ve missed you so much,” Molly said, tears streaming down her face.

            “I know you have,” said the woman.

            “And I miss them so much already.”

            “I know you do.”

            “I needed more time.”

            The woman said nothing. Instead she embraced her daughter and cried with her, and for her.

            “Will I see them again?”

            “In time,” said the woman as she pulled back, placing one hand on her daughter’s shoulders while the other wiped a tear from her cheek. “And when you do, they’ll see you waiting.”

            “Like you were for me,” asked Molly.

            “Just like I waited for you.”

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