Long Ago on Tuesday Night

The beeping slows, the machines winding down their vigil. “Tell her I love her,” you say as your eyes close for the last time. I should be devastated by the loss of you. The nurses fiddle with monitors. The doctor starts to speak. “Mrs. Janus…” they yell after me when I turn and leave the room.

I exit the hospital bustle into a deadened world, noises hushed by low clouds and uneven white drifts. Red and blue flash and reflect off thick, lazy flakes. The biting wind momentarily dulls my anger as I get my bearings and recall the scraps of information I’ve been collecting.

I mean to get this over with as quickly as possible. Love and loyalty bleed out of me every passing moment, frozen behind me. Conveniently, I am downtown. I won’t have to get in the car, risking other lives on the road, potential victims of my billowing fury.

Deliberately my feet drive me toward the river. My scarf flails in the stinging gusts and I fumble with buttons as the cold starts to seep into my skin. Bundled up properly, I walk through the lifeless streets.

I pass a brightly lit coffee shop, the only thing open for blocks. Remember that snow in Budapest, I think. So young, we had wandered around just to get out of our room, but nothing was open, and we didn’t have classes. Remember how we trudged up the hill and discovered that tiny café. We stamped our feet, unwound damp scarves, ordered tea and cookies. Tucked in the corner we watched the snow cover our footprints outside the frosty window.

I ring the doorbell of a tiny bungalow and kick snow from my shoes. She pulls the door slowly open, mug in hand, and little eddies of flakes swirl around her bare feet. Her face registers first confusion and then obstinate recognition. Her cheeks burn as she peers around me. “It’s over,” I said. “He’s dead.”

I turn my back on her and walk away. The flakes come faster, swallowing me up on the gray sidewalk as I emerge from the walkway. The mug shatters behind me on a choked sob. Remember, I think, you’ll always remember tea and snow.