"That's all the time we have." What they really mean, of course, is that's all the time we had. They're saying, "The show's over. We hope you enjoyed the program. We hope you'll stay on this same channel. We hope you'll tune in tomorrow, or next week, or whenever it is that we will air the next installment of your viewing pleasure for the last thirty minutes or hour or so. But that's all the time we have for today. You need to find something else to watch."
And that's fine. I get it. Those are the rules.
But I doubt I'll be looking for an alternative anytime soon, if ever. Our show, which has been running all our lives, is now over and if there's one thing I'm sure of, as I sit here quietly beside your hospital bed, it's that nothing could replace it. There will be no encore presentation, at least not in this world; the final act has arrived.
Meaning everything we will ever say to each other has been said.
Meaning everything we will ever do together, and everything we will ever do for one another, has been done.
I met you in kindergarten. When we went to lunch, they matched the kids in our class up boy-girl, boy-girl, and then made us walk in pairs, holding each other's hands, to the cafeteria. So that nobody would stray or wander off along the perilous route from our classroom to the lunch-line.
You and I were always a pair, but not by choice in the beginning. We ended up together because of how the kindergarten teacher seated the students in her classroom. She had made a big circle out of masking tape on the floor. Then, at perfectly placed intervals along that tape, she had written the name of each student. Afterwards she directed the individual student to find his or her name, and then place his or her behind upon it. I was lucky enough that your backside was assigned to be next to mine.
A mystery is how that happened. Both our first names and our last names begin with different letters, and there are plenty of letters in between all of them, so whatever scheme the teacher used to arrange us around that circle couldn't have been alphabetical. Did she sense, somehow, that you and I might get along well together? Or was it really just random?
I guess it doesn't matter. The nice lady who taught us is retired now, and maybe I could ask her, but I don't think I will. I prefer to believe it was fate or magic or something unearthly that brought the two of us together…perhaps some romantic, slightly mischievous entity dancing just beyond the limit of human vision and mortal comprehension. At any rate, I plan to let the mystery endure. I often find the universe a richer place for the things it doesn't reveal.
Anyhow, such was the beginning of a show that lasted over twenty-five years. By the time we reached first grade, we had decided to get married. Do you remember the discussions we had? We were very serious and adult in our deliberations. We understood that, at six years of age, we were probably too young to get married. We decided to wait until we were twelve. By then, we reckoned, I would be old enough to go out and get a job to support us and the ten kids, five boys and five girls, we planned to have. As I recall, my career goal at the time was to become an archaeologist, like Indiana Jones, because he made it look so exciting.
Well, you know the rest. As time went on, our early elementary school romance dissipated. You found new friends and I found new friends. We had to, didn't we? A boy couldn't hang out with a girl, and a girl couldn't hang out with a boy. It just wasn't done. And later, by the time we had emerged from our separate, sporadically warring gender camps, things had changed.
We were still friends, of course, but you had found new boys and I had found new girls, and the years passed by quicker and quicker. Suddenly it was our high school graduation, and afterwards you went away and I went away and, yes, we tried to keep in touch but a week without talking became a month without talking and then a year without talking and, finally, a couple of years without talking.
And then, not too long ago, I learned through a mutual friend that something inside of you wasn't working as well as it was supposed to work, even though you had not wanted anyone to know about this. The doctors thought your problem could be managed, and I'm sure their efforts bought you more time on this Earth than you might have had. But there was only so much they could do.
I found out two days ago that you had gone to sleep and wouldn't be waking up. You had returned to our hometown months before, to be in a familiar and beloved place while you did battle with the malady that is killing you. I came here to see you, one last time. And I'm very glad I came, even though something tells me you've already left us. Only a shell remains, I think. And when the machines are switched off, that shell, just barely functioning even now, will lapse into permanent stillness.
Everything has been said. Everything has been done. No more, after today. I can feel it.
I sit with you awhile longer; then I get up, kiss you once on the forehead, and leave.
Outside the sun is warm and radiant and powerful; an unseasonably mild breeze for July is gliding in from the south. A day is terrible as this should be rainy and miserable, but Nature has other ideas. Nature, it seems, always has other ideas.
I am making my exit now. The curtain is falling. When it reaches the stage floor I will admit to myself that our show is over and I am the only star left. My star will be dimmer for the lack of its companion, but I understand this is how life works. I know the rules.
That's all the time we have, you see.
And it is not enough.