Oh, what’s the word…

I am eating lunch with a terrific-looking lady, about fifty, brown eyes and hair, and a tiny mouth like a… like a… oh, what’s the word…? With petals… Says her name is Anna. There’s a girl too, a young woman, and she’s a knockout: tall and willowy, fabulous long hair, red I think. These women, they seem so familiar, they remind me of someone… someone… very small…

I enjoy looking at the girl; it’s nice. Anna holds my hand; it’s very nice. She kisses me; it’s wonderful.

I am alone.

My hand hurts. I look down and I am tugging at my wedding band. My wedding band dangles loosely on the gaunt, skeletal finger of an old man’s hand… my hand… but it bumps painfully against the swollen… the knobby… what do you call it… you know, where the finger bends.

Where is my wife?

I look around, and almost everyone here is old, really old. I notice with some relief that I am the only white guy here. There’s a couple of youngsters bustling about. Where’s my wife?  I shuffle over to a white-haired lady of uncertain race sitting on a sofa. I sit next to her, she’s on my… on the… the side with the ring, the side I can see from. I try to examine her wedding band, see if it matches mine. She notices my head hanging over her shoulder. She smiles at me, a shriveled little thing.

“Are you my wife?” She smiles again, and says “No, honey.” “Oh… oh…” I’m disappointed but I like hearing the word “honey.”

“Are you my mother?” She chuckles, pats my hand. “No, dearie.” I like her hand on mine, but I cry.

The TV is on. I can’t follow a thing, it’s all fast and loud. The girls look good, but I can’t follow… Something about a… a thing… again… They turn it off and it sounds wonderful. I love TV when it’s off. There’s music I can hear now, music… it seems familiar and I even sing along for a bit,  purple mountains majesty, amber waves of… waves of… I can see it, but I can’t… god this music sucks. Is there better? Seems there was once… On the TV, there was this noise, not quite music, but loud and fast, it seemed familiar somehow, like… oh you know what I mean, what’s the word?

There’s a bunch of pictures in the… down the… along the… on the wall here, pictures of places. Here’s a shop, or a… a shop with coffee, along a… well, everything’s stone, and it’s leafy, and it looks… I want to go there, I want a cup of coffee… maybe I’ve been there. Maybe I am there, maybe it’s here… I look around… no… perhaps not.

I look out a window at a pair of yellow buildings and a patch of grass. I can’t find the way out there. The grass looks so soft, I want to smell it, I want to lie down on it, look for bugs like when I was a boy… Anna, a beautiful baby, sleeping along her father’s forearm… There were people, friends, I’m sure, there was music, there must have been, better than this crap, food better than… and my wife, there’s this ring, and a certainty, but who… but where…? There must have been a whole life, but who…? where…? I must be… oh, what’s the word, goddammit?

I’m sitting on the edge of my bed, looking at the spindly legs and boney knees of an old, old man… A big, buxom black woman pulls off my clothes and it’s no fun… she pulls on my nightshirt and it hurts. She calls me “Mr. Glen”. I don’t like her and I yell at her. She smiles and laughs and touches my face. I grab her hand. She dimples when she smiles, beautiful dimples. I hold on tight and stare at her, try to read her badge, look into her face.whats the word

“You’re not my wife, are you?”

She sits down next to me, holds my hand in hers. “No, Mr. Glen, I’m not.”

I cry. She holds my head to her bosom, she cradles my head and I cry like a… I cry like a… oh what is it…

I cry like a little one.


5 thoughts on “Oh, what’s the word…

  1. I drafted this while lunching with my wife and her mother, who has advanced Alzheimer’s. We were visiting her in the memory care unit where she lives. I projected myself forward into her situation, and began to tear up at the table.


    • No, this was a unique inspiration. My wife observed that most memory care patients don’t appear to have such a high degree of self-awareness as my character. I was going for the nagging sense that there must have been a whole life: there are evidences, and fleeting, confused impressions suggesting a whole life of love, art, travel — a wife for heaven’s sake! but it’s all just out of reach and receding. I scared myself writing this. My mother-in-law is, in fact, blissfully peaceful.


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