“Solo. Solo,” the women called in subdued, but urgent tones.
“Well, okay,” the old man said, rounding a time-softened gray fedora in his thin, elegant fingers. “I don’t know how it got to be five years from now.” He sat on a low ottoman in the parlor room of the small community library, surrounded by four calm-faced women of indeterminate ages. A single ray of sunlight cut through the morning shadows and fell onto his scarred arm.
It was a dream. I stumbled out of bed shortly after six to my study, found a mechanical pencil stuck in an antique heavy glass “flower frog” and began to scrawl on a legal pad. Didn’t even turn on a lamp. You know how it is with dreams. Even the most vivid ones. If you can write down a scrap of it, or in a pinch say it out loud, you stand a chance of capturing an exotic bug in a bottle.
Tom came in, found me in the darkened study, standing up, scribbling furiously. I wondered what he was doing there. This is not a man who has ever voluntarily gotten out of bed before the chickens. He moved on toward the kitchen and returned balancing half a slice of bread on a short glass of skim milk. He eyed me curiously. I mumbled something, held up my left hand in an inarticulate “wait” signal, but continued to write.
“I’m going back to bed,” he said, and was gone. Nausea, I thought. It’s still hanging on from last week’s chemo, and he’s trying to smooth it down with milk and bread and put together enough sleep from the fragmented night. Between my restless dreams and his discomfort, a solid six or seven hours of sleep is rare as precious myrrh.