I saw her walking out of Kinsey's Market with her arms full. She’d
become so fragile that it made me uncomfortable to let her go anywhere alone.
I felt like Batman, there on the fire escape; I’d watch over her, ready to
spring into action. I knew she understood my fear, and she knew that my
suggestion of flower boxes on the fire escape, filled with herbs, was only an
excuse to sit outside and watch.
I looked down at my collection of herbs; I was incapable of choosing
anything but the straggliest of clippings. It was so difficult for me to cut
back fresh, green herbs when they seemed to be doing so well. Margie would
sneak back out when she thought I wasn’t looking and clip fresher, greener
When she returned we ate pierogi and drank hot tea. She soothed my
worries over her walk by telling me about how Bob Kinsey offered to have one of
his boys carry the bags back to our apartment. She said that next time, just to
see how serious he was, she would let him do it.
She enjoyed testing his limits.
It was about time she tested someone else’s other than mine. I laughed at
this statement and she teased me for dropping food in my lap.
She settled into a warm bath around seven and I pulled my footstool near
the taps of our deep, claw foot tub. I unwound her long, silvery hair out of its
tight bun and we talked while I washed her hair and rubbed her shoulders. She
wriggled her toes in the deep, bubbly water and blew white bubbles from her
palms. They smelled like roses and chamomile.
We’ve done that since we got married in1956. Her bath has always been
part of our nightly routine. We always followed this with me painting her
toenails and smoothing lotion down her legs and feet, arms and hands. She always
smelled soft and powdery when we were done. My hands always ached from this
and she would rub lotion into them with her soft, slick hands, giggling even
Tonight she slipped into the water, her breath exhaling in a gurgle. I
stood in a panic and grabbed her shoulders, slid her up. I couldn’t leave to
call 911 or she would slide under the water and drown.
"Margie!" I said, "Margie?"
Her eyes fluttered and then turned up to see me.
"Can you hear me, sweetheart?" I said. "Are you OK? Can you hold
yourself up, honey?"
She nodded and I pulled up her arm to try and hook her on the side. She
looked dreamily up at me and I felt my heart race faster and faster. I
hesitated just for a moment after letting go to see if she fell, she didn’t.
I heard the gurgle again when I reached the phone and I just punched in the
numbers and dropped it, running back to the bathroom to see only her arm jutting above the white bubbles. I yelled back toward the
phone as loudly as I could, hoping they would know what to do, how to find us.
I could feel her drifting, pulling away from me. I looked into her face,
it was pale and water dripped in her eyes and down her nose.
"Please, look at me, Margie." I said. Her shoulders slumped; she was like
a butterfly folding its wings. "Can you hear me?" I wasn’t sure if she
I didn’t want this to be our last moment- this was too soon. This was
She’d always said that mine would be the last face she would see when she
We’ve loved each other for so long.
Her eyes fluttered again and she stared at my face, the corners of her lips
curled into a smile. As she faded away from me, her dreamy expression focused
into a grin.
I only wish I knew why she smiled.