When It's Time
I stood as motionless as I could and watched a hummingbird.
I stood as motionless as I could and watched a hummingbird as it visited the feeder hanging from the eave of my apartment. As it went to move away, it hovered just outside the window for a second and stared in at me. I wondered if it saw me. Do hummingbirds have thoughts like we do? If so, what was going through that little mind as it peeked in at me through the pane of glass separating us?
I turned away from the window and faced her. Her face was red and swollen from crying. She’d been at it all night.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “This isn’t anything I planned...”
She just stared ahead. She was looking at me, but through me too. She couldn’t bring herself to make eye contact with me. I get it. But, I have to try.
“Are you going to talk to me about it?” I asked. “I understand this is tough, but I really need you to tell me you’re going to be all right when I go.”
She looked up with red, mascara matted eyes. “How could you, Mike? I can’t make it without you; you know that.” The tears started again. I moved to embrace her, but she pulled away and tugged at her cardigan pulling it tighter around her shoulders.
“You’re a lot stronger than you think,” I said. “I know it’s hard now, but you’re going to be OK. I promise. And I’ll be here, you know, if you need me.”
She was working hard to pull herself together. She turned away from me and walked back to our bedroom. I started to follow her, but she needed time. I stared out the window instead, looking for the hummingbird.
When she came back into the room she was dressed, and she had fixed her makeup. I told her she looked great, but all I got back was a cold shoulder. She was looking in the mirror fussing with her hair.
“Mandy will be here in a minute, so you need to be ready,” she said without looking up from the mirror.
“Ready… ready for what?” I didn’t remember making plans with her and her friend.
“Fuck it... you look fine,” she said finally. Then, she turned and walked into the kitchen. I followed her.
“Maybe me going isn’t the best idea… you know, considering.” I really didn’t remember what the plans were, but I didn’t feel like I should be tagging along.
“You’ve got to do this,” she said. She took a drink of orange juice and turned to face me. She looked better, but you could still tell she’d been crying.
“Look, I’m sorry it’s come to this…” I was interrupted by the doorbell.
She moved swiftly past me, checked herself one more time in the mirror, and went to the door. She paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and turned the knob. Mandy was standing just outside with her head tilted and with a forced smiled. It was her ‘I’m sorry face’; I’d seen it a hundred times.
“Hey, sweetie. You ready to go?” Mandy asked looking over her friend’s shoulder into the apartment and at me.
“Yeah, I’m almost done… give me a second. Want to come in? I’ll only be a little longer.”
Mandy stepped inside the apartment and moved her arms into a tight hug around herself. “Why do you keep it so cold in here, sweetie?”
“You’re always cold,” I said. She ignored me. She always did.
“What? Oh, I don’t know. I think there’s something wrong with the thermostat. Mike was supposed to fix it…,” her voice trailed off. I thought, here we go again. Something else I didn’t do. I stood there prepared for them to team up on me. Instead, Mandy just smiled and sat down on the couch.
“I’m sorry, I’ll fix it before I go… I promise,” I said. It was the least I could do.
“It’s OK, we’ll have the landlord come up and look at it for you. We can swing in his office on the way out,” Mandy said.
“I said I’ll do it,” I shouted sharply at Mandy. She just stared at be blankly.
“But damn, girl, you need to get it fixed fast… it’s freezing in here.”
She came in the room and sat down beside Mandy. She took a long breath and looked at her friend for a moment before saying that she didn’t think she could go out tonight. Mandy started to speak but stopped. Mandy just took her hands in hers and smiled. They sat there like that for half an hour.
Finally, Mandy looked up and said, “nobody gets to decide when you should move on except you, OK? It’s only been a month since Mike’s accident. Nobody expects you to be OK yet. So, just know we love you and we are here for you, OK?”
Accident? What accident?
“What are you talking about?” I asked. Neither of them looked at me. “Tell me!” I was shouting now.
I went to touch her, to turn her around. I needed to feel her touch, her warmth. My hand passed through her arm. I covered my mouth with my hands. I couldn’t speak. What is going on?
I stood up and moved back to the window, passing the mirror by the front door. I had no reflection. I could see my wife and her best friend clearly in the mirror’s reflection, but I was standing between them and the mirror. I simply wasn’t there.
“Oh God. Oh God. Please God, no… please.” I was pleading for my life to a God I never believed in. There was no answer.
I thought about our conversations from the past few days. I knew I had to go. But, I couldn’t remember why. I just knew I was leaving and it was hurting her. I guess I thought we were breaking up… I don’t want to leave. I can’t leave. She needs me here.
“She does not need you; it is time to leave.”
I look up and step back when I see the black mass in the mirror. It spoke again.
“It is your time.”
“Where am I going?” I was afraid. Truly afraid.
The black thing moved toward me and a shrank back. It extended a piece of itself until I could feel its icy embrace. It was the first thing I’d felt in a long time. I looked at my wife. It hurt.
“She cannot begin to heal until you leave this place. It is your time,” it said again.
I took one final look at her and then at the blackness hovering in front of me.
As everything around me shifted to black, I saw a hummingbird just outside the window. I wondered what it was thinking.