I felt them go in. Slicing neatly through my cornea and slipping all too easily through the vitreous humor and on into my brain. The smooth metal of the scissors destroying my very essence as they gouged deeper into my skull.
A short, stabbing shaft of pain screeched across my cerebrum and then it happened. That fabled moment, the moment, if you will. My dying consciousness, desperate to give its last performance, invited me to revisit the past once more before my synapses failed and what memories I had melted away like mist in the morning sun. I was a child again, five years old at my first day of school. I had loved my childhood, the innocence, the wonder, the joy of discovering the seemingly endless marvels the world had to offer. Every day was like an adventure into the unknown for me, I was a great explorer on a never-ending journey, seeking hidden treasures to feed my boundless curiosity.
But I could not linger here for long, my life force was quickly ebbing away and time was short.
My childhood flashed before me as if I was on a carousel spinning wildly out of control, I yearned to pause, to savor the moments. My first kiss flew by, my first fist fight, the dental appointment that had left me with nightmares for years, leaving high school, entering University, leaving University, all these and more flitted all too briefly past my mind’s eye as if my life were merely a collection of vignettes, a photo album that my rapidly decaying brain was desperately flicking through one last time.
Suddenly the spinning stopped and there was a pause, my mind had found a memory that it wished to linger over. And there I was once more, sat in a dingy rundown cafe in south west London, nursing a cup of weak sweet tea and staring blankly down at the newspaper before me. I knew this scene, I knew the day. This was the day I met her, Juliette, my first true love, my only true love. Outside it was cold and wet, the recent snowfall having turned to black, grimy slush from the endless stream of pedestrians and filthy cars passing by. Inside it was warm and despite giving the distinct impression that it had been transplanted directly from the 1970’s to the present day, with its chipped formica covered tables and violently patterned orange and brown wallpaper, the cafe felt welcoming and safe, almost like a haven from the callousness of the outside world. It was just what I needed.
Two weeks earlier, fresh from University, I’d started my first “real” job as an office clerk for a large law firm. The pay was a joke and my co-workers were rude and far too busy to talk to the likes of me but what good was a law degree if I wasn’t working in law? I was kidding myself of course and I knew it, there was no career ladder for me to climb, no greasy pole for me to scramble up. My grades at University would ensure that I would never became a lawyer, I was doomed to lurk forever at the bottom of the legal ladder, the only time I would see the inside of a courtroom would be when I carried the briefs for the partners. Every day I had trudged to the cafe to wallow in my own self-pity and loneliness, nibbling my way through an anaemic cheese and tomato sandwich, longing for something to drag me away from my misery.
The cafe door opened and an icy wind clawed at my face as the brisk winter wind whistled in. I looked up to examine the latest intruder into my refuge and my mouth fell open as I saw the most beautiful and radiant looking girl I had ever seen standing in the doorway. Raven haired with bright blue eyes and cheeks turned rosy red from the bitter cold outside, she was like an angel fallen to earth, a goddess in a thick warm duffle coat and a woolly hat. I stared dumbly at her, transfixed, my mouth hanging open like a fish waiting for a meal to meander into its mouth. Briskly she walked to the counter and, unfazed by my idiotic stare, smiled brightly at me as she passed by. My heart pounded, “she smiled at me,” screamed my brain, “she actually smiled at me.” Now, I have to confess, and much to my father’s disappointment I might add, I’ve never been very confident around girls. I’d had a few relationships with the fairer sex but they had always been fleeting, unsatisfying affairs, as if they were mere tasters from a greater more elusive menu that would always be beyond my grasp. Maybe I just wasn’t attractive to the right type of girl. Who knows? I’d never found my father’s seemingly unending advice on the subject particularly helpful. “You’ve just got to be confident,” he used to bark at me at random times, “girls like confidence. Just talk to them, they don’t bite.” Easy for him to say I had often mused, I had inherited some of his film star good looks but none of his brash self-assurance. Girls for me had always been an enigma, one which I had never been able to crack.
“Can I sit here?” said a voice. I turned and nearly jumped out of my seat as I saw it was her.
“Er… ” I began, nodding clumsily like a broken marionette, “yes… yes of course.” God I felt stupid, why did I always turn into an idiot when I talked to girls?
She sat down quickly in the chair opposite and pulled off her hat, shaking her head as she did so. My heart felt like it was going to leave my chest as her hair whipped tantalisingly around her face.
“Oh, that’s better,” she said brightly, clearly relieved to be free of the hat’s embrace, “this hat always makes me look like a Womble.”
I just gawped at her, completely dumbstruck, her hair had come to rest covering one side of her face giving her a sensual, almost sultry look. Her eyes twinkled and I could tell that she knew full well the effect she was having on me. I was thankful that my father couldn’t see my glaring ineptitude and even more thankful I was sitting down.
“I’m Juliette,” she said, thrusting a lithe hand out across the table towards me.
“I’m Romeo,” I replied nervously as I recovered some of my wits and reached out my own shaking hand to grasp hers. Her skin was soft and warm and as our hands connected a shiver ran down my spine.
“Ha, cool,” she laughed gaily and my heart leapt at the sound, “Romeo and Juliette, like the play.”
I was an hour late when I returned to work. I didn’t care. Juliette had done most of the talking and I had sat there basking in her exuberance, her warmth and pure excitement at the world around her. In those ninety minutes she had rekindled my childhood love of the world and I had fallen madly, desperately in love with the wonderful, joyful creature that sat before me.
But now the memory began to fade and my failing brain dragged me back to the carousel, it was time to move on. Yet again, events flashed by and my heart ached at the memories of our time together, our first kiss, our first love making, our wedding, moving into our first home.
Then once again a pause, apparently there was yet another event my fading consciousness had decided I should relive. This time though I knew which one it would be and with what little mental energy I had remaining I tried to turn away, to prevent the scene from playing out across the screen in my mind but I was powerless to resist, I was a mere observer now.
We were arguing, it had been my fault, it had all been so petty, we were late and I was angry that we were lost. My frustration had boiled over and Juliette, since she was reading the map, became the target of my bile. With an angry “Well you bloody read it then” she had thrust the map towards me and as I reached to grab it the car veered towards the center of the road. Juliette’s piercing scream filled the car. I pulled violently at the wheel as the truck ploughed inexorably towards us, but there was no way to prevent the inevitable. The world spun and then went black.
I was in the coma for six months. The doctors said that Juliette had visited me every day, sat at my bedside for hours at a time, reading to me, talking, holding my hand, every day, except today.
The doctors were completely shocked by my emersion from what they called a “persistent vegetative” state and, as one of them joked with a weak grin, it was something of a miracle that I had woken up today since, that very evening, they were preparing to switch off the machines that kept me alive.
I had asked them to ring Juliette, to tell her the good news. I desperately wanted to tell her that I was ok, that I was sorry for the accident, more than anything else I needed to see her again, to hold her in my arms. It seemed, said the doctor regretfully, that she wasn’t home and wasn’t answering her mobile. Well, I rationalised, I was scheduled to die today, maybe she just wanted to be alone. But doubt niggled at me though, that didn’t feel right, it didn’t sound like the Juliette I knew. Something was wrong, I could just feel it, no it was more than that, I knew it. I persuaded the doctor to get me a phone and called June, her mother. After she had gotten over her initial shock and wonderment at my Lazarus like status she said that no she hadn’t seen Juliette for a week or so, but that she had been extremely down and withdrawn since the doctors had decided to switch off the machines. However, Juliette had told her that she had something she needed to do today. Her mother had assumed it was to go to church to say a prayer for me, it was something she had done when her grandparents had died. But yes, she’ll try and ring her now to let her know.
An interminable hour passed and finally June phoned back, and just like the doctor before her said she couldn’t reach Juliette either. An irrational fear gripped me, where was she? Why wasn’t she answering the phone? I had to get home and find her, I had to know she was ok. At first the doctors flat out refused, couldn’t someone else check they argued, a friend, a neighbour, a relative? No I responded, I didn’t know the numbers of my neighbours, we had no local friends I could call on and our relatives lived hours away from London. Truth be told I just needed to see her and I couldn’t wait, the worry and desire to see her was consuming me, I had to go and I had to go now. Eventually, despite their protestations, they realised that I was determined to go one way or the other and I signed myself out of the hospital, promising that I would return once I had found Juliette. They gave me a stick to help me walk since I was as weak as a kitten but my desire to see Juliette drove me on. The taxi dropped me off outside our house, luckily one of the doctors had taken pity on me and given me some money so I could get home. As best I could I rushed to the front door and beat loudly on it with the stick, calling out to her. There was no answer but thankfully, as ever, the key to the back door was still under the plant pot next to the mat.
As I entered I saw the note on the kitchen table, “My darling Romeo,” it started. Oh no I thought, it’s a Dear John, she’s left me but as I read on I realised that it foreshadowed something much worse. I didn’t reach the end, I didn’t need to, I knew it’s dark conclusion. Panic gripped me, “Juliette” I shouted and pain seared through my atrophied muscles as I scrambled from the kitchen.
She was lying on the couch in the living room, the bottle of pills on the floor next to her prone form completing the story in her note. Fear and anger exploded within me as I realised what she had done. I ran to her, a surge of adrenaline overriding my disability. Hot tears flooded down my face as I grasped her head in my hands and screeched her name. She didn’t respond, her eyes were closed and her skin was pale and cold to my touch. I knew the reason but refused to accept it. I screamed wildly into her face, shaking her violently, hoping to force a spark of life back into her limp body. But it was in vain, she was gone, my emotions crumbled with the realisation and, the anger and adrenaline spent, my frail body followed suit. Pulling her gently into my arms I was determined to never let her go, to never be parted from her again. The gates of my mind slammed shut, desperately trying to protect me from the knowledge that my beautiful sweet Juliette was lost to me forever.
I don’t know how long I held her for, minutes, hours, days? I didn’t care, time drifted by and I was lost in my pain. My world had collapsed upon me. Now and then I was dimly aware of a noise in the background. It reminded me of the noise the telephone had used to make back when my life still made sense. The real world seemed so distant now, so removed from the awful reality I held in my arms. My mind was numb, my consciousness in tatters. What life was there for me now that she was gone, what did I have left? How could I go on knowing that the only woman I had ever truly loved and cared for was dead because of me? I didn’t want to live without her, I couldn’t live without her. Looking up, I saw a pair of scissors on the coffee table.
From the Author,
Thank you for reading “The Moment”, I hope you enjoyed it, if you did please feel free to share it and tell others about it.