Red Gown (Part 2)

unnamed-2Two weeks before, I went to the Clementine Memorial Hospital. Driven by the unbearable anxiety and guilt, I went to visit someone I held dear deeply and hadn’t met with for quite a while. I wore a tight long cottoned skirt and a brown fur coat, which was a fake, of course. It was a very gloomy day for visiting. It was a cold cloudy October afternoon. I disdained hospitals. I always did, I always have. They’re not anything more than depressive and agonizing battlegrounds to meet hopeless dreams. The air gets thick by thestench of bleach and discarded compassion.

I headed to the Geriatric Wing without an air of hesitation. I thought of walking up the stairs. Though, I was wearing high-heels as usual. The pain had killed me later if I would have walked up to the Seventh Floor.

I hoped for nobody to step in the elevator when I did. I was in need not to run out with more unpleasant memories as I already have had on my way. I entreated to whoever would hear to let me out as soon as possible with the less infliction and sorrow. I was alone, standing in front of it and tapping the white-unpolished floor.

The elevator stopped on the Third and Fourth floors. Doctors and nurses came in and out. I remained alone up to the Sixth Floor. On the sixth floor, an unrequested passenger got on wearing an executive suit and coat. For my unfortunate disgrace, it wasn’t a patient; he was visiting one.

“She doesn’t want you here, you know that, right?” The passenger supplied when he collected his emotions from the unpleasant surprise.

“Dad told me to come.” I said calmly, staring to my reflection on the elevator’s door with a motionless grimace.

“What? Dad is dead, you freak!” he angrily replied examining me from head to toe.

“I know.” Keeping my troubled emotions settled, I left the elevator as soon as it opened the door and walked straight to the room, facing up the very empty hall, only furnished with a few old-wooden, scratched-paint chairs and empty gurneys.

“I won’t let you see her. She is too ill. She doesn’t need you here!” demanded Chris, pressing his teeth stiffly against each other and squeezing my arm tightly.

“I do need her. Brother!” I berated, took his wrist and pressed as hard as he was strangling with my arm.

“Is it money, right? I knew it.” He cried, pulling me closer to him. “Mind your own business, Chris” I added. “You won’t step in that room, you…” he tried to supply when a weak sweet voice uttered slightly from inside the room, “Drop it, Chris! Sweetheart!”

He released me by pushing me against the wall. I stared at him with a glare of discontent, yet I had all kind of phrases, they were not any sweet announcements, though I collected myself for her. I opened the door and shut it right away as quietly as I could. I had no intention to disturb the other patients.

“Hi dear! Audrey, is it? …Don’t put up that face. Gregg told me. Come closer. Grab a chair and sit by my bed.”

“How are you, mom? You look good!”

“Don’t be silly, dear! I know I look like crap” exclaimed, bursting a little laugh followed by a persistent cough. I served to her a glass of water. She wasn’t the woman I once knew. What was left from her was a sack of rag meatless bones covered with a dry, spotty, winkled fur. The decadent portrait of the woman she once was saddened me, wondering about the life she might’ve undergone since I left.

“How have you been, dear? Are you happy?” She interrupted my meditation and foolish stare at her fragile stained-glass condition.

“I been fine.” I replied quickly, assenting while uttering those words.

“Great, but are you happy?”

“Yes, I am” I was surprised on the double remarked she did on the same question.

“Uh” she coughed and continued, “you don’t get it, dear.” She placed her cold, bony, wrinkled and still soft hand on my hand. “Are You Happy with Yourself?” she said one word at a time, placing a special remark on each.

I looked at her closely this time. I realized the motherly smile she portrayed, the one mothers have when they never stop thinking of their prodigal child.

“Yes, I am, mother.” I knew what she meant and expected from me to say to her and she knew better than me the way I should say it. I held her hand and rubbed her hair. I took a comb from my purse and a makeup case. While I did her hair, I felt the urge to burst in tears; but it wasn’t fair for the apparently joy she had at that moment.

We looked at each and laughed. We laughed for a while. We relived the old times and tried to live the ones not too far from being old, but new for each.

“So happy days I used to have with my red dress.” She murmured, perhaps she did to herself, but I clearly heard her distant plea.

“Would you hand me that box?” she sharply woke up from her remembrance of good old days. She pointed a carton box placed under an old-wooden night table placed against the wall next to her bed.

“Yeah! Sure!”

“I remember that you used to sneak anytime you could to spy on me”

“Yeah, it was fun to spy on you!”

I placed the box on her lap; she pulled off the red dress. She stared at it for quite a while and fluffed it. “Your father took me to our little crappy apartment on the west side of the city. The first we ever owned. The dress was lying on the bed. He asked me to wear it that night. It’s going to be a special night‟ he said and it was, in deed. He took me to a fine restaurant, and later to dance. We drove home, made a stop and sat in one of the benches near the cliff. The lighted city under our sight melted together with the lighted sky over the city. We stared at it and drank a red wine from a box.” She paused, laughed and looked at me, with her eyes full of happiness and not a single tear bore to drop. “It was my night,” she continued, “from out of nowhere, your father kneeled and pulled off a gold ring with a small green rock and proposed to me.” We both remained silent, smiling. She gazed at the dress while I gazed at her.

“Do you have memories like mine, Audrey?” She broke the silence without taking off her eyes from the dress.

“I…I,” I bubbled and then replied, cracking my voice, “I guess I do.”

“The priceless value of a possession is not how much you can get, but how much you enjoyed from it after you got it.” She paused and hugged the dress tightly, took a last glimpse and handed it to me. “I wish for you to have it”

“No, I can’t, mom.” I replied.

“Yes, you can and you will. I want you to create memories as I did with it. You already have some, but I want you to have more.” After a pause, “please, make it live once again. Make me live once more.”

We stayed quiet for a while. Then, a nurse came by. Visiting hours were over. I kissed and hugged her goodbye. She passed away two days later.


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