Open

My neighbour is dying at home, which is very noisy at night: there is the apnea respirator and the electro-mechanical or electro-hydraulic bed and even in daytime there is the awful trundle and clang of some kind of lifter on wheels getting him slung up and out to the bathtub and back. The floor may not creak for him, but the ceiling moans for us. He and I share at least one disease between the two of us and our epidemiological cohort, but the other disease has taken the lead in his slow demise these past weeks. With so few symptoms, I lean to the one and stumble over the other. We may even share neurologists, just as the two of them share the one office.

My neighbour has stopped falling, but the other day his wife or a nursing aide knocked over his metal tube walker but it startled me without that sudden, frightful slam of body to floor after a stiff and rigid topple and fall taking along a wooden chair, an end-table, a lamp, books and brass bookends and then the screaming pleas and the curses of a spouse. We so seldom heard his voice even when he had fallen to the floor beside his bed above our bedroom when we were lying on our bed below.

My neighbour does not know when the hospice down the street will open its back doors to ambulance and hearse or anonymous SUV transport (I have seen those innocuous white vehicles behind the funeral mansion.) We think maybe later this month. If he lasts that long, he still will not know that I sit in the café at the window looking across at the hospice through the traffic. When the traffic backs up for more than two blocks in the evening, the drivers look in at me. Their eyes may be drawn by the neon sign with its Open in orange, glowing tube-script, but their gaze reaches mine. About three in five drivers look my way, but less than six in ten and closer to eleven of twenty and by forty the coffee is done or I am making a note. His room may not be on the west side of the hospice, and the one kitchen window looks east. I may sit there unseen, ignoring the loud radio advertisements and popular music that come from the ceiling of the café. Or I may think I see someone in the window. But in a year or two, will that still be a café? Will the tube-script still glow? Open.

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