An exercise on the theme “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”
“This old sack is not good anymore,” said the man. “I can feel the bedsteads crack every time I make a move.”
“Maybe we should change the props beneath it then. Or move you to a new one altogether.”
“Nah that wouldn’t be necessary. Too much fuss for too little reason.”
The woman was taken aback by the comment but tried to conceal her surprise as she was so used in doing so in his presence. She instead smiled mildly and ducked in the side of the bed as she tapped the man with her hand and spoke softly.
“Now don’t talk like that. I would never just leave you in one old rusty ramshackle bed, you know it. We’ll have it fixed for you in no time. You’ll see.”
The man was lying over a wooden shabby bed that would rustle every time he would make a move. He seemed bedridden, resting semi-erect with his back over the two pillows behind him, as a serum bag would stand on the side, dripping through a transparent cable that would connect to his right hand. The room was spacious but frugal with only a few chairs and a table standing right next to it carrying a plant that was almost decayed and the dim lighting would only come through one small window on the sidewall that was blurred with its lids closed down.
“I said it’s fine. It would make no difference anyway” continued the man but the woman said nothing to refute it.
A couple of minutes passed in complete silence where they both seemed absorbed in their own thoughts before the man spoke again.
“Sometimes I wonder,” he said, “what is it gonna left of us when we are not gonna be here.”
“Oh, Andrew why would you make such a gloomy thought now.”
“You mean apart from being nailed down to this shithole with little prospect of coming back?”
“You’ll be just fine I promise you. You just need to be patient.”
“I’m well over patience now. Or hope. Or ambition for that matter.”
“You shouldn’t be”
The man got silenced. He glanced over the list of withered books in the library most of which were his own. He was always proud of this achievement not only for the number of sales that he was eager to check with every new book that would come but also for the accomplishment of writing almost ten full tomes on the analysis of the human body. Since the time he finished university -with multiple awards for his excellent performance- he started off in the side of his father who was a famous physician and authority in the circle in which after spending almost 5 years working with him, he decided to open his own office and start an independent career under a new name that would shield any apparent connection to his heritage.
And as such under the newly forged identity of ‘Mr. Andrew Hines’ he met Camila, a young journalist who was assigned to write about his work and was to conduct an interview with the experienced scientist.
“What will people imagine of me when I’m gone.” continued the man. “Will they still remember my work, my books, the endless time in front of academic papers trying to make sense of it? Was any of it of any significance at all, maybe something more than spending your time over a movie or a magazine?”
“Of course they will. People love your books you know it.”
“People love many things. But they are as quick to lose their interest as they are to move on to the next thing that will grab their attention.”
“That will never happen with you.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do. People love you. Stop beating yourself like that, please.”
The woman stood up and turned her back on him as she solemnly approached the side of the window lying her body right next to it. Andrew looked at her for a moment without any expression as he observed her delicate features with the sweet short nose of hers that he was so fond of. Something he used to admire on her but subsided with the passing of time as everything toned down on their relationship as a watered-down wine that lost its flavor and nothing of the vividness and tensity that was promised in the beginning lasted eventually.
She was a fine woman for sure, one that most men would be jealous to have. Still with the charming and winsome mannerisms of her caring words and the shy attitude that would mean the whole world when vulgarity had taken such a toll on everything. He always liked that about her and when he met her in that little cubicle room after the end of his presentation he immediately felt a strong connection as if it was meant for them to meet each other.
Then the years passed and little by little he would give in to the banality of everyday life, forgetting his purpose of progressing in his field, filling instead the role of the man that he would always despise the most of. That of the family chap that would work his 9 to 5 shift just to fill up the next day mindlessly without bigger goals at hand. How did he get there was never clear to him, but all he remembered was how ambitious he used to be and the constant flow of books and articles that never failed to make an impression to the related circle and how it all became scarce eventually and all his plans for the later books became nothing but a distant dream that some other foreign man had and he could not identify with anymore. And who was to blame for this outcome he never really understood although he always accused Camila of stripping him out of his ambition.
“Camila,” he whispered in an intone that was lost in the air. The woman was now holding a liquor bottle and pouring it into her glass. She swirled it around her nose and dapped it up all at once closing her eyes from the pain for a good few seconds.
“Can I have a glass of that?” he asked.
“The doctor said no. He was very strict about that.”
“To hell with the doctor. What do they know anyway.”
The woman recoiled.
“Dr. Miles is known to be excellent in his job. He wants nothing but the best for you.”
“Ughh, he is just a rookie.” the man growled. “And I didn’t ask for any of it. Neither from him nor from you. You could all very well just leave me alone and I would be just fine.”
“Andrew please, what got into you all of a sudden?”
“Nothing got into me, can’t a man just find his peace anymore. Is that too much to ask?”
“If I bother you I can come back later. I surely didn’t want to disturb you.”
“You know what I mean” he uttered and caused a wave of fright to get over the woman who just dropped her eyes downwards. It was in moments like this that he would always hesitate. It was in moments like this that he would lose his courage usually and drop the subject off, but not this time. He knew he had to go through it and so did she. It was for everyone’s shake after all.
“Don’t you think you had enough of this already? Whatever it is you want to call it anyway.”
“Andrew you are sick. Please don’t make this harder than it is already.”
“It may be, but the truth can still shine even from a sick body. I think you should just take my advice and get back to your home, girl. There is nothing for you here.”
“Andrew stop it. I love you and I will never leave you. If you don’t like it then too bad for you because you will have to put up with it for the time to come.”
“You are such a fool” exclaimed the man but the woman had already gone out of the room not giving him time to respond.
The day passed and the man fell asleep for a few hours staying in a semi-awake state after he had come back to his consciousness. His eyes still remained blurry and he could feel a sense of paralysis on him as if his body refused to come fully back to life yet. He glanced over the window that had now been opened and observed the gloomy sky that had now gathered more than enough clouds to shed a grey layer above them and the shrills of the birds flying in circles that were like an omen for the upcoming storm.
The woman returned now back in the room and she was evidently quite serious trying to avert any eye contact with him.
“It seems it’s going to rain,” she said as she rushed and closed the window. “This weather is getting quite unpredictable now.”
Andrew observed her as she did so and thought how considerate she always was and how unfair it was from him to hurt her like that.
“Look, about before,” he stated, “I don’t know what got into me, it must have been the drugs this doctor is giving me for the pain.”
Suddenly he brought his mind back to the night of the incident exactly two months ago when he entered that little store in the street a few blocks away from his house. For his bad luck, it so happened that the store was getting robbed, and being the impulsive man he always was he jumped on the man in the heat of the moment trying to fight him out of it, thinking he was in a position to restrain him. It took only one jab in his right flank to make his situation critical and they barely made it to put him in the hospital before his loss of blood became fatal.
“You think I don’t know this?” replied the woman calmly, shattering him out of his thoughts. “I have been enough time with this crazy guy to know how he acts don’t you think?”
The woman approached him on the side of the bed and sat in her usual position as she leaned her hand on top of his feet as she always liked to do.
“You remember when I was to schedule that first interview with you it took a number of cancellations from Mr. Hines just to make it happen and even in the night we actually met it was still quite dubious whether you would show up or not. But in the end, you eventually did and I’m happy it came to be so, for I wouldn’t have the pleasure of dealing with this grumpy old man otherwise.”
“Well it didn’t get you anywhere good if you ask me, I mean look at this place,” replied the man. “It could very well be a dumpster instead”.
The woman laughed.
“It may be but soon you’ll be out of here and we can get back just as we were beforehand. Isn’t that something worth waiting for?”
The woman slid on top of the man tapping his hair as she kissed him. And as the weight of her pressured against his injury, the man said nothing of it, but instead, he just pulled her more into him as the rain outside started making its first appearance.