Wednesday, May 16, 2012 (original post date)
Mordecai stared out the window from his hospital bed, the sun shining through the thin white curtains on that fine Sunday afternoon; birds were chirping and the window was open just a crack to let in a small spring breeze that carried the scent of the wildflowers that blossomed a few nights ago after a big rainstorm. All Mordecai could think of was how thankful he was to be on the first floor of the hospital, else he couldn’t enjoy what little of spring he could see in his bed-ridden state, but Mordecai was grateful for that little taste of the world outside these four walls. It was all thanks to his lovely wife Esther; she argued with his doctors for days, insisting that it was crucial to his health that he be allowed a small glimpse and breath of nature. She wasn’t lying either; Mordecai spent most of his time outdoors, first as a child playing tag with his older brothers in the backyard, then as quarter back in high school, in college he helped his father take care of the stable, then finally, in his years before serving in the Army, he was caretaker to the animals in the local zoo. But after suffering a stroke a few months back, his feet haven’t felt the tickle of green grass; instead, he’s been poked, prodded, measured, injected, pushed around in a wheelchair, stuck into machines of every shape and size, and, worst of all, he can’t even make a trip to the restroom on his own anymore. Thank goodness for Esther; beautiful Esther, who gave up her days in the classroom to be with him in this prison.
At the thought of his wife, Mordecai turned to her; she was dutifully sitting by his side like she has been since the very beginning in the floral patterned armchair she had their eldest son, Noah, bring in from home. Her nose was where it usually is; stuck inside a book, her favorite pastime. From his place on the bed, Mordecai could see the title: “Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. Mordecai shook his head in amusement; Esther must have read that book ten times now. He took in the picture of his wife, the book in her hands, her green eyes slowly rolling across the pages, completely still except for the occasional pause to turn the page. It was a beautiful scene, more so than the lovely spring day beckoning him from the window; the way Esther was at that moment was the way she was the first time Mordecai first laid his eyes on her. True, her honey-colored hair had more snow than honey since then and there were some odd lines on the corners of her eyes and lips that Mordecai had never noticed before. She even looked smaller, something Mordecai didn’t think was possible; poor Esther never had an easy time reaching the fine China on the top shelf of their kitchen. Mordecai wondered if Noah and Abel have been helping their mother in his absence….
Mordecai squinted his eyes, still locked on Esther but not really seeing her; it’s been 30 years, he realized, but he remembers it as if it were yesterday. He remembers having a hard time getting her attention; Esther always seemed intent to block her entire surrounding world when she held those dusty old books in her hands. She was extremely talented too; she could walk and read, eat and read… Mordecai often times wondered if she brought those books with her to the shower or on dates. Mordecai remembers how he would see her walking home everyday; always alone but never lonely. She had her books. But Mordecai finally caught his break when finally, on a lovely Sunday afternoon much like this one, he happened to be walking on the same street Esther always took home but in the opposite direction. He was picking up some tools that he needed to fix a burst pipe in his mother’s kitchen when, lo and behold, Mordecai bumped into the schoolgirl, knocking the book out of her hand. Mordecai even remembers the title: “Romeo and Juliet.”
It was an unexpected friendship-turned-romance that would blossom after that, though not overnight; he was fresh out of graduate school, searching for work and considering the Army, she was barely out of high school. But Mordecai was persistent and it would be two long years before he would finally steal a kiss from her and two more before they committed themselves to each other. He took in Esther’s form, that fateful day on Main Street playing in his head again; how cute she was, in her knee-high brown socks and pleated skirt, her young face flushed read with embarrassment. Mordecai chuckled at the memory and, finally, his wife tore her eyes from Dickens and flashed Mordecai a small smile of surprise.
“What’s so funny?” she said, looking at him over her reading glasses.
“I’m just wondering,” he said, his moustached lips pulling up into a grin. “How is it, after all these years, you’re still so damn cute?”
It was Esther’s turn to chuckle now. She marked the page on her book and left her place on the armchair in favor of a spot next to Mordecai.
“Because,” she said. “After all these years, I’m still younger than you.”