A Full Second

“Time may give you more than your poor bones could ever take”
–Iron and Wine

On my way to meet someone else
in the Alzheimer’s ward

I stumble upon two strangers
(to me, at least. Perhaps they
were strangers to one another
an hour before; perhaps they will
be strangers again in an hour).

His wheelchair is turned so that he
can lean in, full bodied, cradle her
face in his hands, lean across her
chair’s armrest and one of the big wheels
and gently kiss her.

I see his smile, but her back is turned.
She confesses her love for the first time.
At least–for the first time today.

The stolen moment passes, and he says
“I should tell my wife.”

And she replies.
“What, you can’t have more than one?”

And he is puzzled.

“I don’t remember.”

Hours later, I stop by to pick up a pizza
for dinner. There’s a wait and I sit at the
bar. I am thinking about my day. The heart’s toll

and the slow trudging steps of the ward are replaced
by whip-quick spins of a place where I cannot tell
where the kitchen ends and the dining room begins.

A couple across the way talk about their
day, as well. They are not as young as they wish to be,
but they are warding off the gray.

It was long for a Friday, he tells her. She asks
him how she looks in her dress. She feels
that she has gained some weight over the summer.

“Do you remember the dress with that pattern?”
she asks. He doesn’t.

Not long after they leave, she has forgotten her purse.
It hangs over the back of her barstool. I tell the bartender
and he keeps it safe.

My pizza arrives. The bartender reads back the order, asks if that’s mine.

It is a full second before I can say yes.

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