Mary is resting on the wooden fence surrounding the pasture. There is a steady breeze rolling down from the hills surrounding her farm. She can see it in the way the grass sways up and down along the horizon. It almost shines showing a dull glow of relaxed movement.
She is dressed in a white shirt and tan pants and is staring across the field, squinting to make out what is leading the trail of dust coming her way.
The car is a grey Nissan Altima from the late 2000’s. There is dust on the fenders, but no mud. This is evidence of how dry it’s been lately. A young woman exits the vehicle slowly, taking a thoughtful look around at the plateau. It looked the same way as she had framed it in her mind, like a stretched-out heaven that keeps on running. The young woman sees Mary across the yard and begins walking to the fence post that she’s stationed at.
Mary watched the entire time as the young woman moved from the car to the stone pathway leading to the fence post. She watched as the woman bent down to touch the dirt. She watched as the young woman picked it up and felt it in her hands, the way panhandlers first feel gold. The young woman sifted it away slowly in her palm. The young woman stood and continued down the path towards Mary.
When they were close enough to see smiles, there was a calmness and a stillness like the wind and the clouds had stopped moving. Time was running but the breeze was suspended, as if the universe was taking a pause to admire their own work of art.
“I haven’t seen you in a long, long time” said Mary. They hugged quickly, and the young woman stepped back. The young woman noticed the lines in Mary’s face, the age was showing. “I wanted to make sure I got a chance to see you in this place” said the young woman.
“I had heard so many stories, but I didn’t know it looked like this, that it felt like this”.
Mary put her hand on the young woman’s shoulder and thanked her for coming.
The next 4 months were some of the most difficult of Mary’s life, as she dealt with her illness head-on. They shared stories and laughed and talked about Mary’s life growing up in Chicago and then in Baltimore. About the man Mary had fallen in love with and who had left her to fight. It had been about 18 years since he had left, but Mary still remembered the color of his eyes and the way his hair smelled.
The young woman shared about her life in Los Angeles and the people she knew. The books she had read and the movies she had seen. This comforted Mary, allowing her mind to drift to new things, rather than the focus on the disease slowly killing her. It was a welcome mental distraction, something the morphine couldn’t provide.
A golden retriever was drinking from a pond by the steps of the house. His nose touched the water as ripples rushed away. His tongue violently lapped up the needed water. The dog had no owner and was wandering for days. He was satisfied to finally have found some water in the dry hills.
Mary fell away on a Tuesday afternoon. Her body drifted before her mind, which allowed the young woman to talk to Mary and tell more stories right up to the final moment. The windows were open as they sat on the couch and the chair. The breeze drifted in and left in the same way Mary had entered the world and left again.
The young woman now stood. She walked over to the piano and looked at a picture frame. In it there was a man and a woman and a child. There was a small note stuck in the frame. The note read “August 14th, 2001”. His USMC t-shirt was visible. Two months later the young woman’s father would be deployed.
The young woman didn’t cry as her mother passed. Since Mary had left her after her father had deployed, that connection had frayed. The young woman’s new parents would tell her stories of the farm that Mary and her husband had lived on. About the horses and the dogs and the comfortable breeze in the hills of Nevada. The horses had been gone for some time now. This was something the young woman had only thought about, too afraid to see for herself until she got the news that Mary was sick.
The young woman left the house and saw the dog at the base of the steps, having had enough to drink. The dog was resting in the shade after such a long walk through and over the hill. The dog looked up at the young woman as if to say, “please feed me”, but the young woman had nothing to give. She got in her car, and drove back to Los Angeles, the parking lot stickers for California State University were stark in the window.