The scent of Jasmine
I never stopped believing in a miracle for my friend, Pauline. It didn’t happen and she was taken away. I had to believe now, for a miracle for Harold Weisman.
Harold had all but lost his speaking voice. I began to visit him on Thursday afternoons and, from week to week, I could see the encroaching deterioration on his person. His voice grew fainter and his spoken words were becoming harder to understand. He was mutating into a limp shadow of his former self.
I picked up my pen to write –
My friend looks frailer each time I see him. His frame is heavily stooped, his limbs stick out at awkward angles and there is a transparent quality about his dry, sallow skin. His cheeks are gaunt and his features drawn. The dear enormous nose that suited his face so well has suddenly become ridiculously larger than life.
I am becoming a very able lip-reader, though it is disconcerting to have to concentrate on a speaker’s lips all the time.
My heart breaks to see him this way …
I set the pen down on the glass-topped table and leaned against the padded patio chair. The wind chimes in the apple tree began to tinkle and I paused to remember the little things.
I asked Harold one day, if he was afraid to die. He shook his head and our conversation turned to God. He was facetious at first, but his eyes regarded me soberly as our discussion progressed. They brimmed over with tears, and his face became crumpled with emotion.
We had such wonderful conversations, Harold and I. His speech was invigorating, laced with wisdom, kindness and his own particular zany brand of humour. He made me giggle like a giddy schoolgirl.
I remembered as we sat together one afternoon, the gift I had brought. I delved into the depths of my handbag and extricated a wad of Kleenex. With eagerness and great curiosity he accepted it, parting the folds of tissue to find a creamy, slightly wilted double-petal jasmine blossom lying exposed in the palm of his hand. The heavy fragrance rose into the air.
“From my garden,” I said quietly.
Harold raised the flower to his nostrils and inhaled deeply. I read the words swimming in his eyes, the gratitude for the sense of smell that remained unimpaired. He opened the top drawer of his desk and slipped the bloom inside.
“Have you been to the Dalai Lama this week?” I enquired.
He nodded, amused, and the imp of mischief waltzed into his eyes. Our laughter was cut short when he began to choke on saliva.
When someone hinted that the radiation from his cellphone might have triggered his condition, he stopped using it. He sought the ministrations of every quack brought to his attention. The latest in the parade was a Tibetan monk with a supposedly guaranteed-to-cure acupuncture treatment. Dalai Lama was the nickname I bestowed on the gentleman.
A lawyer without a cellphone is an oddity. A practicing lawyer without a speaking voice is a greater curiosity.
Harold spread his slender hands out for inspection. I squinted, fixing my gaze on the weakest finger. It didn’t look better, so I said nothing. He seemed disappointed.
“I promised my son we would go skiing together next year,” he rasped.
“And you will,” I responded with exaggerated heartiness. “I know you will.”
Neither of us believed a word I uttered.
I opened my journal and began to read out loud –
I walked to my Enchanted Woods yesterday, along a trail I discovered recently. I love to linger in the dim, dreamy,leafy world of quiet wonder. I feel a need to go to this spot each evening. It’s become a sort of pilgrimage now. I find myself leaning against a peeling tree trunk to whisper my thoughts to God, and I linger talking, sometimes crying, until the buzz of mosquitoes and their insistent sting on my bare legs, arms and neck, constrain me to head back home. I find that this is where I want to go, to talk to God about my friend, Harold, to weep, to plead, to question.
Sometimes the pressure within me gets so heavy, I have to get away and walk as fast as I can. I reach the little ornamental bridge, my heart stills and I’m sure I can hear God. I whisper my heart out to him and my universe, for the moment, teeters into balance again …
I snapped the covers of the book shut. Harold’s eyes, fixed steadily on me as I read, were soft.
“Can you see it?” I asked. I had experienced the moments in my head as I read.
“No.” His mouth moved, then he wrote laboriously –
But I can feel it.
Click here to listen to the audio recording of Chapter One, The Scent of Jasmine.
This is Chapter One of my book, Next Week On Thursday (creative non-fiction, 45,000 words).
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