“Have I ever told you about Blueberry Hill?”
Edgar sat as Edgar liked to sit, in the almond slices of afternoon that came through his window like a star forced through the slats of a wooden park bench. The light caught him, processed him, and charged him. The verdict: guilty of age. It glanced off his head, peeked through his little white hairs, those few near-translucent hangers-on, stubborn and unwilling to finally just give up, poking up from his saggy head-skin like defiant sign-waving protesters.
His eyes fixed on the sterile room’s only window, he went on, his voice an anachronistic skip like the hand of a record player stuck in the same groove, repeating the same sounds, desperately needing to be reset.
“Sheila always reminds me of the hill. She comes to my house to get me, loitering at the end of my drive. From my front door she looks like a tiny flower dancing on the wind. My dedicated daffodil.”
Despite the medication and the careful care from his well-trained and well-meaning attendants, earthquakes still raged through his nerves, the epicenter his cracked and faulted brain. As his hands involuntarily rattled against the wheels of his chair, his eyes remained still but squinted, shielding themselves from the barrage of rays.
“She sure is something. Those sun dresses she wears…” he closed his eyes, savoring the memory, chocolate on the tongue of his mind, “…the wind catches the fabric and her hair and blows them all around, and she giggles. She likes to wrap as much of her hand around mine as she can, and then we walk towards the hill, just the two of us in love, not a care in the world. Yes sir, she sure is something.”
A cloud passed between man and sun and the stream of light flickered like a memory captured on film, replayed so many times that the vivid colors of youth faded to grainy black and white. The cloud lingered a moment longer and the room showed itself true: not haven or refuge or sanctuary, but a grey and gruesome headstone. It was not here that he lived, anyway. Edgar resided in a Massachusetts that no longer existed, a home remade perfect and pristine by those few fleeting snapshots that still remained intact. It was a place of another time, one he could always, and never, return to.
“You know why they call it blueberry hill? ” A few-toothed smile climbed up onto his face. “The blueberries bushes! Dozens of them, randomly growing on the side of the hill. In summer, they’re packed with so many of those juicy little things. They look so nice, sometimes I feel bad about eating them and ruining the perfect scene. Everyone always says that wild blueberries are too sour to eat but, oh, not these. These are perfect. Just like my Sheila.”
Leaning forward in his chair, trying not to let the wheels slip out of his achy grasp, straining against the ichor in his bones, Edgar longed to see a little further out the window.
“That hill, let me tell you, it isn’t just a hill. That place is love incarnate. I stole my first kiss there, a few years back, but Sheila didn’t mind. I was lying next to her, laughing that we forgot a blanket again, and as she smiled, staring up at all that blue and white, I rolled over and kissed her cheek. She didn’t pull away, didn’t laugh, just turned and looked at me with those eyes and I knew. That grass and those bushes. That’s the place.”
The hill. Sheila. April blueberries. Teenage love on a spring day. The world he saw out that window was an invisible paradise.
“Can I go outside? It’s such a beautiful day, I’m sure Sheila’s already waiting on me.”
It was an involved process to get him ready; his lungs couldn’t muster any defense from the onslaught of pollen and pollutants, and he could barely move under the weight of the oxygen tank and UV blanket. He was proud, but in his protective suit, looked more machine than man, more artificial than real.
He blinked, staring out over the poorly kept courtyard, staring at the lone gnarled stick that masqueraded as a tree and the dozen bluebells that struggled up through the sun-scorched ground. After surveying the landscape, his shoulders sagged and he rolled his head back slightly, blue-green eyes looking into mine past the molded clear breathing mask of the respirator. Those eyes, with longing spilling out as tears, flashed for a moment, his computer rebooting as if it had hit some unrecoverable error upon seeing this ruin of nature.
“Have I ever told you about Blueberry Hill?”