Sunday, May 08, 2005

Pecaw's Gift Chapter 33 / Empty

In the morning, as Sinclair awoke, he rolled his head around at the base of the neck; grinding out of the last vestiges of sleep. The motion was part of his daily return to life. Taking a few deep breaths and holding them until his chest filled to its limit, releasing each one deliberately. He sat up straight at the edge of the bed as he called to his room mate.

“Good Morning.” Sinclair greeted him aloud, knowing full well that Mr. Alejandro could not hear him. It did not matter, it made Sinclair feel more alive.

“Did you have another bad night? It sounded like you were hurting earlier” Sinclair continued the conversation as if at any moment he would get a reply. “I do wish they could increase your pain medication. I can hardly stand it to hear you in such pain.”

Sinclair carefully planted his feet solidly before standing. His own knees gave out a familiar pop.. The noise bounced around the room, laughing at him as he began his limbering up exercises. “Did you hear that last one? Sounded like the old fighter jets of the Fifties when they first broke the sound barrier.”

His thoughts were quite vivid as he remembered his youth. He and his brother had heard the roar of the engines being tested at the military base. They rode their bikes to the edge of the fence, chain link and barbed wire as far as the eye could see. A tall solid metal wall kept them from seeing the actual testing area. It was the mid Nineteen Fifties; Korea was still a hot topic. There were uniformed guards posted with fierce looking German Shepherd dogs. Then, without any notice, from the other side came a thundering that shook the ground. The air became filled with dust as the blast of power strained to free its land locked experimental engine. A few moments later the test ended and the two went home. It would take several hours for the test to be analyzed before they would start the engines again; no sense in standing around for hours.

“I got to see the Blue Angels fly over one time. No, it was some other group; Grumman, I think. I can’t remember what they called themselves. At the time they must have been about the fastest planes up there. They screamed across the sky in formation and the air exploded behind them. I still look up with a certain amount of fascination when a plane passes over; just something that gets me excited.” Sinclair continued to stretch; bending to touch the floor. He was still a good six or seven inches from accomplishing the feat. He pulled the curtain back so that he could talk face to face, but the bed was empty.

“No wonder it was so quiet.” Sinclair had been talking to himself all along. Laughing to himself as he continued the slow process of retraining his body. He pulled his stomach muscles in tighter; twisting first to the left then to the right. Each time he would look in the mirror as his own image blurred back in unison. As a cadet in the Academy he had been in top condition. The daily exercise program barely broke a sweat back then; but it was much more difficult now. It was bad enough growing old, it was doubly hard with the injuries from the fall.

“Morning Dear.” Bev brightened up the room automatically as she entered. “Are you getting a new room mate? I saw Maime take Mr. Alejandro’s card from the door. I hope everything is all right. He’s been looking so, . . . what’s the word? So tired.” Sinclair turned, then walked to the door and touched the empty window plate a couple of times.

“He was in a lot of pain last night. I bet they had to go back into that leg. By the smell, I’ll bet it was infected.”

“I’ll ask Maime on my way out. He always looks so lonely. I wish his family would come to visit him. Most of the time he just lays there in his bed with an empty stare. His eyes are so sad that I hurt for him.” Bev pulled the sheets up as she made the bed. She had watched Maime many times, it seemed so natural as she tucked the corners in hospital style.

“Speaking of empty, I could sure use some breakfast. Let’s you and me go down to the cafeteria and get some sausage and eggs?”

“Sounds good. I could use a bite myself.”, Bev quickly added as she fluffed the pillow and placed it at the head of the bed. They walked down the hall, Sinclair carrying the walker more than leaning on it. In the morning he had extra energy and the pain didn’t seem to bother him as much.

“Morning Maime. How’s my favorite black woman today?” Sinclair smiled as he greeted her from a distance. Maime avoided him for a moment, then forced a smile as she nodded back to him.

“Morning Mr. Sinclair, Ms’ Bev.”

“What's the matter? Bev knows all about us by now.” As if there were a day time “Soap” in the wings. All the while he could tell that something was wrong. Maime was too quiet.

“Nothing Mr. Sinclair. I was meanin’ to come by and talk with you later, but I guess it won’t keep.” Maime looked into the stack of fresh linens that was on the cart in front of her as she spoke.

“Is it about Mr. Alejandro? I heard him last night. He was in quite a bit of pain. Did they have to operate on him again?” Sinclair studied her features. For sixteen years he had watched human expression; it was part of the job. What he saw was her intentional avoidance. She didn’t want make eye contact.

“Is he in surgery now Maime?”, feeling around for a clue as the probabilities seemed fair.

“Yes and no Mr. Sinclair.”, looking away as she took a set of sheets off the cart.

“Maime. . .”

“They took Mr. Alejandro in like you figured. . .” Maime took a breath., “. . . but he didn’t make it.” Tears welled up in her as she choked out the words.

“I knows how the two of you had become friends these last months.” Maime cleared her throat, sniffled and wiped the corners of her eyes with a corner from the sheet in her hands.

“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that Maime.” Bev had become a quiet friend of Mr. Alejandro’s too. Whenever she came to visit Sinclair, she made it a point to take a few minutes with him.

“Now look what I’ve gone and done.”, pointing to the folded sheet that had been used as a handkerchief. “Now I’ve got to get another one.” Maime tried to regain her composure by scolding herself. Sinclair leaned on his walker as the truth of the matter hit home.

“I don’t know what to say.” Sinclair mumbled to himself. The excess of energy that had manifest itself moments earlier was now gone. He felt the weakness take over as he transferred his weight to the frame of the walker. Slowly he picked up and made his way back to the room. Bev walked cautiously beside him as with each step he breathed laboriously.

“Why don’t we go on down for some breakfast like you said earlier. I think it will make you feel better, Dear.” Bev wanted to wrap her arms around and hold him tightly.

“Maybe later Hun’. . .” Sinclair fought off a few tears as he plodded his way down the hall. He looked into the room that he had shared for so long. There against the far wall was where his friend Alejandro had been only the night before. The sheets were perfectly made up. The night stand was devoid of clutter. The small waste basket had been emptied and a new plastic liner was in its place.

“ . . . right now I’m just too empty to eat.” Sinclair laid himself on the bed and looked out into the endless eternities of his soul. Quietly, ever so quietly he whispered out into the air, “Alejandro, are you out there where you can hear me?”

“Did you say something dear?” Bev saw his lips moving but could not discern the sounds. Sinclair either did not hear her or was ignoring her as he continued to stare straight ahead.

“He isn’t here you chowder head. He’s dead and moved on.” “Pecaw? What are you doing here?”

“Nothing much, I’ve been here for a while. I have no idea how long; time doesn’t mean much now.”

“Am I dreaming this or are you really here in the room with me?” Sinclair began to doubt his own sanity as the thoughts came out of his mouth.

“I’m here in a manner of speaking. It would cause quite a stir if I were to show myself. You can hear me because you’ve developed a very special talent. Bev can’t hear me for the same reason.”

“Who are you talking to? Sinclair are you all right?”

“I’m not sure, let me alone for a while so I can work my way through all this.” Sinclair thought his response to Pecaw, “Does she think I’m going nuts?”

“She loves you Chuckle head. She’s worried about you, that’s all. Smile, that’s it. Let her know that your okay.”

“Do you want me to let you sleep for a while Hun? I can get the nurse if you want. Oh please tell me what to do.” Sinclair opened his eyes for a moment as he walked the thin line between body and spirit. He looked thoughtfully back at Bev as she grasped firmly to his hand.

“I’m better now, I just need some sleep.”, closing his eyes and reaching out to feel of his departed grandfather’s spirit.

“Now don’t you worry about your friend Alejandro. I had a chance to talk with him right after he died. He and his father had a bunch of catchin’ up to do. His family was waiting for him and were so relieved that his pain was over.

“How did you talk with him; he’s deaf?”

“Not here he isn’t. Its like he never was deaf, never had pain, never lost his legs. Don’t you see?”

“I . . .”

“You can hear me pretty good; right?”

“Yes sir; but this is a dream, isn’t it?”

“Guess again. How is it that you can gather all that information from the computer with just a thought? Did you think that was just a dream?”

“I haven’t got that part figured out yet, but it’ll come.”

“Then tell me how you can talk to those stupid ants. Yes, I know all about the morning chats you have.”

“I still don’t know how that works either.”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t claim to know how to do it either. It just is and your going to have to accept it.”

“Pecaw, now that Bev has left the room; could you . . .”

“No reason why I couldn’t.” The room quickly illuminated as the spirit of Pecaw became visible to Sinclair. His hair was perfectly ordered. When Pecaw had died of cancer, his body was withered and used up; now he stood as strong and fit as any man could hope to be. His waist was slim and his chest solid as a rock. His eyes flashed with a sparkle of confidence as they held Sinclair’s astonished gaze.

“Then I’m not going crazy?”

“No, maybe later on; but right now your doing just fine.”