All night he dreamed of the ocean. When he awoke, Lady Melancholy was sitting sideways on his chest. Odd, he thought, that she should come today.
“Why are you here?” he asked.
She turned, looked at him, smiled, then turned away – saying nothing. He pushed her off his chest, got up, bathed, dressed and went downstairs to make breakfast. He took out his favorite pan and found himself staring at it, thinking of all the Sunday morning breakfasts he had made for his family with it. He remembered how his daughter liked her eggs cooked, how much whipped cream his son wanted in his hot chocolate, how his wife laughed. They were all gone now, to different homes, to homes of their own, to be with others. Only he remained.
He sat down at the kitchen table to eat and looked out at his backyard. There she was again, Lady Melancholy. She had walked between the two azalea bushes, up the few short steps, to the upper yard and was smelling the rose bush planted where they had buried Cody. Then she walked to the lilac tree his children had gotten their mother for Mother’s Day. She turned and waved to him. He looked away. How I wish she would leave, he thought, pushing his plate aside. It’s not right that she should be here today. He washed his dishes and carefully put everything away, even though he knew he would never use them again.
He went into his study and took down the book with his notes. But his interest was not strong. He already knew everything he needed to know, everything they would ask him, even the questions they would have about his answers.
Gary called for him. They had known each other all their lives. And like truly good friends, they had learned to get along, under all conditions, and in spite of their differences. Gary was the physical one; Daniel the thinker, the seeker, the spiritual one. But they knew and loved each other.
“Are you ready?” Gary asked.
“Almost,” Daniel said. “I just need to pack a few things they told me to bring.” He packed quickly and they walked to Gary’s car.
“Do you know how to get there?” Daniel asked.
“No. But you’ll tell me.”
They laughed. As they drove off, Daniel looked back and saw her sitting on the front stoop, Lady Melancholy. Good, he thought. She’s not coming.
When they got to the place, Daniel asked “Are you coming in?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“You do,” Daniel said, looking thoughtfully at Gary.
They walked together along the side of the building under some overhanging trees to the back. Four men were waiting for them there. The men looked somber. Daniel, Gary, and the men went inside. Three of the men, sitting on a long bench, dutifully asked Daniel several questions. He answered them, all but one. It was about animals. He told them he didn’t know. They said, “It’s the same as for fish.” He was glad they didn’t ask him about fish. The one not asking questions said, “He’s a vegetarian.”
They gave him some final instructions, then he and Gary went to the dressing room. They undressed. The tile floor was cold.
“Are you ready?” Daniel asked.
Gary said, “I’m frightened.”
“Yes. You know I’m not coming back. I can’t come out with you.”
Daniel looked at Gary. “You have been good to me,” he said. “More than good.”
They entered the water together. When Daniel came up, he turned to see Gary, but he wasn’t there.
When he got home, Lady Melancholy was gone also.
* * * * *
A few weeks later, a dinner guest asked Daniel, “Did you feel it?”
“Feel what?” Daniel said.
“You know, the inrushing of your Jewish neshama? When you came up out of the water, did you feel it?”
“Not really” Daniel said. “It wasn’t quite like that for me.”