Lydia Brownfield did not go easily into the night. Nor did she welcome the bold woman who wheeled into her room, uninvited, unannounced, and intrusive. How dare someone enter her dismal sanctuary without requesting entrance? It did not matter to Lydia that such a request would have been refused. So what? She desired no company, did not expect to be cheered or entertained; Lydia desired nothing more than to explore in her able mind—her last fortress, her Alamo, the only part of her that remained fully functional—how best to terminate her existence and vaporize. She clung to this privilege with as much determination as the wounded Jim Bowie clutched his famous knife, his back against the wall as the forces of Santa Ana burst into his room bent on destruction. Die she would as Jim Bowie had, but neither amyotrophic lateral sclerosis nor any other would destroy her without her choice and without a fight.
Lydia had long thrown out any hope of afterlife not favoring an encounter with the Christ or the devil, but choosing to believe in instant oblivion. To Lydia death meant complete release into a great nothingness. She nursed the thought plotting how to best maneuver a quick departure on her terms.
Interruptions to her dark reverie released her greatest venom, which turned now on the rude young woman who entered her room without announcement. Little did she know this intruder would challenge her suicidal meanderings and send her mentally fleeing for her life, resolved to live, a decision that mocked the world view fueling her anger and molding her suicidal ambitions.
At the moment Amy pushed into the room, however, Lydia had yet to entertain any purpose for her life to continue let alone any thought that life even in her useless body would be worth defending. And so, Lydia reacted as she did with any person who dared cross her threshold.
In a voice brittle with anger but hardly the thunderous one she intended, Lydia ordered Amy to leave. Turning her head on her pillow, one movement that still remained within her control, she first faced her tormentor and then, with a bolt of will that sapped her energy, swung her face away. In her mind she had pivoted on her toes to present a cold unyielding back and marched away. In fact Lydia could not escape. Even though she continued to murmur, “Go away!” “Get out!” Lydia’s voice eventually collapsed as her lung capacity could no longer support both breathing and voice.
Amy met her eyes and smiled. Without responding to Lydia’s commands, she opened her violin case, checked the tuning and began to play. She ignored the thrashing of Lydia’s head on the pillow. Her concert continued for well over an hour. At the conclusion, Amy replaced the violin in its case, smiled at Lydia, whose hair was now matted to her skull with perspiration that dribbled onto her face unabated.
“Oh, my,” Amy said, “you do need to wipe your face, that must be very uncomfortable.” Amy rolled closer to the bedside, pulled up and ran her fingers through one of the trivets of sweat. She lifted her finger to her mouth and tasted, her smile wide and her eyes full of mischief.
Lydia furrowed her eyebrows unsure what to make of this action. The dark tones of the music still haunted her mind. Amy turned to the night stand and opening the top drawer and produced a small washcloth. Gently at first she wiped Lydia’s brow, checks, mouth and neck, before grasping the helpless woman’s nose and forcing a wad of the cloth into her mouth. Lydia’s widening eyes, the fear, prompted an even brighter smile from Amy. She held on though Lydia shook her head as violently as she could until Lydia passed out, then she withdrew the washcloth and her fingers caressed it.
The moistness intrigued her so she dabbed it with her index finger, lifted it to her nose, sniffed and then tasted. The fragrance, the sweet saltiness confirmed her suspicion. It was blood. Finding Lydia’s face again, Amy dabbed around her nose. A tiny breath of air escaped Lydia’s nose. Lydia’s breathing had resumed.
“Later,” Amy whispered. Lydia, though conscious, maintained closed eye silence quite unable to get her mind around what had just happened. Had she imagined it? No, she could not accept that. This phantom, this purveyor of musical dirges, had meant to kill her, but why? What possible purpose could there be? What had prompted her decision to withdraw? And why most of all had she, Lydia, struggled so against death. Why, indeed had she, just before the momentary blackness, longed for absolution; why had she of all people felt a need to be right with a Creator in whom she had no belief and no confidence?
As Lydia feigned unconsciousness, Amy settled onto her scooter, retrieved her violin and with the bloody washcloth in her lap retreated. At the nurse’s station she paused and handed the washcloth to the charge nurse explaining that Ms. Brownfield had become quite agitated, muttering all sorts of accusations and had in the process developed a bloody nose, which Amy had attempted to abate. Unfortunately, Ms. Brownfield fought against her touch, so Amy thought it might be best if one of the staff checked in on her.The nurse behind the desk nodded understandingly, but with a sag of the shoulders that suggested she might prefer to be thrown into a pit of vipers rather than enter Lydia Brownfield’s room.
Still as Amy moved away, she heard the nurse plodding down the hall. The exhilaration flooded her senses but she permitted only a small giggle to emerge. Patience, she cautioned herself. I must not rush.
There are so many here who need to be set free. Perhaps on her next visit to Lydia’s room, there would be no hesitation, and she would escort Lydia across the bar. Perhaps, not. Lydia certainly wasn’t going anywhere yet.