When We Last Met


Room Magazine - - LITTLE | BELUGA -

He sits on the wrought iron bench in the evening light. A blue shirt un­der a white li­nen jacket. Leather san­dals, a panama hat, and dark sun­glasses. He is sur­rounded by mari­achis play­ing the old ranchera song “Cielito Lindo”: Sing, don’t cry be­cause singing, pretty lit­tle sky, makes hearts grow happy. The last of the Mex­i­can sun grazes the rose-coloured spires of the par­ish church. A flock of white-faced Ibis fills the sky, the birds winging their way west to­ward the lake, as they do every evening.

He must be at least eighty now but I know it’s him. King Henry II in the body of Pe­ter O’Toole. He sits ex­actly the way he sat on his throne fifty years ago in the movie Becket. Long legs splayed, an­gled to ac­com­mo­date the small space be­tween the bench and the mari­achis, head tilted, rest­ing on one arm. A small, amused smile.

I can hardly con­tain the rush of words that fills me. I want to slide into the space be­tween him and the much younger woman he is with and say those words: How cold it was when we last met on the shores of France. And I want him to re­move his sun­glasses, smile in per­fect re­mem­brance, and quote back to me: Funny, it’s nearly al­ways been cold, ex­cept at the be­gin­ning when we were friends.

I want to tell him about that sum­mer night fifty years ago. And the ways in which it changed my life for­ever.

Mar­jorie and I were con­nected at the heart from the first time we met. Just girls then, soft-eyed and dreamy, still in our teens. It was a time of un­rest—1965—the early days of protest songs and love-ins. Bob Dy­lan was the new god. My own small act of de­fi­ance was in a hid­den beaded bracelet and patchouli oil un­der my wrist. But the re­bel­lion that was stir­ring in­side my heart was just be­gin­ning.

Mar­jorie and I were stu­dent nurses, work­ing through our geri­atrics ro­ta­tion at Shaughnessy Hos­pi­tal, a phys­i­cal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity for war vet­er­ans. Frank was twenty-one, not much older than us, an air force cadet at Camp Bor­den. He’d been par­a­lyzed in a car ac­ci­dent on the Mac­don­ald-Cartier Free­way in Que­bec then trans­ferred to B.C. to be near fam­ily.

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