i want you to live forever

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young man documenting someone's last moments on his deathbed. Remember to comment, like, or/and subscribe!

Submitted: July 27, 2012

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Submitted: July 27, 2012

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Resting is easier when you're mind is at rest. Or so says the wise man. But no one heeds the old because, generally, they are dreadfully boring. Generally being the keyword here. To put a point on my spear, one old man did break from the stereotype. His identity will remain confidential as he has so requested. So, to compensate, I have dubbed him Mr. English. This man's life began as natural as the next; what followed was a trail of mistaken identity, flagrant romance, and a sack of rocks. All will be explained in due time, rest assured. Born to an Italian family in Chicago, English sought to climb the social ladder as he took the world into his immature mind. These people- actors, singers, or anyone on TV- he at first envied, later embodied, and ultimately pitied. They led lives as shallow as the puddles bullies threw English into after they caught him uninvited at parties. English took a sip of his coffee before telling me how he would try and try to fit in with the crowd. His mother always assured him he didn't need the acceptance of strangers. He, naturally, disregarded his mother, as most old people are boring. Then, in his thick Chicago accent, he said advice is like faith. English didn't finish the metaphor; he wanted me to figure it out.

I thought hard for a bit, absent-mindedly grabbing at a goatee that wasn't on there anymore, "Because both are useless until one puts them in action. Right?"

He nods. He resumes. At this point in his story, he's rambling about his family: cousins, in-laws, steps and half siblings. I tune back in when I hear the words "I set out on my own". Apparently, English's college career set off in motion because he wanted to avoid the draft. His friends slowly began to disappear. Some found themselves in Vietnam while others fell into drugs or fled to Canada. Though he was an outcast, he was never without friends. Now, for the first time, English was alone. This is when he decided to reinvent himself as a lady's man. Fueled by teenage hormones, sexual frustration, and various books on wooing women, English surrounded himself with womanizing men and created an alter ego: Jack Summers. English (or Jack) met all the criteria to qualify as an avant grade scum bag. He donned a greased pompadour, leather jacket and chains, tight jeans ripped at the knees just so, and an air of over-confidence with enough stench to weed out his modest nice guy competitors. He looked away for a second, stifled a laugh, and returned his attention to me. English's identity had completely been erased overnight. As if his brain had a tiny switch he flipped, the change was quick and simple. For his entire college career, English lived the life of a play boy, one most of us would die to have. Still, English craved the thing his lifestyle antagonized: true love. "What's sex without it?" He asked.

"It is widely regarded as fucking, sir. People pay for it; they lie for it; they take it. The 'to fuck list' is infinitely longer, interminable, compared to the 'to love list,' which is short and some people never get to write one."

English recalled the day one of his old friends came back from Vietnam somewhere in late 1970. This friend was on his "to love list." She went by Annie, full name Annebelle Harriet Merlot. English was head-over-heels for this girl, but, alas, fell into the dreaded "friendzone."

"Listen here, son. Women always complain about having crappy boyfriends and she was no exception. I saw them together on rare occasions; she enjoyed my company and missed me whenever I wasn't around, but she never gave me a chance. I did so much for her, things not even her man would've done but she always treated me like an object similar to a teddy bear. But, hey, he was a handsome kid and I wasn't. That little thing, aesthetics, served as the only reason she chose him, that dumb sack of rocks, over me." "Were you pissed?"

"Didn't you just hear me? I was! Jesus Lee Christ, boy, I bought her stuff, hung out with her a lot and she never gave me a chance to become something serious. She chose the pretty boy even though she always wanted to be around me regardless." English was working up a storm of insults for the guy when a nurse came in to deliver his dinner and pills.

"Okay honey, Mr. [English] is gonna have to hit the hay. You better get going, you know, it's pretty late."

"Alright. G'night."

"See you tomorrow, kid?" English asked as I headed out the door.

"Tomorrow, sure."

The lights of the intense care ward throbbed lifeless and cleanly, leaving the corridor a tunnel of light, one that I walk down as English will soon have to as well. Tomorrow, as I had promised, I arrived digital recorder in hand, ready to document the life of the great and now late Mr. English.

...

"Listen up. Here is where it gets complicated."

"I've been lost the entire time, sir."

"Stop being a smart ass."

"Yes, right away, sir."

"Okay, so this girl, Annebelle, found me on account of her mother being excellent friends with my sister, who was my legal guardian when I was 17. The sack of rocks went to school with us way back then. She always had an eye for him and I always wanted her. So there I was: almost 30 with a smoking hot babe on my arm and a cigarette hanging off my lips. Annebelle saw me as a nice guy who had respect towards women and never touched smokes. That day, she witnessed the polar opposite. But boy, I tell you what, she didn't recognize me. I thanked the stars in heaven for that miracle. She approached me either way, I suppose to gather information regarding my whereabouts. Slowly, she said, 'Hello. I am Annebelle Harriet Merlot, retired field medic of the U.S. Navy.'

'Spectacular,' The girl on my arm sarcastically remarked.

Annie ignored the remark, smiled, and continued, 'Does a Mr. [English] live here? If not, do you know where I can find him?'

I answered before my lady friend could, 'He's here early in the morning, noon at the latest. Come back tomorrow.'

'Tomorrow, sure.'

So that night, I buzzed off my pompadour, removed every piercing, and I shaved."

"Why?"

"Because I wanted her to recognize me."

"You still loved her."

"Still and always will."

I reached for my pocket at that moment. The late Annebelle gave birth to two lovely girls, one of which I married. I had all three of them in my wallet: Annebelle with English on their wedding day, my Annebelle and I on our wedding day, little Ingrid on her 10th and last birthday. English shook me back into reality with his hoarse laugh.

"What was that?", I asked.

"I said Annie came back in the most beautiful outfit. She wore a frilled light blue skirt with yellow polka dots and her blouse followed suit with the frills and dots."

"What went through your head then?"

"Boy, I swear to you my heart stopped for a second. The whole world stopped and stared at this angel."

English wore a smile made of nostalgia, sorrow, and happiness, "Anyway, she asked me out on a date. We went to a drive-in together to watch some action flick. Awkward would deftly describe that night," He paused and looked away.

I waited for English to regain himself before continuing.

He looked back at me and said, "You know about PTSD, right?"

Of course I did. My Annie suffers from post traumatic stress disorder ever since the highway pileup that killed her mother and sister.

I also struggle with it due to my military career, "Yes, I do."

"Well, Annebelle displayed the telltale symptoms that night."

"How so?"

"My jalopy backfired and she dropped to her stomach in an instant."

PTSD people all have different things that set us off. Mine is like Annebelle's where anything bearing resemblance to enemy fire will set me off, some cases ending tragically.

"I pretended to not notice, but she knew I saw. Mind you, boy, back then the connection between veterans and mental illness is nothing like today. In those times, we didn't see them as victims of a disorder but more like killers paying for their past."

"Is that how you saw Ann?"

"To me, Annebelle was a Valkyrie."

"A what?"

"A Valkyrie is an angel whose duty is to scour battlefields, retrieve the souls of valiant soldiers, and send them to Valhalla as a reward for their sacrifice. Annebelle's main priority was to quickly patch up injured soldiers amidst the fighting. But, she also had the task of undertaking, finding the dead on the field and burying them in camp. A Valkyrie is a beautiful creature of myth, someone to pray to when you're dying in the jungle or bleeding in the ruins of a city."

"Sir, I believe Annebelle is an angel right now. Perhaps God appointed her the same task."

"Son, I tell you what, I believe the Lord takes care of us after we die and Annie is in a place where the nightmares can't follow."

"But we digress."

"Of course. Anyway, Annebelle and I worked through her disorder until she felt confident enough to claim herself as integrated into society. Through the process, Ann finally gave me a chance as her part time lover and full time friend. The rest you already know: we married at exactly 40, had Annie in 1981, had Ingrid just 10 years ago. It's too bad that accident took Ol' Annie and Ingrid away, but at least you and my daughter are here with me."

I wanted English to know the truth: I killed his daughter Ingrid and his wife Annebelle. All the girls and English had come to the airport to offer me a ride home as I had recently arrived from my latest tour of duty. On the way back, a car backfired and I snapped. In one motion, I dove for the steering wheel and careened the SUV into an incoming semi. The tremendous truck rolled over the left side, crushing Annebelle Sr. and Ingrid. That truck swerved deeper into the wrong side, causing other vehicles to drive headlong into a growing pileup. The totaled SUV stood in the middle of traffic, hidden by a curtain of smoke, and two panicked drivers pummeled the right side. English's rib cage shattered and bits of bone pierced his heart and lungs, permanently and mortally wounding him. My Annie was pinned in the back seat right next to her dead sister, which is where her PTSD started. I, ironically, emerged the least injured even though I had removed my seatbelt when I dove for the wheel. And now, here I am, creating the biography of my father in law. Why? Because it's the least I could do for him: immortalize his legacy in writing. I knew I had done enough to destroy him and his family. English had gone asleep now. His Vicodin must have kicked in and knocked him out cold. The narcotic was the doctors' idea; they wanted English to have a painless descend into death. I would've preferred them to put him to sleep forever but assisted suicide is now illegal. A nurse came in to shoo me out and into the abnormally clean hall. The harsh lights were suns compared to English's bed light. My footsteps echoed in the halls in such a depressing manner. And why not? Hell, death was all around me: my wife nearly died as well as I; Ingrid and Annebelle passed away because of me and the sick thing is they aren't the first people I've killed. The last person I'll kill is myself. Just kidding. English had one more day before his heart gave out; I had an excellent idea to send him off to his afterlife.

...

"I'm numb, son."

"I know. You're body has had enough. It wants to quit. It wants you to quit."

"I'm not a quitter, boy, you know that."

I edge closer to English as his voice slowed to a hoarse whisper, "Lemme tell you I appreciate you. I couldn't have asked for a better man, a more fitting man, to marry my first daughter. My only regret is not having a son to carry my name."

I choke briefly trying to hold back tears, "Don't say stuff like tha-at."

"No, boy, it's true. I wouldn't have replaced my two daughters; I would've tried to sire a son until I got one. But you know how Ol' Annie couldn't because of her age."

"Hmm. Ol' Annie."

"Yep, boy."

"She's a saint. She delivered the two women that made us the happiest."

English had slumped in his bed, and I could tell he just didn't have the strength anymore to sit up correctly; seeing him slowly disintegrate before me was too much.

"You miss her something fierce, huh?"

"Yes, boy, my time has come and I want Annebelle to personally fly down and whisk me away."

"Annebelle only takes brave warriors."

"I'm pretty brave. Remember that rattlesnake I killed?"

"Yeah, but with your truck! Oh, and on accident! Ingrid heard the crack and told you."

English laughed a very lively laugh, one completely opposite of his physical condition. This only reinforced my belief that the human spirit is strong and underestimated.

"I'm ready to go, son."

"I was hoping you'd never say that."

"No, boy, my time is upon me; I can feel it."

"But at least let Annebelle take you away," I opened the door and my Annie entered the warm, dark room wearing a blue skirt and blouse, both displaying yellow polka dots and frills. She kneeled at his side, took his calloused hands with her small, delicate ones, and began muttering beneath her breath, praying I presume.

English whispered, "Don't pray for the dying, sweetheart. Pray for the living because they are the ones who need help."


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