March 22, 2005

Dinner with Terri

I sat at the small bedside table, tastefully appointed with a chocoloate velvet tablecloth. A single setting of porceline china and a fine crystal wine glass were lit by the dimmed lights of the hospice room and a tall red candle on the table.

I suddenly realized my dinner guest had already arrived. Languidly lounging on the other side of the table was Terri. How gauche of me. I must work on my punctuality. Well, this is where she is stored. I guess my punctuality was a mute point. Ah, thank you.

Terri looked fantastic; she was all skin and bones. "Girlfriend, you've lost some weight!" I complimented as her head rolled to the right. I swirled a lovely burgundy on my tongue before accepting the bottle from Dolores, one of many of Terri's very expensive care staff.

"Terri. It's been too long. What have you been up to?" Terri's head rolled back to the left. "Oh, stop. I'm going to choke on my wine." Terri was always a cut-up. And indeed she was making a fashion statement tonight. Her simple flowered bed dress (at formal dinner nontheless) certainly upstaged my coture smoking jacket, leather pants and saffron shirt ensemble. Terri's knack for simplistic style was well known among our social circles.

I continued to chit-chat with her for several minutes. She'd gurgle or her eyes would roll. We discussed how hoochie Paris has gotten lately. How thin Mary Kate is. I assured Terri the (lack of) weight looks great on her, but not MK. I asked her if she's seen that new show where they swap wives. "Terri, you'd be such a hoot on that show! You should totally try out." Her head rolled to the right and she stared at me blankly.

Finally our dinner arrived. I had a medium-rare filet mignon with mustard, caper sauce; petite green beans sauteed in garlic butter; mashed sweet potatoes with a pecan-raisin chutney, and for dessert, chocolate mint mousse. And the bottle of wine was nearly gone by the third course. I savored every bite, practically singing with each gourmet morsel.

Terri was to have protein goo force-pumped down a tube, but she's not eating right now.

Terri is such a nut with her weirdo diets. Well finally the night came to an end. I was indeed more than a little tipsy and the flighty prattle of the early evening took a darker tone as the candle burned into nothing and the shadows in the corners of that tiny hospice room became deeper, more ominous.

It was then I could hear the zealous prayers from outside the building. I sensed the dark, ironic thoughts of those bearers of the "culture of life" promising death to those who dare oppose them.

And why are we so worked up over Terri's tragic situation? I saw visions of Hades, Nirvana, Heaven, Olympus and Limbo. I heard the murmurs of ancient mummification rituals; priests giving theirs lives to serve their kings for all eternity. Crowds cheered at public executions and the screams of young girls burned as witches filled my mind. Boyhood friends gasped at bootlegged snuff films, then rewound to watch the splatter over and over and over. We mourned, yet secretly relished, the visceral internet beheadings, and celebrity murders cover magazine racks as families buy their groceries; the chalk outline transcended to mundane, urban art. My eyes grew wide like the dilated eyes of a child watching that slow motion procession as the family car passes a highway tragedy. All the blood, broken glass and a child's shoe left among the twisted, still smoking wreckage. My eyes snapped shut and I heard a pleading woman's voice crying, "Humanity is a culture of death! Don't they see? Why don't they know?"

I inhaled sharply and opened my eyes. I had nodded off. Terri still lay there. Her head rolled to the left and she smiled blankly, peacefully, staring into the dark, sepulchral room. I wished Terri goodnight and folding my napkin across the table, quietly left to the muffled chorus of "God Bless America" from outside the window.

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