He touches the glass cover gently. She smiles at him with her warm eyes that are forever frozen on the glossy paper. He took the picture in their last trip together. Her silver mane glows softly against the blue Tuscany sky.
The golden rays of the setting sun make her eyes glisten, as if saying to him, "I miss you, too, darling. Are you taking care of yourself? Have you eaten yet?"
Eaten? He tries to remember, but nothing comes to mind. He doesn't remember much these days. Days and nights seem to roll into one long silent movie, in it him the only actor. He doesn't feel hungry either. Food tastes bland and feels pointless nowadays. He lives for one goal: To be with his sweetie.
She continues from inside the frame and with the tone of a silver bell, “The time is almost here. Did you take care of the business like I reminded you last time, darling?”
“I did, sweetie. I can’t wait for the time to come. We will never be apart again.” He answers gently. His crinkled fingers trace her face like feathers. His eyes twinkle for a second over the thought of holding her once again.
The phone rings bluntly. He thinks it sounds like Jack, their son, so he decides not to get up from the couch.
"Dad? Are you there?" It's Julie, their daughter.
"It's time for dinner, dad, and don't forget your medication." She continues. So he hasn't had dinner. There’s a note in the kitchen somewhere telling him what medication to take after what meal. He’s tired of all the medications he has to take everyday.
"I'll call you later, dad." Julie hangs up with a little worry in her voice.
Julie comes by once a month to sort things out for him, and calls everyday to make sure he’s okay. She has a husband and three kids and her plate is really full.
Jack used to be a good kid. After his fall lately though, Jack and his wife Kate have been pushing him to move to the senior home. He knows what they want—the house, and the ease of their conscience. He doesn’t blame them. He doesn’t want to be a burden if he could help it. Jack calls once a week and each time he asks for a decision.
He doesn’t have one. Not one that Jack wanted to hear anyway.
He doesn’t want to tell him that the house goes to Julie, who has recently lost her job. Jack and Kate will just have to be understanding and make do with their two incomes. Hopefully his small savings will make them less resentful after he's gone.
He always had the mental image of growing old with his wife, but fate has a different plan for him.
“It’s better this way, sweetie. I know now.” He says lovingly to the smile in the picture frame. “It’s not much fun growing old alone. I hate to think this would be what you had to go through if I went first.”
All affairs are in order. He checks his letter to the kids and feels completely calm. I’m ready, sweetie. It’s been long enough. I want to be with you and it’s time. I have waited so long. I don’t want to spend another day without you.
* * *
The woman opens the door and yells, “Mr. Stafford , are you home? It’s Wednesday—the cleaning day.”
The house feels hollow and cold. She looks around and sees the framed picture on the couch. She picks it up and puts it back on the coffee table.
“Strange. I always thought the picture had only Mrs. Stafford in it…“ She shrugs to herself and proceeds to the kitchen, calling “Mr. Stafford?”
The elderly couple in the picture smiles silently and happily, their silhouette forever frozen in the frame.
(Artwork done by Emily Tai)