She laughed until she was gasping for air and wiping her eyes. Doubled over, she grabbed the back of the park bench to help her sit before she lost her balance. She looked up, her twinkling eyes still wet, and tried to talk, but couldn’t.
“I’m telling you the truth. He actually did that.”
The laughter began again.
“Stop!” she breathed, “I feel like I’ve done a hundred sit-ups already.”
He sat beside her then and pulled her into his arms.
“I love your laugh,” he murmured into her hair.
“Oh now you’re just making excuses for my nearly wetting my pants.”
“Even if,” he said, “Even then it would be small payment for the sound of your laugh. I could listen to that music every day of my life.”
A small smile crossed his lips as he remembered. Then the steady rhythm of the heart monitor pulled him back to the present. She lay there under the white blankets, as still as the dawn on their first day of married life, as soft as her whispers each night before they both drifted to sleep.
“Don’t go,” he choked, “Don’t leave me. I’ll tell you a million funny stories every single day if you’ll just stay.”
The heart monitor quickened, then settled again to its rhythmic pace.
He wandered over to the closet where only her bare essentials were. How did life distill to a few things in a plastic bag? He pulled out her purse and rummaged through it. Lipstick, a comb, her billfold. He opened it. Ten dollars, her license with the picture she hated, two credit cards. There. There was a slip of paper folded and refolded. He pulled it out. Her handwriting danced across a page that held only the faintest scent of her. He held it up to his nose and inhaled deeply. Then he read: Dearest, This is in case I don’t make it. Maybe sometime soon, I’ll be rummaging through my things and find this note and we can both have a laugh over my dramatics. But even if . . . even then I want you to know I love the way you make me laugh, so don’t cry too much. It’ll make your nose red. On the hard days, just listen until you hear something that reminds you of the good times. Of my love. And, if you insist, my laugh. Someone said: “Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”
The rhythm slowed, and he hurried to her bed and grabbed her hand.
“Thank you,” he said.
And all sound stopped except the echo of her laughter.
Quote: attributed to William Penn, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or R.W. Raymond; I’ll Be Seeing You: Words by Irving Kahal and Music by Sammy Fain, 1938, Sung here by Frank Sinatra