When I see Mabel, a shiver runs up my spine. I’ve tried to prepare myself for seeing her like this – still and silent in a white bed. The room is scrupulously clean and smells faintly of disinfectant. The constant ‘blips’ of the cardiac monitor cut through the air. A vase of dead flowers sit beside her on the bedside table. The cold air has nothing to do with the goose bumps rising on my skin. Mabel deserves better than this little pity party. I look around at the solemn faces around me. I don’t want them here. They never cared about Mabel. They never knew her like I did. I recognise most of them – though I haven’t seen them in years. I suppose it’s been years since I’ve seen Mabel too. It doesn’t feel like years, though. It feels like hours.
I remember the first day she walked in, her blonde hair perfectly straight. We were a bunch of no-hopers back then. No future, no life ahead of us and we didn’t even care. Mabel wasn’t like us. I remember how nervous she looked, walking into her first class. She needn’t have been. She was twice as smart as the rest of us put together. That was clear from the start. At first I’d resented her for that. But it became clear that she wasn’t planning to boast or show off. She had wanted to hide in the shadows and just fit in. I smile sadly. ‘That,’ I think to myself. ‘She definitely failed at.’
I remember once we were closer, the guilt I felt for my initial resent. She was so innocent. She had never for a second, considered trying to hurt someone’s feelings. Soon we were working together on that old car. I remember how surprised I was that someone like her could have such skill in such work. I had always been told of my skill in mechanics yet somehow Mabel knew how to fix the car I never could. I remember the way the orangey light of the sunrise would creep across the garage and light up Mabel’s grease smudged face. Then she would sneak out the back way and leave me smiling in wonder.
I remember that terrible night when it had all gone wrong. The angry words that were exchanged that night still echo in my head. I remember the way the tears glittered in her eyes and the way she stormed out crying. That night still leaves a lump in my throat when I think about it. But looking at her now, I’m thinking of those good memories. Tears well up in my eyes and I bite my lip. I close my eyes and squeeze her hand as I try not to let myself think the question that’s trying to force its way into my mind. I remember this all so perfectly. But they tell me the stroke has affected her memory. What if she never remembers me?