It all came on so fast. Who could have expected it?
It’s nothing, you say, it’s probably fine.
The small hot knot in the lower belly, the discomfort, the fever. The indignations of advancing years include a drying of the skin, a tightening of the joints, the slowing of digestion as your prana fades to a low ember.
It’s nothing, you say, it’s probably fine. With thin hands you roll the edges of the thermal blanket, over and over again. The nights are cold in that palazzo. At some point you become delirious and call for your nurse. She comes in and lays a cool hand on your neck. Her skin is not dry. Her joints are not tight.
You hear her belly growl low like a hungry hound, right by your ear.
You are hungry, you tell her. But your face will not form a reprimand.
La febbre, she whispers. I am calling the doctor.
It’s nothing, you repeat, it’s probably fine.
You miss your mother. She crossed years ago. You still talk to her in your dreams. You hope she sees you now. You feel her presence.
The nurse calls emergency medical services. The personnel arrive quickly, clad in orange jumpsuits, wearing masks and goggles and blue gloves for protection.
NPIs, you say softly. I don’t blame you. We all have to do what we can in these times.
You were always so practical.
The attendants carefully lift you and place you on a gurney. Strap you in for safety and wheel you through your apartment, the one you and Matteo bought decades ago. Past every room. The hot knot in your stomach throbs and you know this was the last time you’ll see these rooms. The library, full of books, a frescoed ceiling, a glass case of Greek and Roman artifacts you loved to hold and turn in your palms. The tiled courtyard with its wooden cabinets of onions and garlic and oranges, the galley kitchen and your espresso machine, the sugar in the crockery jar.
Never pastry, always fruit, you remember your mother saying. Never eat pastry with your espresso. Always eat fruit and you’ll live to be a hundred. The dirty red tazza you love, Go Get ‘Em in sprawling gilt script across its smooth surface.
Go get ‘em, you smile to yourself. Oh the irony. This is it. Your knees, weak and cold. Your ankles turned out. The medical staff put another blanket on you for the four-block ride to the central hospital.
Out the door and into the ambulance, the siren blaring. You know these people. They’ve been taking care of you for years. They know you by name. Tsking, their faces grave, they drive the bouncing ambulance over the flagstones to the admitting side of Santa Maria Novella. Urgenze. Molto urgente.
You slip in and out of reality. The hot knot now melting down. The parts of your body don’t seem to fit together anymore. Legs drift from hips, arms unhook from shoulders. Fingers and palms no longer flex. Your head seems to roll away from your neck. It was all very strange. So unexpected. Nothing had prepared you for this. An unattached hand continues to grasp the blanket like a memory. The hospital is loud. Your mouth is dry. Minutes stop meaning. No window, no day, no night.
The roar of the next life shushes and foams over the weir. Just like the cascade at San Niccolò, at Santa Rosa, where the clean cold water sheets over the rocks and lands many lengths below in a pool of churning foam. You can hear it as you drift toward it. You don’t even try to stop or turn around. This is surrender. It’s not up to you anymore. You’re leaving this body and this world behind.
The pain recedes when the body is shed. What lightness! No more concern about the composite parts that drifted away from each other, the errant arms and legs, the unhooked arms and head. The spiral of a hidden staircase. Welcoming visions everywhere. A fountain whispers, a turret smiles. A garden greets you with its hands.
*Final sentences culled from ad copy found on Memo Perfumes, ever a source of inspiration.