I felt suddenly overwhelmed by tiredness. I tried to stave it off, as I knew, from my last into art experiences, what would happen next—and I was quite enjoying my exchange with young Pinkie.
But a blackness consumed me.
When I finally opened my eyes, after what seemed an otherworldly amount of time, I expected to see Eddie the bartender in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
So I took my time to open them after regaining consciousness, following a black-to-white swirling—and was surprised to find myself sitting in a stuffed chair, my feet propped up on an ottoman facing a window.
The aroma of spring greeted me.
Slowly, I plopped my feet on the ground and elbowed myself upward. I turned to see a bed—a figure lying beneath its covers, and, as I drew closer, I could see it was dear, sweet... Pinky.
Gone, the rosy complexion. Replaced by a pallid, sickly countenance. Her eyes were closed.
“Pinky?” I hoarsely whispered.
She erupted into a severe coughing fit, gasping for air, which sounded like a whoop as she inhaled.
“Pinky, what’s wrong?”
She needed to rest after a full minute of coughing, but finally she opened her eyes. They lacked the vibrancy and focus of whence we’d met on Richmond Hill.
“I’m unwell,” she said. “My brother…” she spoke with difficulty. “I caught what he had.” An expression of alarm came over her face. “You mustn’t come near.”
“It’s all right.” I noticed a jug and an empty glass upon the bedside table. “Would you like some water?”
Even in sickness, Pinky’s expressiveness was profound. She could have been an actress. I poured half-a-glass and propped her head onto a pair of soft pillows.
She sipped yet immediately launched into another coughing fit. Then as she lay flat, a tiny tear welled in her left eye and dribbled onto her cheek. “I miss Jamaica. If only I’d never left.” She looked me directly in the eye. “Do you think I’ll ever see it again?”
Her right arm now rested over the cover. I took her hand, cold and clammy, held it between both of mine. “Of course.” My own eyes welled up. “I should have taken you home to Jamaica when we first met, and you wouldn’t be here now.” I looked around. “Why is no one taking care of you?”
“A doctor was here—a very grumpy doctor. He announced that I am infectious and he ordered my brothers to leave. No one must come near.” She shook her head. “You mustn’t either.”
I shook my own head. “I’m staying.”
“I don’t feel I will survive.”
“Of course you will. You have to, Pinkie! You have your whole life ahead of you!”
She shook her head then, wearily, opened her eyes. It seemed to take some effort to shift them from the ceiling to me. “Please hold me.”
I leaned in nearer and placed my hands on her shoulders and lowered my head to gently kiss her forehead.
Pinkie seemed to have trouble breathing. She began to whisper something.
I turned my head so that my ear was but a couple inches from her lips.
“I’m going,” she said. “I’m going now…”
“Please don’t go, Pinkie,” I sobbed. “Please… please… please don’t die. I love you. Please don’t go, Pinkie…”
And then blackness—like death itself.
Twirling and swirling—swirling and twirling.
I twirled and swirled from stark black to shades of gray, dark to light and cream to white.