Monday, August 28, 2006

“Me and the Boyfriend"

I slip two pills onto Bea’s tongue and reach for the glass of water.

“Dr. Millhoper?” she lisps through clenched teeth.


I watch her swallow the pills. Lately she has been spitting them out while my back was turned.

“What a name! How do you hop – mills!”

Seeing as Bea’s mind seems to be hopping, I ask her to sift back through the sands of memory to recall a tune from the 1920s.

“I found a little notebook of yours, with old songs. I wondered if you remembered. Want to try?”

Bea nods.

I then read,
“Me and the boyfriend
The boyfriend and me.
We stick together like ...” and stop.

“Sap to a tree,” says Bea, without hesitation.

“He’s like a diamond,
A little bit rough,
But …”

This time Bea sings the lyrics in a soft voice,
“When he’s there,
he’s there with his stuff.”

(Pretty good! The text she wrote down years ago indicates the line was “when he gets started,” but the meaning isn’t much different.)

ME: “We have our battles…”

BEA: “Like most sweethearts do.
But after the battle - oh, Gee!
We sit in the park
And get that kiss in the dark.
I mean the boyfriend, the boyfriend, the boyfriend and me!”

ME: “Good for you! Did you have a boyfriend back then?”

BEA: “I suppose so. I was certainly better looking back then than now.”

I proceed to read Bea a limerick someone wrote for her over 80 years ago, entitled Miss Chinnock:

“There was a young lady named bee
as pretty as one might ever see
but she gave us a glare
that ‘most grayed our hair
‘you can’t write notes,’ says she."

The author will remain a mystery, because Bea does not remember this homage at all.

I am busy applying lotion to her arms by now. The skin on her underarms feels like old leather, thick, flaking, desperately in need of lubrication. She protests that the lotion is too cold.

I find the lip balm and smear some on her mouth, also dry.

BEA: “Hey! What are you doing?”

ME: “Making your lips softer.”

BEA: “Not much point in that. Who am I going to kiss?”

ME: “Why, You can kiss me!”

I present my cheek and she dutifully plants a kiss …


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