Upon Missing the Boat in Italy
Before bed, I gave Bea half a sleeping pill. Half was not enough. My mother is frantic.
“There’s a crowd of men, on a pier,” she explains breathlessly. “I have to help them. And Helen has disappeared. She was here a minute ago.”
“Helen’s dead,” I say gently. “You’re imagining things.”
“No. I recognized her coat,” Bea protests, quite sure. She extends a boney finger towards the ceiling. “They're right over there. See them?”
The scenario that is playing in her mind would be amusing if it were not 1:30 in the morning. Luckily we do not have any bed & breakfast guests tonight.
“I don’t. Time to sleep. Tell them to come back tomorrow.”
I return to my room, but it is impossible to tune out the low drone, which rises and falls in pitch, to finally crescendo into puffs of breath, calling my name …
On what must be my third visit, I shout: “These people are in your mind. They are hallucinations. There is no one here but you and me. I cannot have you waking me up this way …”
Bea’s red-rimmed eyes have become beacons that shine through the night. "But they will miss the boat ..."
Shaken-baby syndrome comes to mind. I want to shake this frail body and make it shut up but don’t, of course. Instead I place my hands on her cheeks.
“Quiet,” I order in a firm voice. “You have to stop this.”
Still the words fly out her mouth like butterflies: “The bride - the bride – she needs – her dress. It was – right here. I have to – get out of – bed and – help her – find it. I know you want me to be quiet but I cannot. I’ll whisper. How’s that? I’ll whisper. Those men – in black – need my help …”
Desperate for sleep, I administer the second half of the sleeping pill.