Hospice - by Denise Mostacci Sklar
the traffic lights turn red, all the way down Park Avenue. snowflakes are falling and taxi's pile up.
Black rubber boots step onto the thick wet snow, walk from the sidewalk to curb and a cab door swings open. Across the street is the Armory with its massive brick face of history taking up the entire block. The bus stop billboards flash slick photos of young men and women with their backs curved and bare. I step onto the slushy street and into her apartment building.
Elaine lies in bed. She is sleeping and her mouth is shaped into a perfect O. A quiet hum rises from the small machine blowing cool mist in her direction. Standing in the doorway, I wait as I watch the silver mist travel serpentine then disappears, sucked into the warm dry air.
she is resting lightly in her sheets and outside the day floats in a haze of whiteness.
All day family and friends slip in and out. Heavy glass doors lead into a lobby of mirror and marble greeted by welcoming doormen who move swiftly--the elevator, gold buttons, the soft pink hallway, apartment 3G with the door ajar. Visitors walk in to the entryway, then more slowly into the bedroom. There is a hospital bed and chairs around it. On the side table sits a small paper cup with a long straw tipped and balanced. From her bedroom window you can see the Armory.
She struggles to take a sip of the warm white liquid, “ I feel like a pancake,” she whispers to me. Her body is dead weight. Her feet are swollen and her skin is so thin with multiple shades of purple underneath. You cannot touch her with too much pressure or the skin will tear and her bruises will bleed through. I look out the window and notice that the snow has stopped and I think how lucky she is to have this view of the Armory. “Do you want the painting? Take the painting,” she tells me. Her finger points to the wall, to one of her older paintings. I see the rabbi’s back and he is standing in front of a thick stained glass window. He holds a prayer book. It is realistic and somber and not like her later abstracts that layer the canvas intricately with easy blotches of color.
she searches the room while somewhere a train is rocking and eyes are opening from a sleep.
It is late afternoon now and her bedroom has become more lively with visitors. They all marvel at the view and how smooth her face looks as it rests on the pillow. Her thin white hair is combed back like a straw halo. “Photos ? Tomorrow. No now.” We put a little lipstick on her, the color she remembered and it is the high point of her day. We all gather around her, smiling. The look in her eyes does not change, but her lips close, present and red.
Denise Mostacci Sklar has had a career as a dancer and now has had the good fortune to discover writing as another way to move through life. She also has the good fortune to study with poet/teacher Marc Olmsted. She has been published in numerous journals including the Aurorean, On the Rusk, Ibbetson Street Press, Wilderness House Literary Review, Gravel, Similar Peaks, Damfino, and Poesy. Denise is from Hamilton, Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two incredible sons.
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