Story Saturday #3 // “Bedtime Stories”

I remember the day I met Adam. Five years ago. My grandfather died that year from a heart attack. He was in the hospital. It was raining that day.

My grandmother was nobody but herself when my grandfather died. She sat in a comfortable chair in the hall. Her back straight. Her face clear-cut. My aunt brought her tea and sugared waffles from the vending machine down the hall, but she would not accept anything. She sat in that chair, her hands neatly folded in her lap.

I did not want to sit next to her. She was so strong. So stern. I felt weak when I was near my grandmother and I wandered through the hospital wing. Back then, I did not know the yellow-colored halls. The wings were just empty wings and the massage chairs just massage chairs.

One of those chairs was taken that day. The left one. The right one remained empty. A boy was sitting in the one chair. He was white as milk and wore a light blue dressing gown.

“Are you lost?” he asked me. The boy smiled at me. “It’s quite a maze down here.”

He looked ill. There were bandages on his hands and bruises on his arms. “Are you lost?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “I belong here,” he says.

“Do you live here?”

“No.”

“Why are you here then?”

The boy smiled. His eyes radiated with such a light, it did not match his body. It was if he were still alive in his head, while his bones slowly fade. “I’m sick.”

“So is my grandfather,” I tell him. “I don’t think he’s going to get better.”

“You don’t know that,” the boy threw back. “He might get better.”

I wanted to believe him. For my grandmother. For myself. “What’s your name?”

“Adam. What’s yours?”

“Rose,” I said. “Rose Burton.”

“Rose…” he repeated. He leaned backwards into the massage chair and collected a coin from his pocket. “Here.” One euro shone between his fingers.

I mumbled: “I’m lost. Not poor.”

Adam rolled his eyes at me. “Here.” He pushed the coin into my hand. “10 minutes in that chair. You try it.”

Reluctantly, I climbed onto the soft, leather chair and flipped the coin into the slot. The chair came to life and massaged my back. I could feel it rotating between my shoulder blades and I cringed with discomfort.

Adam laughed when I saw my face. “Not a fan, huh?”

“Neh.” I thought for a moment. “Sorry?”

“You don’t have to apologize for that!” he chuckled, while pulling up his legs and embracing them. I smiled when it remembered me of myself. “What happened to your grandpa?”

“Heart attack,” I said. “Grandma said he just fell to the ground.”

“How’s she doing? Your grandma?”

My mother’s voice echoed through my brains. “She reminds me of someone,” I said.

“Who?”

“My grandma.” I smiled. “She makes me think of Queen Victoria.”

Adam’s eyes shone with curiosity. “The Queen Victoria?”

I nodded. “The one and only. She was so… strong. She was a real queen, you know. She lived and breathed for her kingdom. But she loved her husband, Albert. Maybe even more than she ever loved her kingdom. When he died, she broke. His death was the only thing that ever touched her.” I took a deep breath. In my mind, my mother told the story. She was sitting on the edge of my bed and told me the story of a queen long gone. “After Albert died, she wore black for forty years. Forty years did Victoria mourn for him.”

Adam was quiet. The buzzing of the massage chairs floated between us, like an invisible wall. I looked at him, through the wall, and watched how the words repeated themselves in his head. Like a tape. “Do you think it hurts?”

“What?”

I looked at Adam and saw his pale, light blue eyes. He would not lie to me. “Dying. Do you think it hurts?”

Adam sighed. “I don’t know. In any case, being sick hurts.”

“Are you very sick?”

He glanced at me. I thought he looked old and wise. And old soul smiling at me from behind blue eyes. For a moment, I saw someone who had seen the world. In a past life. “It’s not that bad. I’ll get better.”

I believed him. I believed him when he said the doctors could make him better again. I believed that the soul behind those blue eyes would have the body to bring him back to life. That he would have a life. That he would touch his dreams.

My grandfather lived in the hospital for another week before he died. I went back every single day, kissed him on the cheek and met Adam at the massage chairs. Every time I brought a story, a dream with me. I brought the most beautiful books with me, full with paintings and drawings we could help bring back to life.

Adam fell in love with the colors. He had only seen them this bright before he became sick. In the hospital everything was white, he said. Nothing surprised him anymore. Nothing sparked his imagination anymore. The paintings I brought him, fascinated him. I showed him Claude Monet’s waterlilies, Salvador Dalì’s strange fantasies and Gustav Klimt’s golden kiss. Time after time, Adam’s fingers danced along the pages. It was as if he could feel the colors beneath his fingers tips. As if he could take the colors with him.

My mother told me about Queen Victoria and her Albert. How she broke after he died. How much she loved him. My mother would press her lips against my forehead and whisper never to love someone that much.

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