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Gone. Out of this world. He could not fathom the words. Standing over the coffin, the old man struggled to hold on to his sanity. She was to be buried in the ground. Never would she look at him again with those loving eyes, or stroke the back of his neck just the right way. His stomach began to tie knots and his knees buckled. Everything went black.
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The air was stiff. All around, silence filled every corner. The feeling of loss hung in the atmosphere. Every inch of the dingy old apartment was covered in sorrow. From the countless clothes piled on the floor of the bedroom, to the food crusted pots and pans soaking in the sink of the kitchen. The entire space of the house was dark. Every light was shut off, as was his heart. Taking a closer look, his face could be seen. Wrinkled with age, his mouth was pulled down into a permanent frown. But it was his eyes that told the story. They were filled with grief, glazed over, not aware of what was in front of him. His mind was stuck in the past, filled with memories of being in love.

They had been married for fifty-two years this April. He was twenty-three and she was the ripe age of twenty. He could remember the first day he met her. Grace Rose Hansen. When he heard her name, it seemed to be the most beautiful three words ever spoken. Their wedding day was the best day of his life. He can still picture her face, so ecstatic and full of passion. He could smell her scent on her neck. She always smelled like fresh lavender. He still saw her round, kind face when he closed his eyes. The old man could hardly wait to go to bed, just so he could be with her. He just sat in his messy chair, clinging to the fibers, and waited for nighttime. When the light broke through the curtains, the old man frowned. He no longer enjoyed the daytime. Without her, life seemed meaningless. He went about simple tasks throughout his minute condo as if nothing was amiss.











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Another day had gone by, maybe even weeks. The old man wandered around the living room helplessly, without a real purpose. He could barely keep his eyes open while shuffling through the house. He needed to get some sleep but every time his head hit the pillow, he saw Grace. He saw her sleeping next to him in bed. It was nothing fancy. She was just sleeping. The old man treasured every inch of their fleeting time together. He pictured her face while she slept, her soft eyelids and purely smooth skin enlightening his senses. How can I live without this face, he thought drowsily. Then he suddenly made up his mind. He wouldn’t live without her.
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His eyes opened and he was alone. A knot began to tie in the pit of his stomach. Today was the last day. The old man eased out of bed into his slippers and trudged towards the kitchen. The fresh smell of coffee startled his senses and woke up his mind. He took his “Worlds Greatest Husband” mug and sat in his gigantic chair. How should I do it, he asked himself. Maybe he would simply pour some Draino into his coffee, and let it happen that way. He didn’t own a gun because Grace hated them. He could hang himself, or maybe let the oven do the job. While he was contemplating the taking of his life, a white blur came zooming into the living room. The old man could not focus on speeding object long enough to see what exactly it was. Suddenly it fell to the floor with a thud. All was still in the tiny living room. The once floating object was now a frozen, grounded dove. Staring at it lying on the carpet floor, he noticed it was depressingly beautiful. It lay limp on the carpet, its pure white body breathing shallow. The old man bended closer to the bird and figured out why the dove had come zooming into the condo. One of the bird’s wings was perfectly wide and full of feathers, but it was the other one that needed some work. The second wing was crumpled like a worn out piece of paper. The old man tenderly picked up the bird and brought it into the bedroom.

He found an old birdcage and placed the poor dove into it. He went into the kitchen and looked for something to feed the bird. All he had was some celery and trail mix. This will have to do, he thought. Maybe today won’t be my last day, the old man thought. He poked his finger through the cage and stroked the dove’s satin feathers. “You’ll be up and flying around in no time, don’t you worry little birdy.” He could feel the bird breathing in and out slowly. The bird’s eyes began to open, eyelids creeping apart. It was then that the old man gasped. The dove’s eyes were a bright sky blue, piercing through the bars of the metal cage. It startled his entire body and he walked out of the bedroom. He sat in his chair for hours upon hours, thinking about those eyes. It just couldn’t be. He drifted off into a deep sleep, dreaming of Grace and looking into her piercing blue eyes.

He was awakened to the sound of clanging in the bedroom. Jumping out of his chair, the old man raced into the next room. The clanging was coming from the dove banging against the cage, suffering to be freed. The old man hesitated towards the cage and poked his finger through the cage again. The bird immediately calmed down and rubbed its head onto his finger. He noticed all the food was gone. I’m surprised she ate all that, he mused. He went and got some more trail mix and slid it into the cage. The old man put his head in his hands and wiped the sweat away from his forehead. His head told him he was crazy for even thinking it, but deep in his heart he knew something different. He couldn’t let this bird go, not yet.

Days went by and the dove began to get restless. Even though the old man feed him all the time, it did not care. Whenever he placed the food into the tray, the bird would simply look at it and turn its head in disgust. Nothing pleased it. He had not felt this alive since before Grace had passed away. He wanted to feel like this forever. Opening the cage meant closing his new burst of life.

Walking into the bedroom, he opened the cage and wrapped his hands around the bird. He marched out of the bedroom and into the living room. Walking further, he shuffled towards the closed sliding glass door. The dove was struggling against his hands. The old man could feel it’s little heart beating quickly. It was terrified. He looked down at the bird and saw its eyes. He was strangling her. She was pleading for him to stop, but he just stood there staring. Finally, realizing what he was doing, he let go. She fell to the carpet floor. The old man adjusted his eyes and saw the helpless dove. Its feathered wings were perfectly intact, but it was the neck that was crumpled now. It lay frozen on the carpet ground, eyes closed. Those soft eyelids that the old man always looked for in his wife when he went to sleep.

He couldn’t let go.





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