The nurse left work at five o’clock. And as she walked she thought of what he’d said.
“I never walked a silver line or ran a race or fished. No woman in a nice red dress ever asked me for a light. There was nothin’ in my life like what I saw in the movies.”
Mr. Ralph was kindly and old. Older than God. He sat up on the side of the bed against the wishes of his doctor. He tried to roll his own cigarettes under the covers leaning conspicuously to the right of the bed toward the light of the window that looked out over a rather sad alley, the dust coming up when the rains were late or did not come at all. She knew what he was doing, but she didn’t have the heart to take the tobacco away. She waited instead for the night nurse to discover the curly brown threads decorating his top sheet. He often fell asleep mid role, his ancient fingers letting go, the cylinder dropping before he had the chance to put his dry tongue to the paper.
Mr. Ralph must have seen a lot of movies. He talked about them all the time. He talked about the ladies and the nice ‘mans’ and the worn velvet seats where he and his brother sat on Saturday afternoons and Wednesday afternoons.
Once she brought him a collection of DVDs from the library- Rudolph Valentino’s painted eyes gracing the cover. Mr. Ralph sat for a long while looking at the box and, when he raised his face to her, he said, “I never saw a sea of sand or drank a glass of fancy wine. But Rudy danced with girls in satin dresses, he did.”
So, she asked him, “Mr. Ralph, if you didn’t do any of those things, tell me what you did do, sir?”
He closed his eyes and smiled a little smile. He did not speak.
The highway outside of town ran east to west and invited very few to stop off. There wasn’t a museum or a concert hall. Folks had to go to the bigger towns up north for those things. She passed the same places every single day to and from the hospital- the primary school and two churches, one protestant and the other grander, Catholic one and a small, more expensive grocer before she got to the supermarket where her days usually ended.
On that particular night on the way home she stopped off to pick up a roast chicken which she ate in front of the evening news, then fell to sleep with a collection of Agatha Christie stories.
A collection of writing.