It Happened in Summer by Ron Chapman

“Mel. Mel. Melody. Wake up. Wake up!” Jo tapped Mel’s leg with an insistence that made her want to boot him out of bed and into next week. Then she remembered she loved him. 

“What the fuck, Jo? Damn. I was dreaming.” 

“What were you dreaming about.” 

“I don’t … I can’t remember. Damn.” 

“Sorry.” 

Mel rubbed her eyeball and turned onto her left side. “Mel, I think we’re dead.” 

Mel thought about it for a second. It wasn’t completely out of the question. She imagined the two of them as brains in jars sitting side by side on a shelf in some psychology professor’s office. Some Anna Deavere Smith looking woman who had spent a lifetime exploring the inner cosmos of neurons and biochemical interactions. Gravitas and dignity in all of her gestures. “You see this?” she would ask students who visited during office hours. “This is all that we are. And one day the jar will fall from the shelf, the glass will break, the liquid will seep out and soak into the carpet, and that will be that. So my advice to you is to take a deep breath, enjoy your life as much as you can, and stop wasting your time arguing about a point on a test when you could be spending it so much better by actually reading the textbook in the first place and filling yourself with useful information.” 

“We’re not dead, Jo.” 

“How do you know?” 

“You can’t dream when you’re dead.” 

“What?” 

“You can’t dream when you’re dead. And I was just dreaming.” 

“But you said you can’t remember what you were dreaming. Maybe you just think you were dreaming, but you actually just died and woke up in whatever comes next. Maybe that’s why you can’t remember.”

“Jo, I have work in the morning. For that reason alone I would love nothing more than for your theory to be correct, but just in case it isn’t I’m going back to sleep.” 

Joseph was silent, sitting up in bed staring into the somehow alien darkness of their bedroom. They had lived in this apartment for five years. He had seen this place with the lights off more times than he could count. In every season. Moonlight shining in from any number of angles. Streetlamps silent during the recent rolling blackouts or so bright he had to draw the curtains to sleep. But now it was uncanny. Eerie. Stale. 

He sat there in the stillness with Melody breathing in and out. The covers rising and falling beside him. He listened closely to the electric whine and hum that came from everywhere around him, and he felt certain and cold in his knowledge that there would be no more future. The darkness had eaten it up. The hum was an echo of all his human experience and everything he had ever known. It was even possible that the real Melody was actually still alive somewhere on the other side of all this humming and stillness, and that this woman resting beside him was just a figment of his imagination like a character from a dream. Either way, this moment, this place in time, this bed he shared or had shared with Melody was all that his brain could piece together to give him a semblance of life in the after life. This was all there was now. This was eternity. 

He decided that it wasn’t so bad, and he laid down, and he closed his eyes and he slept. And he slept. 

Melody awoke in darkness. At least an hour before her phone alarm would go off. She had to pee, but she didn’t feel like getting out of bed just yet. She wanted to savor the early morning darkness before dawn in bed with Joseph. These quiet, unworried moments were as precious as rare earth, and she meant to mine them for all they were worth and store them in her memories as a safeguard against the sadness that would come when he was gone.

It would be soon now. The doctors had said so. They had even stopped his treatments saying that the cure would kill him quicker than the disease at this point. There was nothing left to do but keep him comfortable, and say I love you. 

There were bills to pay, and she could not afford to stop going to work, but at the moment all of that was very far away. So before she had to mourn this man that she had spent so much of her life with, while there was still time, she meant to enjoy his presence. 

She smiled to herself, and turned over on her right side. Then she touched him, and she knew. Ice cold and too still, even in all this restless heat. His body was a glacier now. It had carved its path through life and finally come to rest beside her. Even so she tucked herself into him, and her tears wet his collarbone, and through the uneven breaths of her settling grief she said, “Goodbye.”

Ron Chapman is an actor and writer who believes in the power and necessity of storytelling. This is his first time being published anywhere on this planet and he is honored to be included in these pages.

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