The hospital room is still, so still, even with the door to the corridor open and nurses hurrying past. It’s like there’s maybe a cocoon around us, Esther and me, like there’s no one else in the world…like there’s no other world except for this one.
She sleeps. That’s all she does now, all she ever does. She never moves. Even her chest hardly moves anymore, she’s so thin. Like a skeleton in a hospital gown, she is. Like she has already left me. Like she is already dead.
Such a hard word. So…so final.
If I squint just right, she isn’t an old lady on her deathbed anymore. She’s fifteen. We’re both fifteen. We’re waiting at the streetcar stop and we’re so excited about the future that we’re dancing. Dancing!
What happened to us, Esther? What happened to the dreams? What happened to Esther Finkel and Sarah Shumacher? To Sara-without-an-h Schumacher? We were going to do such great things. To be such great things. Nothing could stop us. That’s what we said. That’s what we believed. That’s what we promised. And now…nothing. Less than nothing. Here we are in the future and it’s too late for you and it’s too late for me.
Esther stirs. Her eyelids flutter…open. She squeezes my hand. Not strong but for her, strong. Strong for someone who isn’t going to see another day. You can tell. I can tell.
She squeezes again, harder.
She tries to speak. All that comes out is a wheezy breath.
I lean in, my ear so close to her mouth that I can feel it move against my skin.
“Do you know what she said?”
“She said, ‘It’s not too late, Sara-without-an-h. It’s never too late.’ Then her eyes closed and she never spoke again.
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