Juan takes my hand and places it between his cool, shaking palms. He looks me in the eye and says, "It’s the end days of my life.” The old man’s breathing is labored and shallow. “You and me, we are the Godless. They say their prayers for our innocent victims. The virtuous… they pray as if their God disavows my prayers. They think my prayers never reach the divine ear.” He coughs and grips my hand tighter. “Does the creator of the world only listen to the prayers of the good?”
“I don’t know,” I reply.
Juan’s eyes open wider as he speaks. “I hope not. Because I'm preparing to leave here now, my friend. I want to be free of this, all of this.” He pulls my hand closer, and I lean in, his voice a hoarse whisper. “We need to retell the stories. We need to.” He coughs again, and I look for a glass of water, but his cup is empty. “You talk,” he continues. “I’m too weak, but I need to atone. I need you to forgive me, for then I will know there was at least one... Then I'll know that the sins of this life were not truly unforgivable. My confession. Will you, my friend… Richie?”
With those words, Juan's head tilts off to the side. No one has called me Richie in years. It is good and strange to hear. I am not sure if he has fallen asleep or fallen dead. I touch his face; it’s still warm and alive. He looks at me with very tired eyes, but eyes that do not want to be left alone with these thoughts.
I look at my watch; it’s only two in the afternoon. First Vinny and now Juan Carlos, like ghosts from a distant and forbidden past, coming back to haunt me now. I look at my watch again and say, “Let me get you some water. Yes, Juan Carlos, let us live those stories again, one last time together.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish