And then I wonder, if it is a clean slate, what am I going to do with it?
“Well, what are you doing here?” I ask her. “Don’t hang out with your lame best friend. Go hang out with your thoughtful, romantic husband. I mean, he could be buying you cashmere and chocolate right now.”
“No, right now, I’d rather be here. I’d rather be with you. Besides, Mark said he had to go into work today. Said he’d be unavailable until late tonight. There were billing problems at work, I guess.”
“He doesn’t have an office manager or someone to do that stuff?”
Gabby thinks it over. “Well, no, he does,” she says. “But he says lately, he needs more time to look over their work. So what should we do today? Should I get us a book to read together? Are we watching Law & Order?”
I shake my head. “Nope. We’re going on an adventure,” I tell her.
“Where are we going?”
“Wherever we want,” I tell her, and I point to the wheelchair in the corner.
She brings it over, and I skooch myself closer to the edge of the bed.
“Can you pull the railing down?” I ask her. “It’s that button there, and then you just press down.”
She’s got it.
“Now, just move the wheelchair to the side, just to the . . . yeah.”
I swing my legs down off the bed.
“Sorry, one last thing. Can you just grab me around my waist? I can do this. I just need a little bit of help.”
She grabs me under my arms. “Ready?” she says.
“Yep!” I say, and at the same time Gabby lifts me, I push myself up.
It’s not graceful. It’s actually quite painful, very noisy, and I end up with my ass half hanging out of my gown, but I’m in the seat. I’m mobile.
“Can you . . .” I say, gesturing toward the half of my gown.
“Oh, right,” Gabby says, and she moves it as I try to lift myself just a little to get situated.
“Thanks,” I say. “Now, can you take my morphine bag and put it on my chair here?”
“Ready?” I ask her.
“Ready,” she says.
“Oh!” I say, right before I start to push. “Do you have dollar bills?”
“Yeah,” she says. “I think I have one or two. Why, are we going to a strip club?”
I laugh as she grabs her purse.
And then we are off.
I see Deanna in the hallway, and she tells me not to go too far. I lead us down the hallway and to the right, just as Henry led me the other day.
“Do you have a favorite movie?” I ask Gabby. If I had to guess, I’d say her favorite movie is When Harry Met Sally . . .
“When Harry Met Sally . . .” she says. “Why do you ask?”
“I don’t know what my favorite movie is,” I say.
“Why does that matter? Lots of people don’t have a favorite movie.”
“But, like, even for the purposes of the conversation, I can’t just pick one. I can’t just decide on a movie to say is my favorite.”
“I hope it isn’t news to you that you’re indecisive.”
I laugh. “Henry says that you don’t need the answer. You just need an answer.”
“Henry, Henry, Henry,” Gabby says, laughing at me. We come to an intersection in the hallway, and I veer left. I’m pretty sure the vending machines are to the left.
“Hardy-har-har, but I’m asking an honest question,” I tell her. I’m still pushing myself down the hall. I’ve still got the strength to keep going.
“What are you actually asking me?”
“Do you think it’s true that you don’t need the perfect answer but just, you know, an answer?”
“To your favorite movie, yes. But sometimes there is only one answer. So I don’t think this is a universal philosophy.”
“Like who you marry, for one. That’s the biggest example that comes to mind.”
“You think there is only one person for everyone?”
“You don’t?” The way she asks me this, it’s as if it has never occurred to her that I might not. I might as well have said, “You think we’re breathing oxygen?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “I know I did think that at one time. But . . . I’m not sure anymore.”
“Oh,” she says. “I guess I never considered the alternative. I just assumed, you know, God or fate or life or whatever you want to call it leads you to the person you were meant to be with.”
“That’s how you feel about Mark?”
“I think Mark is the person life led me to, yeah. He’s the only one for me. If I thought there was someone else better suited for me, why would I have married him? You know? I married him because he’s the one.”
“So he’s your soul mate?”
She thinks about it. “Yes? I mean, yeah. I guess you’d say that’s a soul mate.”
“What if you two end up getting divorced?”
“Why would you say a thing like that?”
“I’m just asking a hypothetical. If there is only one person for everyone, what happens when soul mates can’t make it work?”
“If you can’t make it work, you aren’t soul mates,” she tells me.
I hear her out. I get it. It makes sense. If you believe in fate, if you believe something is pushing you toward your destiny, that would include the person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with. I get it.
“But not cities,” I say.
“You don’t have to find the perfect city to live in. You just have to find one that will work.”
“Right,” she says.
“So I can just pick one and leave it at that,” I say. “I don’t have to test them all out until something clicks.”
She laughs. “No.”
“I think I’ve been jumping from place to place thinking that I’m supposed to find the perfect life for myself, that it’s out there somewhere and I have to find it. And it has to be just so. You know?”
“I know that you’ve always been searching for something, yeah,” Gabby says. “I always assumed you’d know it when you found it.”
“I don’t know, I’m starting to think maybe you just pick a place and stay there. You pick a career and do it. You pick a person and commit to him.”
“I think as long as you’re happy and you’re doing something good with your life, it really doesn’t matter whether you went out and found the perfect thing or you chose what you knew you could make work for you.”
“Doesn’t it scare you?” I ask her. “To think that you might have gone in the wrong direction? And missed the life you were destined for?”
Gabby thinks about it, taking my question seriously. “Not really,” she says.
“I don’t know. I guess because life’s short? And you just kind of have to get on with it.”
“So should I move to London or not?” I ask her.
She smiles. “Oh, I see where this is going. If you want to go to London, you should. But that’s as much as you’ll get from me. I don’t want you to go. I want you to stay here. It rains a lot there. You know, for what it’s worth.”
I laugh at her. “OK, fair enough. We have a bigger problem than London anyway.”
“We’re lost,” I say.
Gabby looks left and then right. She can see what I see. All the hallways look the same. We’re in no-man’s-land.
“We’re not near the vending machines?” she asks.
“Hell if I know,” I say. “I have no idea where we are.”
“OK,” she says, taking hold of my chair. “Let’s try to get ourselves out of this mess.”
Gabby insisted on going to work today. I tried to persuade her to stay home, not to put extra pressure on herself, but she said that the only way she could feel remotely normal was to go to work.