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The last meal we ever ate together was ice cream. I remember because she had been chewing Clorets to hide the vodka and then we spooned the high-fat French Vanilla into our mouths. And when they finally left us alone for a minute, we kissed. I was 21 and she was 46 and we didn’t mind. It goes without saying the sex was often amazing. To this day I remember that she hated her middle name and I can still picture the permanent curl of her baby finger which her brother had slammed in a door at a cottage near Perth. I never met her brother or any other member of her family but I was there when they told her they’d have to amputate her leg. I was there when she looked out the hospital window and said, “Well, that’s the end of my Morris dancing, then.” And then she sobbed out a laugh that made the nurse turn away. “Poor you,” she said to me. “Here for the bitter old end.” She fished a key from her purse and sent me to her fourth-floor apartment on Avenue Road. Take whatever you like before the sharks smell the blood in the bathwater. I had wanted to save our ice cream feast for after the operation. An enticement to survival. French Vanilla where the lame gift of my young love did no apparent good. It felt like bad luck that she wanted it before going into surgery. And it was the first time I had ever seen a refusal to fight in a woman’s eyes. We ate from the same small paper bucket and then they wheeled her backwards away from me, back through the double doors. I sat for three hours in the waiting room with the plastic ice cream spoon parked between my teeth, hunting for traces with my tongue. Please change your mind. Waited and put off going out into the barking cold afternoon storm. No one would come get me to tell me she was gone. It was before they had to acknowledge that the last person who kissed your mouth might be family. It took me seven hours to get all the empty bottles out of her apartment but I wanted them to feel how wrong they had been to never once return her calls.

 

Marnie Woodrow  is the author of the novels Heyday and Spelling Mississippi. She is a full time freelance editor in Hamilton, ON.

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