Jay, her partner, walked into the bathroom and grabbed her toothbrush. In the glow of the candle light Nana thought she looked liked an angel, ethereal almost. Like she was dreaming her. Nana watched as this figure looked over at the tub trying to locate her under all those bubbles. She lay still.
Tonight Nana had decided to do it. She was tired of living and hustling and was ready to meet her Maker or the Grim Reaper or St. Peter or whoever would be on the other side. Come to think of it, perhaps there would be no one waiting for her on the other side because “cause of death” would be determined as not worthy of celebration. She would be arriving in the end as a failed attempt at life. She imagined she’d say, “Yeah you gave me a body, lots of friends who cared, talents, and loving partners at different times in my life but I still killed myself; I know I failed, but can you just left me in? I don’t like standing out here in this liminal space. I did plenty of that in life.”
“Babe?” Jay’s voice interrupted her conversation with the guards of the afterlife. She sunk lower into the tub, the bubbles now caressing the tip of her nose, just waiting for her command.
Jay returned to brushing her teeth. Nana continued her slow exit into the world she had only heard legends about. She thought her stone or urn would say: “failed to stand up to the vicissitudes of life.” There’d be “daughter” but no “wife” or “mother” after that. Shit! There’d be ellipsis where those other titles “should” be. Well, it could say “perpetual student, loyal friend, avid writer, and fierce lover.” But would people believe that? Were those real accomplishments?
Babe? Jay’s voice interrupted her thoughts again. Nana lay still, suddenly afraid to let the bubbles invade her orifices. She hoped Jay would just rinse and leave the bathroom. Jay knew she was talking a solo tub bath and needed some quiet. Earlier, Nana had declined Jay’s suggestive offer to join her in this bubble ride. “Just rinse and go away!” She mouthed beneath the water.
Babe? Jay said again, his time her voice a tad bit louder, almost bordering on shrill. Nana sank deeper, causing the soap bubbles to move. Still she held her breath, mouth tightly closed, eyes squeezed shut.
“Whew!” Jay exhaled. “For a second, I thought something had happened to you in there! Why don’t you come out? I’ll rinse you off, towel you dry, and coat your body in shea butter. Would you like that?” Jay’s words entered the water as muffled sounds above her.
Nana had held her breath long enough. She sighed and let go of controlling her orifices. Soapy water and massive bubbles flooded her nose, mouth, and ears. She wondered how long it would take for her to actually drown. She lay there willing it to be a painless and brief journey of crossing over. She refused to struggle.
“Oh my god!” Jay’s now shrill voice floated above the water. Nana closed her eyes and willed the process to speed up. She felt a tug on her arms, then Jay’s strong arms scooping her up out of the water. Jay dragged Nana’s almost lifeless body onto the bathroom floor. Nana felt the plush rug welcome her body. Somewhere in what was left of her spirit she saw a feebly flickering wish to live, to remain a part of the living world. To perhaps give herself the chance to earn those other titles if she wanted. Jay began crying softly as she tried to pump Nana’s upper stomach. Cradling Nana’s head in her lap, Jay knew it was too late. That Nana had finally succeeded. Her attempts to save Nana from the grasp of the illness had proved futile.
“I wish I had tried harder, made sure you took all your meds every day.” Jay spoke softly to the body of her lover, rocking her.
“I wish we hadn’t fought as much about the petty things. I wish I had known how long I had you for. Maybe I would have tried harder. I love you; I’m sorry I failed you!” The last one came out sounding like a plea.
“You haven’t failed me!” Nana said weakly through the cough that tickled her throat at that very moment and rescued her. She threw up, continuing to cough as the bubbles gathered around them.
Jay smiled through her tears whispering prayers to the gods who had given her a second chance with her lover.
Meanwhile Nana cursed in her head, “Another botched job!”