Once in a Lifetime

We got back at 6:15 in the evening

after renewing our vows knee deep in a secret alpine lake cut 5,000 feet upwards of the Shasta base

you were busy telling me you wanted to return to this place every five years on our wedding anniversary

I was looking down at my watch to make sure we didn’t miss out on the ice cream parlor in town

which to my horror stayed open only 5 hours and closed up shop at 7 pm even on weekends

when you suddenly stopped talking midsentence

and pointed to the edge of the campground

where tucked behind the dumpster

was a pickup truck with its

driver’s side window ajar

a bloody arm spilling out

we hustled over

and peeked through the window

when we saw a man with his head on the steering wheel

he had long blonde hair and was

shirtless with a wound the size of a thin stick

running the course of the low part of his stomach

over which he’d tied a tank top

the man had clearly been assaulted and

he was very quickly shuffling out of this world,

and I didn’t know what else to do

so I called the paramedics

waving my phone in desperation when I suddenly found myself out of the service area

as I was hopping around and waving my arms to find just the right phone spot

you know, trying to save the man’s life

he motioned for you to come over and whispered something into your ear

you listened for a few minutes

smiling and laughing

fighting through tears

I thought it was all very sweet

eventually you put a finger over his lips

“Save your strength,”  you’d told him

Soon after, though he was gone and you looked awful.

Later after the paramedics had come and gone and your crying had ceased, I asked what he’d said to you,

figuring that he might have relayed the terrible circumstances that led to his tragic death and quite possibly given up his killer.

“who, the paramedic? Oh, oh — you mean Charles,” you responded, correcting yourself —

your eyes welling back up with water

“He told me so many things

that I was too skinny

that if I was his wife

he’d cook for me every night

fontina pork chops, mussels and saffron pilaf, and souffles for days

that he’d write poetry dedicated to my beauty which he’d recite over every meal we’d eat together

I’m kinda broken up about the whole thing, honestly,

I think we had something genuinely special. Like once in a lifetime, you know?”

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