Today I visited the doctor. She was warm-hearted and optimistic when she delivered to me the despondent news that I had about a month to live. I heard the news alone in the hospital; a fitting place to receive news about one’s death. I drove home in silence, opened my door, rushed to my room and lay on the bed that I hope to die on. What shall I do now? Maybe I’ll do those things I was too scared to do. I know what I’ll do, for the next week I’ll do what I normally do then the week after perhaps the awful news about my coming death will have sunk into my dying heart.
Its 7.00 pm, the usual time I have dinner. Tonight I’ll go out and buy MacDonald. I thought I’ll treat myself and eat with other people. I normally eat alone in front of my laptop and scrutinize the news. There is nothing good in watching the news, it was always sad but watching it makes me contented. It was my way of connecting with the world.
I walked outside. The street looked stranger than usual tonight but nothing had changed. The same chicken and chips shop was across the road and the usual customers were present waiting for their food. I wonder if they ever cooked maybe they would loose some weight but who am I to judge.
I passed by the petrol station heading towards McDonald's when I glimpse something I never saw before. There was by the bus-stop a young girl with very dark hair and pale face. She sat on the floor with a basket begging for money. She looked lost when I approached her and said hello. She seemed surprised and starred at me. I smiled and reached out my hands and introduced myself.
“Hello my name is Dan”.
There was no response so I introduced myself again. Still no response so I sat down right next to her and began to talk to her.
“You know, I went to the doctors this morning and guess what she said. She said I’m going to die. I only have a month to live. She was very optimistic about it but I’m very good at reading people’s eyes. You know people eye’s betray their true feelings if you notice it quick enough. Can I look in your eyes?”
“Who are you”
“I should ask you the same question. What’s a pretty girl like you doing out here. You know this is not the safest area. There are many dogs out here and their bites are pretty nasty. I used to hang
around with some of them - I still see them sometimes but not really as friends but as acquaintances. You know. People I went to school with. You are not from around here are you - where are you from?”
“What has life taught you then ?” She asked.
“You’re quick into the deep end aren’t you. You know what”
“I’ll tell you if you promise to come with me to McDonald's. I’ll buy you dinner and you don’t have to sleep outside tonight”.
“Are you doing all this because you are dying?”
“How do you know I’m not nice. I could have been nice all my life. I’m just extending my hospitality to you.”
“You would like me to sleep with you.”
“No no no not at all. Yes you can sleep at my place but not in that way. Its not my way. I’m just being kind.”
“No thank you I think I’ll pass.”
Her face still looked pale but her voice had a liveliness about it which made me forget my up-coming death. Her dark hair and unblinking eyes and once bright clothes were worn as if it was all she had. I mean she could get no new pair of eyes but she could surely get new clothes and wash her hair.
“Why don’t you come over and have a bath and change into some new clothes? I promise I’m not that type of guy”.
She shook her head and put her face towards her chest returning to the position I had noticed her in. I got the message. She wanted me gone and I went about my business but I didn’t forget her. I brought her a Mac chicken sandwich and chips with bbq sauce and tea and placed it right next to her.
“This is for you. And here is a drink too. I got you water and a hot drink because you know its cold out here.” She looked at me and said nothing. I smiled at her and then walked home. I opened my front door, placed my food on my kitchen table, opened my laptop to Aljazeerra news and ate alone.
The time was 9:30pm. I went outside to see if she was there. I took with me two of my favourite blankets to keep her warm. She was still there sitting in the same position with her legs crossed and her head pointing towards her chest.
“Here you go. These should keep you warm during the night. You know I live on number 7 of Themes street. You are more than welcome to come over at anytime and when you do I’ll have another tea ready for you. I see that you finished your chips and the bread but not the chicken. Are you vegetarian?”
“Good night stranger”.
I smiled and walked away back to my house. The kitchen lights were still on and I grabbed my laptop headed towards my room lying on the bed I wish to die on and to never wake again. I kept looking at the window worrying about this girl whom I just met. All I wanted to do was help her but I didn’t blame her for thinking that I just wanted to use her. I slept and woke up two hours later and she was still very much on my mind. I opened my door having slept in the same clothes I visited the doctors in and went to check on her. This time she was on her feet with two guys surrounding her almost harassing her and trying to touch her.
“Hey hey hey! Leave her alone.
I ran towards her and told the guys to walk away.
She looked at me with a pale expression. "I can handle myself".
“I’m not taking no for an answer this time. You are coming home with me.”
She offered no resistance and came with me. She picked up the blanket I had given her and wrapped herself in one dragging the other behind her. She walked with a swagger, limping from side to side. I thought it was cute.
“I like the way you walk you know - do you always walk like that?”
“You’re making fun of me. I thought you were the nice guy.”
She smiled at me for the first time. I returned the smile. I walked her to my house and opened the door for her.
“This is my house - not anything fancy but its ok for a guy like me. I keep it simple.”
“There’s hardly anything in this house. Does a ghost live here.”
“You’re the funny one aren’t you. A ghost will soon live here.” From her eyes, I detected she wanted no further conversation. I told her, she could sleep in the living room, and that tomorrow she could have my room for good, if she were fond of the idea. "Right now it's very dirty," I said.
“What about that tea you promised - did you forget?”
“I didn’t think you remembered.” - She glanced at my eyes quickly and went into the living room sitting like a stranger and she held my blankets around her. Her eyes surveyed the room, searching for details or clues that could reveal anything about me, this kind stranger, but there was none at all except a nice sunflower by the window sill and a big canvas picture of an Himalayan coconut tree.
“You like plants then?” She asked curiously.
“Not all of them. Flowers reminds me of the smile of nature. They remind me of you, you know. You kind of have the same smile.”
“Haha - don’t make laugh.”
“I hope I can.”
She rested on the sofa waiting for me to bring her the cup of tea.
“Sugar and milk” I shouted.
There was no response so I made it the way I like it when I drank tea.
“Here you go.”
She stared at me as if to say thank you. Yet, I noticed in her eyes that she was very tired and wanted to be left alone.
I only left her with the words that if you are to leave early please wake me up and say good bye - you don’t have to leave you know, you can stay here for a month if you like. I’ll look after you.
She stared at me again this time with a half smile and then returned to drink her tea. I watched her have the first sip and she gripped the cup to suggest she liked it. I departed from her.
I walked to my room to lie on the bed which I hope to die on. I slept this night with an unusual smile, with an unusual hope and dreamt an unusual dream. I thought for a little while before I closed my eyes how she was getting on, I wanted to check up on her but she might find it strange that I came to check on her if she was still awake. She might think me a pervert and it would only confirm all of her previous theory about me. I let her alone, besides she was old enough. How old is she, I’ll ask her tomorrow morning. She must not be much older than I am.
The church bell woke me up early at six. I find it satisfying to wake up to such a ring. My grandfather use to tell me that when he was very young he lived near a church and the bell woke him up every morning at six for prayer. I didn’t pray much but had a religious tone to my life. I did nothing out of the ordinary, nothing strange to make me a bad person. I tried to be good and nice, kind and smile but I was very much alone.
I ventured downstairs after laying my bed as I did every morning; the girl from last night still remained vivid in my mind. I avoided the living room. Surely she would still be asleep or perhaps she’s left. I made myself my morning tea, two sugars and milk and sat down with my laptop to watch the news.
It was now 8:00 am when I heard a soft spoken voice.
“Good morning stranger.”
“I see that you don’t remember my name.”
“It’s Dan, right?”
“And what is yours?”
“My name is not important, just call me stranger.”
“I like to know people by their names.”
“Then my name is stranger, ok Dan". - She said this with a smile which radiated the sunshine outside.
I’ve never felt like this towards anyone before. She makes me warm and full of love, she makes me feel like I want company and not to be alone.
“Ok stranger, since you hide your name from me, what would you like for breakfast? In fact I will cook us an English breakfast. I’m not much of a cook so you will have to excuse me for the poor quality.”
“Let me help you - I can cook.”
“You’re more friendly this morning - what has changed?”
I’ve still got the same hair, nose, and eyes. What’s change is my preconception of you. I can see that you are a genuine nice guy”. She said this with a comely smile.
“Not to feed my ego but what is it that changed your mind?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know.” - She was standing by the kitchen door leaning on the edges with my blanket still wrap around her wearing it as if it was love itself embracing her.
“You know that’s now how you fry a sausage - you don’t just throw everything in there together. When was the last time you cooked an English breakfast?” She said, after watching me fumble with the skillet".
“I’m not sure; years ago now I think. I normally just go to the Café down the street and order a take-way.”
“You are really useless in the kitchen. Before you poison me let me take over.”
I submitted to her wishes and I sat down watching her cook with a straightforward determination and purpose to the extent I believe to please me. I was fixated on her feminine frame, faultless. There was something about her, a mystery as she moved her hands to turn the sausages and fry the egg. I wanted to help her, I wanted to be and do something for her.
“Don’t be watching me now - I get nervous when people stare at me.”
“You know stranger you don’t have to be a stranger in this house. You can stay here for as long as you want. You don’t have to go - and if you do go where would you go?”
She paused for a little while and said - “no where.”
“You have no one to go back to? - is there nobody thinking about you?”
“They're but its not nice thoughts - I'd rather be away from them.” I could sense the pain and truth deep in her voice which made me curious to know more about her past. But I refrained from asking her and said,
“I’m thinking nice things about you, you know.”
“You won’t be the first.
“Not in that way stranger.”
She caught my eye searching them for truth and honesty. She asked in real sincerity, “What are you thinking about me?”
"I don’t know - I’m thinking of a happy ending for a stranger I’ve just met. I’m thinking your life doesn’t have to be this way.”
“Shouldn’t you be thinking that about your life?”
“Its better when someone else thinks for you - it makes it more real”.
“You have no one thinking about you?” - She asked me my own question.
I replied “Are you thinking about me?”
“Maybe - I’m done - where are the plates around here. I’ll dish us up.”
“Don’t worry about that I can do that. I won’t poison you I promise. If you want to take a shower you can - I think I have everything you need upstairs.”
“Do you have some girls clothes upstairs - (she laughed) if you do that would be weird.”
“It would be weird but I do have some girl clothes for you, which will fit actually. My sister is the same height as you but not as beautiful - only joking. You are both beautiful.”
“Won't she mind me wearing them?”
“Not at all She is away at the moment - She is in France studying and she took all the clothes that she cared about. I miss her very much. She is all I have left. She is thinking about me”.
“Have you told her?”
“About my death - no not yet. She is in the middle of her exams and she finishes next week. So I’ll tell her then so that she can take her exams with ease of mind. She can worry about me after that.”
We sat down on the table and ate in silence. She no longer had the appetite to talk. I perceived this was because she didn’t know what to say so I played with the silence. I would often gaze at her.
At last she broke the silence.
“I would like a shower?”
After she finished showering she came downstairs in my sisters clothes. My immediate impression was that she is beautiful. There was a loveliness and grace about her. She saw the look of wonder in my eyes and spoke.
“Thank you stranger.”
“What for?” I knew what she was thankful for but it is better sometimes to let people say it.
“For letting me sleep, shower and to wear your sisters clothes. Not many people would be so personal with a stranger.”
“We haven’t kissed” - I laughed
“I mean let them into their house and look after them. You really are nice.”
“I see that you truly believe that now. You look as if you are ready to go somewhere. Will you come back?”
She left without saying goodbye. She said I’ll see you later.
A week has now passed. My sister has finished her exam and I told her the news. I went to see the doctor again and she said that I could die any day. The disease had spread so rapidly that I was now at its mercy. There was nothing that they could do.
I didn’t really care if I died, I only cared for my sister’s feelings knowing that it will break her heart but life goes on and sooner or later she will get over it. I still thought about her, Stranger, hoping to see her again. I told my sister all about Stranger and made my sister promise me that if she ever came back to visit the house again that she would offer her a room in the house.
I guess I loved her because I haven’t been able to forget her.
My bell suddenly rang at 2pm in the afternoon. That was unusual. I walked in curiosity to answer it and thought that perhaps it was my sister but she wasn’t arriving until 3pm. It was her, the lovely stranger that I had fallen in love with.
“Hello Stranger” - I said with a great deal of happiness and joy.
“Hey Dan”. I could see in her eyes that she felt the same way.
“I see that you couldn’t stay away”.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself, kind-boy - so, I’m I invited in?”
I smiled and said only on one condition -
“You want to sleep with me don’t you” She burst out laughing
“You’re the funny one aren’t you.”
“Ok tell me the condition - I won’t interrupt.”
“That you would stay with me until my sister arrives. She is coming in an hour or so. I told her all about you”.
“My gosh I hope you left out the part about being homeless and included your philanthropic deed, how you left £100 in my jacket - thank you .”
“I told her you were funny and beautiful, that there was something about you which makes me smile and happy like She does - and of course I couldn’t help but tell her that yes you were homeless. It was pretty integral to the story if I was to make it believable. She asked if you had a name and I said yes, that you were called Stranger.”
I welcomed her in and it was in that moment when I was suddenly struck with a shock. I fell to my knees, dying and she knew it. She panicked and wanted to call an ambulance. I told her no that I wanted to die in my house and on my bed.
I lay on my bed happy and could see the lines of apprehension on her face.
“Why are you so sad for a stranger you met a week ago? In a week’s time you will forget me.” I coughed.
“You would be sad for me if it was me dying. Don’t die Dan - have some water”.
Her eyes were wet, her tear drops were filled with warmth and care as they dropped on my skin.
“You know when I first met you, there was something about you. Isn’t it funny that I should meet you now in the last hour of my life - I I…”
“Don’t say it ken - My name is Alexandra.”
At that moment my sister came rushing in calling my name and I in an unfit position to answer, Alexandra answered for me. I saw my sister, her concerned face moved me to tears and for her I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live to watch her as she soars the sky. I wanted to see her run in the field of life. Furthermore I wanted to live for the stranger, no, for Alexandra.
The only two things I really want to hold on to, I have to let go. I whispered with my last dying breath “I love you” and both knew that it was meant for them.