He kept reaching for zinfandel that wasn’t there. These twilight years, these medicated days. He lived in a state-subsidized box, adorned with square window. When Ellen was alive, together they would sit by the window, watch rain hit the glass. She liked to drink zinfandel too, in their lives before, on weekend spring afternoons.
A glass of zinfandel on the ledge, next to the cold window. On the nightstand, near the TV Guide, pill bottles, pictures of Ellen. But that drink was a phantom. His brain fired that same impulse; it would not go away.
He resisted telling the nurses his condition, fearing their voices changing to high-pitched tones suitable for children. More medications, new diagnoses of mental deterioration. Murray down the hall, a widower for a decade, often had contraband Coors. He’d sneak in, pockets stashed with cans. They’d talk: old baseball games, shared acquaintances, restaurants and cinemas long gone.
Beer wasn’t the same as zinfandel: it brought back memories of lonely nights in smoky bars, years before Ellen. He’d arrive home, collapse in bed, reach for Ellen, who for him didn’t exist yet. Now some mornings he’d wake and feel drunk, even though he was sober.
On the best days, there would be Ellen, sitting at the bed’s edge, smiling, holding a glass of zinfandel.