As soon as Adam knelt by the shore of the pond, tears streaking his face, moisture soaked his jeans. Cold gripped his knees, and his fillings hummed in his mouth. The taste of salt wouldn’t leave his tongue. When Adam looked to the bank of trees across the water, though, through the dark and the half-gone leaves, he imagined he saw a hint of her, and his heart began to calm.
Drums upon drums upon drums, her name was.
And he was lost to the music of her.
Adam scrubbed a hand over his features, then through his thinning hair, wasting the action as well as the time. He knew he should get up and walk back the way he came—self-preservation singing a final warning in his ear, but he didn’t. He stayed and knelt and listened to the nightbirds. He knelt, and heard her, too, twined between their cries.
Abigail had loved the forest—the sun-warmed stones and the budding flowers dripping with nectar. The clusters of bees around their hives. She would watch a swarm for hours, sketchbook in hand, drawing thousands of tiny bodies threading through the honeycomb.
She sprang from her mother with clay under her fingernails and landscape paintings tattooed on her skin. With a dirty smock tied around the slim vine of her waist. Her words, not his. He was honestly surprised he still remembered them.
The erosion of a mind, especially one with dementia, was a patient act. Though, so were Abigail’s paintings. Her rendering of the umber ducks on their mantle was composed of a million brushstrokes.
Both were acts of love.
The goal of painting was to create something from nothing, and the erosion, he believed—he so needed to believe—was to save his mind the pain of those many somethings by becoming nothing. By blanking and going white. Pleasure at its apex, the forgetting of grief. And he was forgetting. More and more every day.
And Adam didn’t want to die not knowing her.
He took one final breath of the forest—the winter still clasped tight to the pine, and there was the fragrant soil at his feet, rich with worms, and, beneath it all, he thought, a perfuming echo of Abigail’s lemongrass and verbena—before slumping slow into the water to follow his late wife wherever her illness took her, creating no bigger splash than a smallmouth bass hunting midges on the surface of the starry water.
Jared Povanda is a writer, freelance editor, and avid reader from upstate New York. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Silver Needle Press, Sky Island Journal, Vestal Review, the anthology My Body, My Words (Big Table Publishing), and Tiferet Journal, among others. The winner of multiple literary awards, he also holds a B.A. from Ithaca College in Creative Writing.