by Lauri Fraser
I yelled for Neal, Evie’s boyfriend of 11 years. Thank God he was there. Evie, my wonderful friend and confidant. Neal had described these “episodes” as the doctor called them, on the phone once. They couldn’t call them anything else because they didn’t know what they were. She would get real hot and then she’d just disappear behind her eyes for a second. This was the fourth one, but this was mild compared to the others. She had been doing so well since the stroke, nearly a year and a half ago. Not so much like a bolt of lightning kind of a stroke, mind you, zapping her brain and her body. More like a little rubber band snapping and hitting her in the back of the neck kind of a stroke, and only for a second. It attacked her equilibrium a bit, but it didn’t slur her speech or affect her mentally. She was still a brilliant woman, and sharp as a tack. I felt so helpless. We were sitting across from each other, talking about life, as we always do, while her hair color was processing. The smell of pumpkin pie and turkey cooking filled the air. He was cooking especially for her. She was saying how the one thing she had a craving for was REAL ice cream, (here he’s cooking a special meal and she’s talking of ice cream) and I was telling her about my impressive twelve minute ice cream pie recipe and I will never forget that look on her face for as long as I live. I don’t do clients outside of the salon much anymore, but I do a cut and color for Evie, every month or so. I had just finished rinsing out the bottle and the brush and was going to help her up to get to the sink to rinse off the color when she said, “I feel weird.” I noticed beads of sweat forming on her upper lip. I said would you like a sip of your tea? “No.” Then all of a sudden her eyes slowly rolled to the right and her face folded into her neck as she slumped down in the chair. She had left her body. Her face was empty. That’s when I called out “Neal! Neal!” “Here we go, this is what I was talking about, and he caught her as she started to slide off the chair, while I grabbed a towel to try and stop the hair color from getting all over Neal’s shirt, his face, her face, God it was going everywhere. She couldn’t make it over to the sink, no way, so I started going back and forth, to the sink, rinsing the towel, wiping her hair, trying to remove what I could. I had to get it off. What if it got in her mouth and she swallowed it? The stuff is toxic. He kept saying,” Jules. Jules. .” His nickname for her. “Look at me. Jules- you okay?” No response. He held her and stroked her face. And me? I’m just a fly on the wall. A big fly, because they know I’m here, but they aren’t paying any attention to me. I was part of the scene, but not really. “Jules, you okay? I’m here Jules.” I’m witnessing this intimate moment between two people. So much love. I continued to wash off the color going back and forth to the sink while he held her head and talked to her. “Oh Hon. I’m right here, Jules?” She didn’t seem to have enough energy to say anything. All I can see is Love pouring from this guy thirteen years her junior, and still handsome as ever. I’m just being quiet. I see a few tears trickling down the side of his face. “I’m right here Jules. I’m right here.” I feel so helpless. I see her try, but she can’t say anything and you know she’s in there but she can’t muster up the energy to talk, and with all the pills they have got her on, she’s up in weight and not quite herself, but there he was, adoring her, caring for her, loving her back to health the best he knew how. I glanced back from the sink and saw her little hand wrap around his neck as she took a breath for strength and managed a determined, ”I’m all right.” “Oh Jules Do you want to throw up?" He reached around and grabbled a pot that was on the counter. He didn’t care about the vomit, or the extra weight gain, or how she looked, all he saw was his beautiful Evie. “Do you want to go and lie down?” "Yes. I want to lie down." “He lifted her from the chair, ever so carefully, never taking his eyes off of her, and slowly walked her into the living room to the couch, all the while I’m stuffing her half rinsed hair under a rubber cap. He’s stroking her face as she lay there. “Oh Jules.” I stood there, wanting to do something to make it all better, but what? I was helpless.
I gathered my things and took the Trader Joes gift certificate (our exchange, for doing her hair) along with a little black box with silver earrings she had given me. The fruit of one of her favorite pass times, The Home Shopping channel, and said good-bye. By this time he was asking her to name sports teams to ensure that she was okay. He’d say “San Diego…” and she’d say “Chargers.” “Pittsburg…” “Steelers” “Okay Jules Who’s Chicago Jules?” “ The Bulls” “The Bulls Jules. It’s the Bulls!” He said it as though that was the key word that meant she was going to be okay. I stood there for a moment. He looked up at me with tear soaked cheeks and said “She’s gonna go to sleep and she’s gonna sleep for hours and when she wakes up she’s gonna ask me what’s for dinner, like nothing happened. And the doctors say that when this happens to make sure she’s comfortable and let her sleep. They don’t know what’s wrong.
I let myself out and drove away, feeling numb and helpless. But then I realized how lucky Evie was. How blessed. Not blessed that she had that condition, but lucky to be so close to someone, to have someone in her life who cared so much about her that he could literally love her back to health, over and over again. It was like she went into Samadhi, the enlightened state of meditation. But Evie doesn’t even meditate, so I know she doesn’t know what Samadhi is. Yet they say, that state of enlightenment is the highest form of love. Maybe that’s what this fly on the wall witnessed after all.