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Chapter 1
WHO AM I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?
The sun has come up and I am sitting by a window that is foggy with the breath of a life gone by. I’m a sight this morning: two shirts, heavy pants, a scarf wrapped twice around my neck and tucked into a thick sweater knitted by my daughter thirty birthdays ago. The thermostat in my room is set as high as it will go, and a smaller space heater sits directly behind me. II clicks and groans and spews hot air like a fairy-tale dragon, and still my body shivers with a cold that will never go away, a cold that has been eighty years in the making. Eighty years. I wonder if this is how it is for everyone my age.
My life? It isn’t easy to explain. It has not been the rip-roaring spectacular I fancied it would be, but neither have I burrowed around with the gophers. I suppose it has most resembled a blue-chip stock: fairly stable, more ups than downs, and gradually trending upwards over time. I’ve learned that not everyone can say this about his life. But do not be misled. I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts, and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me this has always been enough.
The romantics would call this a love story: the cynics would call it a tragedy. In my mind it’s a little bit of both, and no matter how you choose to view it in the end, it does not change the fact that it involves a great deal of my life. I have no complaints about the path I’ve chosen to follow and the places it has taken me—the path has always been the right one. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Time, unfortunately doesn’t make it easy to stay on course. The path is straight as ever, but now it is strewn with the rocks and gravel that accumulate over a lifetime. Until three years ago it would have been easy to ignore, but it’s impossible now. There is a sickness rolling through my body; I’m neither strong nor healthy, and my days are spent like an old party balloon: listless, spongy and growing softer over time.
I cough, and through squinted eyes I check my watch. I realize it is time to go. I stand and shuffle across the room; stopping at the desk to pick up the notebook I have read a hundred times. I slip it beneath my arm and continue on my way to the place I must go.
I walk on tiled floors, white speckled with grey. Like my hair and the hair of most people here, though I’m the only one in the hallway this morning. They are in their rooms, alone except fo............
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