She wheeled me to our meeting place. Charlie was not sitting on the lumpy couch like he
usually was; instead, he stood, his feet almost bouncing as they met the ground. His eyes were
bright, his smile bigger than I’d ever seen.
As soon as we were alone, I asked, “What are you so happy about?”
“First,” he said and then kissed me. “Second, I’m happy because today you’re going to
I hardly had the energy to lift my gaze to his face. “Can you sit, please?”
“Oh sure, of course. See, I knew you’d beat this thing. It only became clear to me today
how it would happen. I took the next train as soon as I knew.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Sorry. Okay.” He took a deep breath and tried again. “Do you remember my war buddy
Arnold I told you about?”
“Was he the one who wanted to be the horse doctor or the one with the bizarre obsession
“The water.” Charlie’s eyes lit, and he pulled a chain from his pocket. On the end of it
was a small vial with a clear liquid in it. “All I’ve thought about since I left you last was how I
couldn’t lose you. I racked my brain all week long, prayed to God for you when I should’ve been
sleeping, until the answer came this morning. I remembered I had it. You should’ve heard how he
carried on and on about this water, how it would heal, how he went through hell to get it but it
was worth it should he ever need it. And I thought, ‘Why let it go to waste?’ Especially now that
you need it so badly. Obviously there was a reason I held on to the water. It wasn’t clear until
“Oh, I love you. But there’s no such thing as healing waters. You said yourself he was
“I know I did, but what if there’s more to it than I thought? I can’t believe I didn’t think of
“Look at me, Charlie. I am skin and bones. My entire body hurts, and I can barely eat. I
am being consumed right before your eyes, and you’ve got your sights set on some silly potion.”
And then I saw it. Behind the fire in Charlie’s eyes lived desperation. All his hope hinged
on this sip of water. Insane as it was, he was willing to embrace any farfetched possibility if it
meant he didn’t have to face the reality of living without me.
His face fell a little at my words, but he wouldn’t be discouraged. “What will it hurt?
Drink it, please. For me.” He held the vial out, and I studied him. Hopelessness threatened to
burst through the expectation in his eyes, and I felt sad for him. I, with a body full of
consumption, pitied Charlie.
The pity came on the heels of my love for him. His plea warmed my heart, desperate as it
was, because somewhere, deep down, despite all his optimism and prayers, he knew I was going
to die. I took it from him, opened it up, and tipped it back. What harm could one small sip of