From Here to Eternity
by Diane Gottlieb
So, I’m going to live forever. Living forever was never my plan but it must be God’s because I’m 98 and while I’ve lost a few teeth and my bladder control (keep that to yourself, will you?), I have every marble I came to earth with in ’24. Same year as Marlon Brando (be still my heart), James Baldwin (I’m nothing if not literary), and George Bush Senior (“read my lips”—No thank you, sir).
FYI: Brando’s dead. Baldwin: dead. Bush: dead. But me?
I’ve survived depression—the Great One and several of a more personal nature. I’ve survived wars and rations, even survived when my husband and son shipped home in those star-spangled boxes. That should have stripped years off my life but… No. I’m a long stretch of salt-water taffy. I always bounce back.
I’ve tempted the Grim Reaper plenty of times. Had a backroom abortion in my 20s. Had my ta-tas lopped off when I got the big “C.” I’ve been slurring-my-words-sloshed, drunk-as-a-skunk-crocked when thoughts of prohibition still sent shivers down people’s spines. Don’t let anyone tell you I haven’t lived! I hiked the Grand Canyon. Been to Yosemite too. Been to Rome, to the Vatican—set my eyes on the Pope. Mona Lisa, she’s darn pretty but has nothing on me.
I’m sharp as a tack, but I’ll admit I’m not perfect. Look in the mirror, bub, neither are you. I may alter recollections, maybe switch up the math. Add patience where I’d had none. Subtract harsh words I wish I’d never said. Sometimes I’ll mix up the days. Sunday for Monday. Winter for summer—they turn the heat up so damn high in this place, how can anyone tell?
I mix up Bill and Bob, my two older sons, and Betty with the youngest, Belinda. Bill Sr., sweet honeybun, he had a thing for “B” names. He made me laugh, laugh real hard. Until he didn’t.
Benny, my youngest, he loved his baseball. Dreamed of watching one game at every Major League Park. Made it to half. Not bad for a kid of nineteen. Half would have to do, though. Benny didn’t make it to twenty. I keep his mitt under my pillow.
I walk the halls at night, searching for the boy. Benny was always my favorite. Scream out his name, but nobody hears. Then the doors, left and right, I can’t tell them apart. Corners. Ceilings and floors. The elevator hums, but which number to press. Those buttons on the elevator wall.
Last week, they took away the necklaces I’d strung during art. Said I swallowed the beads, one by one. Even claimed I’d tied the nylon cords around my neck. Tight. If you come close, you can still see the marks.
I didn’t die though. Nope. Looks like I will live forever. Can’t help it, if that’s really God’s plan. But I miss Benny something awful. And forever is a very long time.
Diane Gottlieb’s writing appears or is forthcoming in River Teeth, HuffPost Personal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Barrelhouse, The Rumpus, Hippocampus, and 100-Word Story, among other literary journals and anthologies. She is the Prose/CNF Editor of Emerge Literary Journal. You can find her at https://dianegottlieb.com a