That night she invited him to the porch and they sipped ice tea, easily chatting. Nelson told her he was retired and living in Flagstaff, divorced with grown boys living in Arizona and Colorado. Nelson hesitated to tell her about his encounter some 30 years ago when he had lived his junior year in nearby Olean and played for the high school baseball team. There had been a series in Jamestown and afterwards festivities where he met Annette. Her last name escaped him as they rocked on the porch. That night they had walked and chatted, sitting sat shoulder to shoulder against the right-field fence. A warm spring evening led to a coming together, which was never forgotten. He had written Annette letters from Olean but no reply. She had told him about a boy friend in the army and he could tell she was embarrassed at their encounter.
As they talked on the porch, Nelson formed a plan to spend a few days in Jamestown, tour Chautauqua Lake and linger with Marion to know more about her. She had already told him her mother had recently died of cancer, her father had died years ago in an army accident. There was something about Marion that tugged at him, but what was the connection? He needed to give it time. No need to rush to Vermont.
The next morning Nelson rose early and went to a nearby convenience store, buying coffee and doughnuts for them. As he walked back, he paused to allow an elderly lady slowly back a large, dated Cadillac out of her drive. The woman buzzed down her window and with annoyance motioned Nelson to pass. As he started behind the big car, the woman accidentally hit the accelerator and plowed into Nelson sending him and his coffee flying. He fell awkwardly and hit his head on the curb.
Awakening later, Nelson found himself in a white room that was replete with medicinal smells. He vaguely recalled the old lady backing into him and he gingerly tested his limbs, then felt the back of his head. He settled, waiting for the busy nurse to check on him, or for a visit from the attending physician. But no one came.
Having assessed that he was reasonably okay Nelson carefully got out of bed and dressed himself, shedding the white, hospital gown. He made his way out of the hospital, noting that no one was about. Perhaps there was an emergency in some other part of the building. He could settle his account later as he planned more time in Jamestown.
Nelson found has way back to the white Victorian and climbed the steps. He went to open the screen door when he heard Marion on the phone. "Yes, he is staying here." She said. And then her shoulders slumped, her eyes wide. "But that can't be. What happened?" Marion cried, putting her hand over her mouth.
Opening the door and stepping into the hall, Nelson waved his hand. "Marion it's me. I'm here." He was in her line of sight, but she seemed not to see him and slowly hung up the phone, then started as the screen door banged.
At that moment, Nelson understood his hospital solitude had been for his transcendence. He gazed at Marion who was rigid, her face taut and pale, as if she had glimpsed a ghost. He reconciled that this chance encounter with Marion was cruel folly, an irony. His connection with her 30 years ago would remain an unsolved mystery.
Nelson was dead.
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