art by Steven R. Stewart
by Caroline M Yoachim
"I remember dying," my husband tells me. "Everyone I know comes to visit my deathbed."
"It will be nice to see everyone," I say, forcing a smile. I don't bother to remind him that what he remembers hasn't happened yet, at least not for me. We only have a few weeks left, and I don't want to spend that time on explanations. Instead we take a long walk in the rain, huddled together under one umbrella, and then we come back home and huddle even closer to get warm.
"My body is old enough that I won't mind dying," he says, "but I wish I'd had children."
Our daughter is nearly fifty now, with children of her own. She refuses to visit because my husband doesn't remember her. He doesn't remember her because she isn't in his future. I invited her to his deathbed, but she refuses to come.
"I know there isn't much time left," he says, "but will you marry me?"
"Of course." I say. We're already married, but I still say yes every time he asks.
A week before my husband dies, he is strangely quiet, almost shy. We are in the kitchen, and I am making butternut squash soup. It is his favorite soup. He likes the soup because it's loaded with spices to cut through the sweetness of the squash.
"This is delicious," he says when he tastes it. "I don't usually like squash, but it really works in this soup. You'll have to make it for me again some time."
It hits me then, that this is the last time that I will ever make him soup. Otherwise he'd remember it. Coming up with the recipe had been tricky. Will you make me that soup I like so much? he'd asked, a few weeks after we'd met. I'd asked him lots of questions about what was in the soup, and even then it took a few tries to get it right. I could save my past self some trouble if I told him the ingredients, but I cherish those early memories of failed soup, and I worry that giving him the recipe would change the past.
"I remember dying," he says, his voice almost a whisper. For the first time, he seems anxious.