He rolled his head around from side to side. Bones in his neck popped and creaked. She was asleep down the hall. The old man sat in darkness. He turned the radio on low to a jazz station out of New Jersey. It was Coltrane’s birthday. The station played the saxophonist all night long. Love Supreme, Central Park West, and Lush Life in the background as the frail man lit one cigarette after another.
The old man could hear his wife getting out of bed and walking towards the living room. She turned the music off. His wife hated jazz. She put on a pot of coffee. The dripping of the liquid had a rhythm to it. They listened till it stopped.
Can’t sleep? she asked. He nodded. She turned on a lamp. If you can’t sleep, I can’t sleep, she laughed. Do you have to listen to that music at this hour? he ran his fingers through his long gray hair. Well? Do you? he looked at her then turned his head away. I’ll pour some coffee, she got up and he reached for her hand. The old woman dodged it.
They hadn’t touched one another in years. The house was filled with memories. Not love. Pictures of their children hung on the walls. Their daughter who grew up to be a lawyer like the old man. A son who was never quite up to par. Both smiled in their cap and gowns.
That’s funny, she said. I can’t remember how much sugar you take. One or two spoons? he held up two fingers. The round woman brought the coffee over to him. Again, he reached out to her. Again, she denied him. She dimmed the light. They sat in silence for awhile. For awhile.
I was thinking of this time five years ago, he said. That phone call.
Let’s not talk about it, she said in a lowered voice; almost a whisper. I don’t want to talk about it.
We never talk about it.
What’s buried is buried. What’s gone is gone, she glared at him.
So young. He was so young.
I’m going back to bed.
No. Stay with me, he pleaded. Stay.
Can we talk about something else?
Yes, he said. Yes. There was quiet once again. Did you hear from Patricia?
She’ll be here on Saturday for the weekend.
Good. Did you buy flowers?
Not tonight. Please. Not now. I’ll turn the music back on. Coltrane was playing on Kind of Blue. He was playing along with Miles Davis and Bill Evans. It was the old man’s favorite album. He used to listen to it when their son Johnathan was a baby. She remembered and quickly turned the radio off.
I would like to listen to that. Please.
Her thin lips whispered, no.
No more talking. They both stayed wide awake in silence till the sun came up. Neither said a word. There was a chill in the air. The house was cold. He turned the radio back on. No more Coltrane. Just morning news.