Unconditionally

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I find the differences in our hands fascinating.

Hers wrinkly, soft and the veins showing through. Mine tight, almost elastic with just a touch of veins showing.

Her hand runs over the map, pointing at places that are long forgotten.

‘This is where I smoked my first cigarette.’ New Zealand.

‘This is where I got my backpack stolen.’ India.

‘This is where Jack proposed.’ Saudi Arabia. Or, she thinks. She’s not sure.

Marlene has been losing her memories for over four years now. And they, the doctors, can’t do nothing for her. She doesn’t remember Kath anymore, her youngest daughter, even though Kath visits her every Wednesday.

She calls me by a different name every time I see her, like I’m someone new every time. It gives me a weird sense of anonymity. That it doesn’t really matter who I am because Marlene won’t remember any of it the next time I see her.

She asks me the same thing every time: ‘Do you want to hear about my travels?’ I smile every time and nod. Yes, please.

She points at the same places. Over and over again. She doesn’t remember Kath anymore, or really anyone else. – She only remembers Jack, who she’d been married to for 37 years before he passed away in the summer of last year. Peacefully, in his sleep.

I sit down at the table with her. ‘Marlene, why don’t you tell me about Jack today?’ I ask. She grabs the map from behind the couch and smiles. It’s is one of the few things that makes her smile these days.

She starts her story, that I’ve heard so many times now but will never grow tired of. ‘Oh, Jack. He’s so handsome. We got married about a year after we met in Saudi Arabia. I love him with all my heart.’

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