Drake brushed his teeth and checked the top right corner of the mirror. It had become a habit, checking it. Just like every day, a small sticky note was pasted onto the corner of the mirror. Today’s said “hello.” Uh-oh, she was mad. It was custom for his wife to write a small, endearing note, but when she was upset, she would always write “hello.” He checked his watch, 7:05, just like every day. Drake woke up at seven each morning as if his body was an alarm itself. Similarly, he always fell asleep at seven, too, it didn’t matter what he was doing or where he was doing it. In fact, a few months earlier, he fell asleep waiting for the red light to turn green, and had it not been for his wife shaking him to wake up, Drake might have stayed asleep until seven the next morning. Since then, he was sure to be in bed by seven. Aubrey, on the other hand, didn’t need as much sleep. She was just as punctual as he, though. Every day, she spent thirty minutes at the Norteville Park, where the two had met, to watch the sunrise and sunset.
Drake scurried out the front door and to the florist shop just on the other side of the street. Petunias. Aubrey loved petunias. Taking out his wallet, he grabbed a bouquet of the pink flowers, an Almond Joy, and a glance at the park, where Aubrey was sitting at the bench and staring across the lake. He strolled over and sat next to her. While opening the pack of Almond Joy, he gently set down the petunias on her lap and asked, “Hey, what’s wrong?”
She was silent. He offered her the Almond Joy, her favorite candy, and said “Please?”
“Nothing,” she replied, reluctantly biting into the chocolate and coconut candy. Drake sighed and thought of everything that had happened since last night. What could he have done? Then, it hit him. Yesterday Aubrey’s mother was coming over for dinner. Remembering the dirty plates in the sink this morning, Drake figured that she had been running late and arrived after seven, by which Drake was asleep and unable to answer the door. Her mom must have had to wait until Aubrey got home to get in.
“I’m sorry. I thought your mom had cancelled so I just went to bed last night. I promise I’ll make it up to you and your mom for lunch.” Aubrey looked at him and smiled. She could never stay mad at him for long and she knew that his apology plans were always well thought out and exciting.
The next day, Drake woke up at seven, and walked over to the bathroom. No note. Drake panicked. Aubrey always left a note. Unsure of what had happened, he rushed out the door and looked at the bench at the park. There she was, gazing out over the lake. Walking over, he ran through scenarios in his head. Was she mad again? What did I do this time? Did we run out of sticky notes? He settled down beside her and asked “hey, what happened?”
“What do you mean?” she responded, confused.
“Oh, you didn’t leave a note on the mirror today.”
She stared back, with a blank face. “What?”
“You didn’t leave a sticky note on the mirror. You know how you always leave a sticky note?”
She laughed and replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Drake walked her home and showed her the full cabinet of old sticky notes. “Weird, I don’t remember ever writing these,” she commented.
Next morning, Drake awoke, per his usual bodily alarm clock. Still no note. Sluggish, he walked out the front door of his house and lazily shuffled towards his wife, who sat on the bench staring at the stormy clouds. He sat down next to her and put his jacket on her. She looked at him blankly and was silent for a few seconds, before saying, “Hi, I’m Aubrey.”
He laughed and hugged her, “Yes, baby, I know. Come on, let’s go home. It’s cold.”
She furrowed her eyebrows and tilted her head to the side, visibly confused. Then, she remembered. He was her husband, of course. How could she have forgotten?
At the doctor’s office, Dr. Graham invited the couple to sit, his expression both caring and concerned, and began to speak, slowly and calmly. Alzheimer’s. Never had a single word crippled the two so much. All of the doctor’s other words seemed to blur together in a haze of confusion. Alzheimer’s, Aubrey had Alzheimer’s.
Within two months, North Sun Care Center was Aubrey’s permanent home. She had almost no recollection of Drake; he was like a word that was on the tip of her tongue yet she couldn’t think of. With special permission from North Sun, on the weekends, she could still go to the Norteville Park to watch the sunrise. On those weekends, Drake always disguised himself as another early-morning-and-sunrise enthusiast, sitting on the bench just a few yards to the left of Aubrey’s typical spot. She occasionally nodded to him, but they never spoke. One morning, feeling especially audacious, he decided he wanted to speak with Aubrey; it had been forever since he had felt the same sort of completeness he felt when he was with her. He seated himself next to her and commented, “The sun really is…cool.” Instantly, he regretted it. He had just described the Sun as cool. Cool was just about the most bland and vague adjective in the entire English language and logically, the Sun wasn’t cool, it was hot.
A few seconds and a long series of mental face palms by Drake later, she replied, “Honestly, the Sun is kind of hot.” Drake laughed and she reached out her hand, “Hi, I’m Aubrey.” Her bright smile was exactly the same as so long ago, when they first met on the other side of Norteville Park.