Author: Susmita Ramani
“It’s you,” I say, though we both know it’s not. Still…
“It’s me,” she says; her voice, so on-the-nose, knifes my heart. She’s sitting in our living room, on our red sofa.
I take a step toward her. “Do you…mind?”
“That’s why I’m here.” She opens her arms to me. I sit next to her, lean over to gently kiss her…then instead, bury my face in her honey-gold hair, creamy neck — which smells like her lavender-vanilla lotion — and moon-pale breasts, encased in a pale-pink bra whose cups were edged with a froth of lace. Over it she’s wearing one of my favorite dresses, red silk with flowers. She looks like she did the day we got married. Everything about her is as it was before cancer turned her into a ghost ship of a person, all skeletal mast and ragged sails that wouldn’t let any air through.
I know why this feels so real; they don’t let us even temporarily forget. When we were setting this up, they didn’t merely say, “Hand over your dead wife’s picture,” like at some agencies (that admittedly charge a fraction of what this costs; you get what you pay for). They asked me to bring my full library of videos of Sarah, photo albums, leftover lotions and shampoos, even some pieces of her clothing. Those guys at the See Corp. are pros. Through tears, I smile.
Sarah says, “We have six days together, honey. You booked us for a rainforest adventure. To do the full thing, we should leave soon.”
For a split second, it registers that that’s how long I’ll be lying in a glass pod at the See Corp on a nutritional IV drip, hooked up to machines.
Shaking that off, I nod and stand. “Let’s go.”
As we exit the front door, Sarah and I both are now suddenly wearing hiking boots, khakis, and T-shirts.
We exit the front door. Outside our house — and it’s an exact replica of our house — I gasp to see not our own boring but tidy front yard, but unimaginably tall trees. It’s raining, but the rain is warm and velvety soft.
Sarah kneels to pet a snake in a way reminiscent of the way she petted our dog, Riley. “Hey, green mamba.” She turns to me. “Remember, nothing here can hurt you.”
The snake sort of looks like Riley, actually, despite its coloring, which is fluorescent green, with a yellow-green underbelly. Its jewellike eyes glint in a familiar way. It follows alongside, weaving through the foliage and around fallen branches. Sarah points out dazzlingly colored tree frogs, elephants, antelopes, gorillas, armadillos, anteaters, pigs, frogs, bats, birds, and scorpions.
She beams. “George, this is how rainforests should look…and did look, before people destroyed them.”
I can’t help laughing. That’s the Sarah I know and love: activist to the core, always looking for pristine patches of nature.
We go on a canopy bridge walk, traversing back and forth for as long as we want. I feel amazing, like I could walk forever…and I never feel hungry or have to use a restroom.
I quicken my pace to match her normally brisk Sarah-pace. “What next?”
“After the jungle walk, let’s swim with pink dolphins in the river. There are also black caimans and crocodiles there, but remember: none of them would harm each other any more than they’d harm us, because this place is better than nature. It’s sugarcoated for us easily-distressed humans.”
I almost say, “But you’re not human.” But I don’t, of course.
It’s going to be a good day.