By William Markiewicz

Portrait of the Night
(Portrait of the Night -- woodcut -- WM)

Bud was dying. Hospital personnel expected, as usual, that this terminally ill vagrant, picked up from the street, would free a bed on the way to the morgue. In sheets stale as his old tired body, Bud was dying miserably, as his life had been. At this moment, not feeling the cold he was used to in the long winter times, he entered his memories which the unoccupied brain presented like a kaleidoscope before his eyes.

He saw his childhood (subconsciously he must have known he was dying if he could reach such far away memories). The smallest happenings, as if by miracle, grew to the dimension of crucial importance as sharp and as clear as if they had happened yesterday, and Bud was over sixty-five. Memories of some pin prick like stings, especially moral ones because Bud was very sensitive even if not many people knew it, hurt him so painfully that his whole body shuddered in the bed, and anybody who might see him at this moment would interpret it as reflexes of agony.

He remembered youth. He saw the flamboyant drives slashed by life, one after another, like ocean waves stopped on a rocky shore. He saw attempts, struggles, sometimes successes, all out of proportion to the efforts invested. Now, when it didn't matter any longer, Bud felt the weight of deception.

Then, the age of adulthood, so long ... Fight with aging, menacing, attacking, stepping back to attack again and take over in a halo of final resignation. Under the weight of those images, Bud's half-asleep brain woke up for a moment and he could consciously ask himself a question: In all my life, was there anything that was worth living for? Did I do anything that I didn't merely endure?

Yes! There was something. Bud remembered proposals, help offered patronizingly from "high places." And he, the outcast, rejected that grace. Yes, he did something; he succeeded in saving his honour. He had the courage to choose a miserable life and miserable death. He turned his back to himself only to be in agreement with something abstract in himself.

"I reached nothing but this nothing is mine! I die in peace of mind because now, on the deathbed, I accept fully the consequences of my decision!"

Nobody knew why Bud wore such a radiant smile when they took him to the morgue.

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