Now, He is Gone

Madeleine is waiting

now, she is waiting

now (she is waiting);

Down among the buttercups –

where is John?

John was mean. John was warm, John was cruel, John was kind. John was alive, she supposed.

He liked to make up the rules, she would say, as he went along. He played games.

Now, he is gone.

Madeleine sat up in bed with her book and her glass of water. The phone rings. She picks it up. He is dead. She had never seen him, not once – a shell, perhaps, or a mask – not once – now he is gone.

Madeleine got up. She went to the sink, filled her glass. Time to call her friends, the old ones she hasn't seen in years. None would know him, not these ones, but the old friends long dispersed should. She finds her address book.

Judy got up as the phone buzzed. Someone downstairs? She answered with a hello, unsure, why would anyone call so late.

"He's gone."

"Hello? Who is this?"

"Judy, he's gone. John is dead."

"Who? Who are you?"




"And John –" Judy stopped. "Are you here?"


"At my apartment."

"No. I'm at home."

A moment of silence. Judy cleared her throat.

"John, you say?"

"Is dead."

"He wasn't well. He was getting on, he was older than you."

"Not you?" Madeleine can't remember.

"Not as much."

A touch of anxiety to Madeleine's voice: "Are you well?"

"Perfectly, thank you."

Madeleine sits at her table. Judy, too, was old. Soon Madeleine would have only her young friends, the new ones; the others passed on.

Time to hang up. "I thought I'd let you know."

"Thank you." Judy couldn't help but be polite.

"Good-bye, then."


He is gone.

Madeleine lowered the phone.

When Madeleine was born she was tiny, very weak. They brought her home, held her close to the fire to keep her warm. She catches cold easily.

John lived next door from twelve to twenty. They went to school and gathered friends. They planned to marry. When he had gone she went out with a few men, but she waited for him. She lost touch with her old set, found work. A sympathetic friend kept her up-to-date.

"John is in California." "John is in real estate now." "John has been transferred to Korea." It was the same to her, where he was. It meant he wasn't here. She could never leave, of course.

"John is dead."

He was eighty-seven. She hadn't seen him in sixty-eight years. His hair had been an indeterminate shade of brown, eyes the same, skin lighter but darker than hers. He had tiny ears, she remembered, that was nice – hand-sized for her, almost. Just right. She was small-boned.

Now, gone. He is laughing at her, standing out on his porch in the rain. Why not bring an umbrella, he asks. Get inside. An order, a gentle demand.

Come back, she calls to the night, to countless nights. Does he hear? He would never listen. Surely he is inside, windows shut tight to block out cries from the street. Funny to think the sun was shining over him when all she had was stars: Not quite the same sky after all. Funny to think how she loves him. How can I know you, he asked, do you think I know myself? But even when she hated Madeleine, she would never change. She would wait for him.

Ralph knocked on the door. Madeleine who lived round the corner was very tired. His mother Paula was worried she would die alone, and sent biscuits. But Paula had to work today, she can't come.

Ralph knocked on the door. He would come back later, or his mother could. Madeleine liked to run down to the corner store. He'd listen for noises in the hall if he didn't forget.

On the other side, Kathleen is waiting. He goes to see her; now, they are gone.