Sometimes, when people meet, no matter what label you apply, it is an equivocally fateful introduction. In a hospital waiting room amidst the beeps of machines and the quick discourses between doctors, an old man weeps over recent bad news. The doctor says she won’t make it through the night, however Benny knows she is going as they speak. Benny knew, when he met her, how and when and where she would die. He also knew the doctor would die of lung cancer in fifteen years, but no sense cueing him in, he thought. He’s a doctor and he knows the facts, and that closet addiction would catch up someday. And, as always, Benny was correct. The doctor’s pager lit up, he glanced, excused himself hurriedly, and scurried through the swinging doors. Benny laid his head in his hands and wept. The doctors would try to revive her, but it was 11 minutes past midnight, and Benny had been here before. But, this time there was one small variant. On this day a young boy approached and asked him a very precise question, “How old was Wendy?”
Benny’s eyes lit up. He pulled his head up quickly out of his hands and calmly asked the boy, “How did you know her name?”
“You told me,” he shrugged, “or you thought it.” Benny was now gazing skeptically upon the boy. “Billy. I’m Billy. You’re name is like mine.” Billy’s voice softened, “I’m sorry about Wendy, Mr. Wyse.”
Benny looked irritated. “How do you know all of this?”
“Mr. Wyse,” the boy paused, “why aren’t you going to stop him?” The boy pointed to a unkempt looking thirty-something man holding a bouquet of daisies.
Benny repositioned himself in his seat, leaning in towards the boy. He whispered, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
With sadness in his voice, the boy quickly responded, “Sarah, she is in room 304. You always look at the numbers so you can remember.” He takes a deep breath. “The man with the flowers is waiting for Sarah. He doesn’t know that she is going to be in a coma yet. Now you are looking at a wall calendar. It’s on December. You’re looking at that man. He’s holding a gun to his- no!” The boy starts to cry. It’s horrible. “You just keep watching it. Why don’t you tell him? You see her old and wrinkled, writhing on the ground. She is grabbing at her chest. No! She stopped breathing.”
Cautiously, Benny engages, “You really can see it. What difference does it make? They will all die eventually. Who am I to interfere?”
“But, aren’t they in love- that man and the sleeping lady?”
Benny pulls back a bit, “I just see them as they go. Every single day. I’m surrounded by death. I mean, we are always surrounded by death. But, I see everybody that I meet, die when I meet them. I can see that. I don’t want to but-“
“Please, God I love her. Please, don’t take her. That is what he keeps thinking. He’s just doing that over and over. If you told him she comes back, he wouldn’t be so sad. Maybe he won’t do that thing with the gun. That was horrible. How can you just watch and not do anything.”
Gruffly, Benny said, “I’ve tried to stop it, when I was younger. I once stopped a man from jumping off a bridge, simply by telling him that I knew that he was thinking of doing it. He was so stricken by the fact that I knew, that he cried and thanked me.” Wyse let a deep breath out, “Three days later, that man shot fifteen people in a crowded mall in the middle of the afternoon.” He shrugged unenthusiastically, “So, I can meet someone and know how they die. I can be okay with that. I’m not God. I’m just a viewer.”
Billy’s young voice differed so much from the brash Mr. Wyse’s, “They should get to love each other. His thoughts are pure. He just loves the girl. If you don’t tell him, I’ll tell him. You of all people should want them to get to love. You got to love.”
Benny spoke strictly, “Yes. I did love, and here I am. I stare at death every day and I knew from the moment that I met her when she would die. I’ve never been wrong about anyone’s death, and love- well, that is why I am here. Love is like that man that I stopped heading towards the bridge- it is best left alone, lest there be more hurt.”
“I’ll tell him, if you don’t tell him.”
Benny shook his head at the boy and stood up. He walked over to the gentleman with the daisies. “Sir,” he said, “six months from now, you will kill yourself. Your wife is in a coma now. She does come out of it, so don’t hurt yourself.
The man stared intensely at old Benny. “That voice. I know that voice. Why are you back here?”
“Sir, I have not met you in my life, but if you will believe me-“
The man interrupted, “You’re the same guy that told me not to let my son on the bus! I remember that voice! I remember your face! How could I forget you? What are you doing to me? Stay the hell away from my family!”
“The boy over there. I’m sorry, sir. He said to-“
“What boy, you miserable old bastard?” The man screamed.
“He was right over there. He had an orange t-shirt,” Benny looked around for the boy, craning his head, “a blue cap, and he was holding a red lunch box.”
The man yelled violently, “That’s what Billy was wearing the day the bus crashed and killed my son. You sick old man, who are you?” The man punched Benny, knocking him to the ground. “Who are you?” He screamed, as he continue hitting Benny.
“I see how people die.” Wyse cried, between blows. “I’m trying to help you.”
“What did you do to my son? What happened to my wife?” The beating continued. Benny felt quick pushes of pain, but they grew fainter. He lost his vision, then his head started to throb. He heard some yelling, then mechanical hums and beeping. The beating left Benny Wyse in a coma for eight months. For six months his son would bring daisies and set them on his bedside. One week, the boy stopped coming. They found him with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.