That night, I put my head to your chest — do you remember that? This was before you died — and listened to the sound of your heart beating.
I had come over to your place; you hadn’t invited me. You never did, except you said come by and see me sometime, like you were Mae West as a boy, and I’d come by and sometimes you’d be there and sometimes you wouldn’t, and that night, you were.
The television was playing in the other room and you had caps hung up on nails on the wall behind your bed. Summer was just getting over or it was just beginning, and you had the window cracked.
I still remember the last time we kissed: I hadn’t seen you in years, but there you were downtown, and I pulled over and offered you a ride, for old time’s sake, playing chivalrous, like I was Jimmy Stewart as a girl, and you kissed me before you got out of the car and said don’t tell, and I said who would I tell anyway, and you laughed and were gone. And this was before you went off to Portland to get married, and to die.
But before you died, before your wedding, before our last kiss, I came to your place and we ended up in your bedroom. My head was resting on your chest and you had your arms around me, or maybe you didn’t, and I could hear the sound of your heart: So real, so alive and, maybe, sometimes, beating faster for me, and that was the night, the only night, that I might have told you that I loved you, but I never did and, instead, listened to the sound of your beating heart.
Cathy S. Ulrich should have written this story before her poetry teacher died. She was the officiant at his service.