“You're my best friend, Jan, you've been with me through everything, and I've not always been a good friend to you.” he hesitated. “I know this sounds weird, but I've grown to love you.”
Jan smiled. “You know, I love you too. And when you weren't always the best friend, you always tried to make it up to me. And when you were being a friend to people like Jonathan when he lost his job, you were being a good friend to me, too.”
“Something weird has happened the last few weeks, Jan. Hear me out and tell me I'm not going crazy.” Jan looked over his glasses at Carl, and lifted one eyebrow, but said nothing.
“I've been having these terrible dreams where Miranda died and left me alone, and all I could do was cry. I was alone for years, grieving for her.”
“Have you told Miranda?”
“Yes, and when I told her, she just smiled and kissed me and said “well, it's over, and you have me here and now; I'm not going anywhere.”
“No, it's not. This is the really weird part. My knee has stopped bothering me. And I bounce out of bed in the morning like a kid. And even the people I meet during the day are better to be with, and seem happier than before. Everyone I know. Is this what dementia is like?”
“No, it's not dementia. That would be different. You're just settling in.”
Carl stared at Jan.
“What's going on, Jan, tell me.”
“What if things went on this way forever for you?”
“I'd be perfectly happy with that. If only.”
Jan smiled kindly at him.
“Soon those dreams will go away, and they'll never bother you again. They are in the past, and the past is gone. Things that happened in the past are just dreams that will soon fade away. All there is here, is the now. “
“Yes, Carl, here is where you were meant to be, where I wanted everyone to be. You'll be with Miranda forever and I will be your friend forever. It takes a little time to adjust, that's all.” You took care of me and I'll take care of you forever.”
“When did I take care of you?”
“When you passed that money quietly to Jonathan when he lost his job. When you gave up your Saturday to help move the Carroll family when they were evicted. Whenever you took care of them, you took care of me.”
Carl stared, open-mouthed at Jan, who was still smiling, looking slightly amused. He slid off the bar stool and went to his knees.
“Get up, Carl” Jan chuckled. “we don't do that kind of thing here.” He helped Carl back to his seat.
“But I don't deserve this.”
“No, you don't. But it's my gift to you, for loving me. And yes, when you loved those people who were hurting, you were loving me.”
“What can I do to thank you... Jan?”
“Jan is fine. I like the name. All you have to do is love me. And love everyone here with you. All I ever expected of you. Be happy with Miranda.
And be sure you're here at Doug's now and then on Friday afternoons for a beer or two with me, hear? Have a great eternity my friend.”