Andie quietly poked her head into the room. The shades were up and Bob stared out the window. He looked over when the door creaked.
“Hey, sweetheart,” his throat rasped.
“Hi Bob.” He patted the side of the bed as she came over. “How’s it going?” she asked.
“I’ve been better,” Bob replied, “You should probably head back to school now, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I know,” Andie sighed, “I just…” She took his hand. “I needed to make sure you were okay. When they said I did all those things that endangered your life, I felt so stupid. I never meant to hurt you.”
Bob started laughing. “None of this has been your fault. I made my own decisions. Although you were very persuasive at the hospice and it ended up being a wild ride.” Andie smiled in agreement. Bob watched her.
“Thank you, I’ll be living off these memories for quite a while,” he said. “You made me feel alive again, when all I’ve been feeling was dying.”
“I did almost kill you though,” Andie pointed out. They sat in apprehensive silence as the imminent farewell hung in the air. She dug in her purse for a scrap of paper.
“Here, this is my number. Call me if you need anything.” She set it on the side table and sniffled.
“Come here,” Bob ordered. She bent over into his embrace and let out a rattling breath.
“Sh-sh,” he stroked her hair and kissed her forehead, “Get on back to school now. Don’t worry about me.”
Andie turned and quickly went to the door. She looked back at Bob one last time. He sat alone in the hospital bed and looked small, so much smaller than Andie imagined him.
Finals week had finally arrived. Andie sat at her desk in her dorm room. She stared at the blank screen of her laptop as she struggled to write an essay on the state of art criticism and its effect on the evolution of post-modernism.
What does criticism stand for in a time when anything goes? She typed. Delete. Delete. Delete.
Her phone started vibrating. It was a number she didn’t recognize. She sent it to voicemail and looked back at the blinking cursor. Maybe I should change my topic. She typed, Critics today cheer on bad art. The more spaced out an artist statement reads, the more intellectual and free thinking an artist appears to be.
Her phone started vibrating again. Same number.
“Hello?” she answered.
“God damn it, Andie! Pick up the phone when I call!” It was Bob.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize your number. I’m trying to get homework done.”
“I promise I won’t take too much of your time,” Bob replied, “I want you to hear this song.”
“A new song? What is it about?” Andie asked.
“Just listen, will ya?” Bob said. He turned on the speaker phone and Andie could hear the strumming of a guitar. What followed was the sweetest song she had ever heard.
The guitar died down and Bob brought the phone back up to his ear. “That’s your song, Andie.”
“I don’t know what to say, Bob, thank you,” Andie was near tears as she sat at her desk.
“You’re welcome, sweetheart, but I’ll let you get back to your work. Call me when you’re done with your classes, okay?”
“Okay, Bob, I will,” Andie paused. She didn’t want the phone call to end, but she doubted her professors would accept a discussion with an aging rockstar as an excuse for late work. “I still love you, you know.”
“I know, sweetheart, love you too.”
The next morning as Andie left her first class, it was all over campus. The legendary rocker, Bob Blackwell was gone. He had died peacefully in his sleep at the hospice. The media didn’t talk about anything else for days. They broadcasted his funeral. She recognized Rollo on the TV and several illegitimate children were coming forward for a piece of the estate. No one contacted Andie. She sat alone in her dorm room, even as the summer holiday started. She was probably the last person Bob had talked to and that didn’t make it any easier.
The RA came by one afternoon.
“Hey Andie, how it going?” She looked up from the book she was reading on her bed.
“It continues,” she said blandly.
“I brought your mail up…It was looking pretty full. You might want to try leaving your room today. Shouldn’t you be getting ready to move home?”
“Uh, thanks,” Andie accepted the mail, if not the following advice, “Yeah, I was just waiting for the rush to clear out before I started packing.” The RA stood awkwardly in the door.
“Well, let me know if you need any help.”
Andie looked down at her mail and saw a small package. She tore it open, a note and a cassette tape fell out. She picked up the piece of paper.
I think he would have wanted you to have this.
She picked up the cassette tape and hurried after the RA.
“Hey!” she caught her in the hall. “Do you have a tape player?” The RA shook her head and Andie darted past her. She ran out to the parking lot and climbed in her beater hatchback. She put the tape in her tape deck and hit play. She sat there and listened to her song.