I originally wrote this episode on December 21, 2016. Many scenes in Verity are simply direct and relatively immediate transcriptions of what I see during mental visualization exercises. By the time I wrote this one, though, I had replayed it in my mind a million times with a million variations. Below is only one possible way that it could play out. It is of course the climax of the first half of the story, and as such my natural perfectionistic inclination would be to obsess over every single word of it in order to do justice to its pivotal role. And yet for some reason I went the other direction.
I just picked a version, any version, and wrote it down. I think it turned out okay, but its imperfections don’t bother me as much as I would expect. I suspect that’s because even if I were able to write well beyond my current ability, even at a level of pure excellence, even then I think that words would be too limited to fully express how I feel about Millie and Ada, their love, and this moment in their story. As such, any written recounting can be no better than a mere approximation, so I might as well simply pick one and move along.
“It’s time,” said Ada with a calmness and certainty that would allow no argument.
Millie had known this moment would come soon. She knew she could easily find a reason to delay it for one more day, and maybe another day after that. Eventually, though, she would run out of reasons, and Ada would leave her. Even if she could convince Ada not to end her life unnaturally, she would most likely be gone in a year anyhow. She could never ask Ada to do that, and yet she could not let go. Against her will, Millie’s eyes brimmed with tears.
“Please, not yet,” she whispered with no hope of acquiescence.
Ada did not respond, but continued to fix Millie with her implacable, unperturbed, knowing eyes. Millie wanted to scream at those eyes. How can you be so calm? How can you just decide to go? God damn you and your calmness! All of this Millie fought back, because she knew it would do no good, and because she knew it was selfish, that she had no right to ask Ada to prolong her suffering.
Of course Millie knew it would end, and yet of course she held out the hope that somehow this case would be different, that somehow Ada would be the one who survived. Never before had she been so desperate and fervent in her wish for such an impossible fantasy to come true. Now that she had met this woman, now that she had grown to love her and need her more than anyone in her entire life, even her own mother, now she felt she could not bear to let her go. Her heart thudded in her chest, her throat felt as if it would be ripped open from the inside as she fought back every urge to burst into childish, pleading sobs.
“Okay,” she said after getting control of herself and her emotions. “Okay.” She averted her eyes, afraid to look at Ada lest she once more be overcome. Her shoulders slumped in resignation, and she slowly turned to begin the process of termination.
Mildred left Ada’s room and walked quietly to the administrative office. “She’s ready,” she informed the Chief Administrator, who did not fail to notice something peculiar in Mildred’s demeanor. Together they filled out the requisite paperwork, and together they walked to the dispensary to get a vial of La Verdad. Together, and now accompanied by a clinic guard, they carried the vial to the room of the patient Ada Noble.
“You’re ready?” the Chief Administrator asked Ada.
“You understand fully that this decision is irreversible once the process begins?” he continued.
“Please sign here,” he said handing Ada the official release form, which she signed.
“First witness,” he said handing the same form to the clinic guard, who signed on the first witness line.
“Second witness,” he said handing the form to Mildred, who signed on the second line.
“Third witness and administrator,” he said, pro forma, to himself as he signed the bottom line. He then inserted the vial into the machine attached to Ada’s IV.
“God be with you,” he said to Ada. He said this to every patient, and every time he felt and showed the same compassion while saying it. He turned to leave the room, giving Mildred one last look, checking to see if there was legitimate cause for concern or if her earlier demeanor had been a misapprehension on his part. Now she seemed perfectly in control of herself, and so he exited, followed by the clinic guard who softly closed the door behind him.
Now Millie was alone with Ada to finish the process. It would be monitored and recorded, but there was no need for Ada or any patient to be surrounded in her final moments by relative strangers such as the Chief Administrator and the clinic guard. Clearly Ada trusted and felt comfortable with Mildred, and since she had no family by her side, Mildred alone would be with her as she made her way beyond.
“It’s going to be okay, my sweet Millie,” said Ada very quietly, but with a calm assuredness that surprised Millie, who despite the calm exterior she was managing to convey was fighting a tremendous battle within herself. Ada’s words nearly tilted the course of the battle towards an onslaught of pleading for more time. Just a little more time. Instead she made eye contact with Ada, smiled a half smile to show how brave she was trying to be, to show that she would allow Ada to leave her, no matter how much she could not tolerate her leaving. She would not let her selfish desires keep Ada from the relief which was her right. Had she known that relief was not Ada’s true aim, certainly then she would have pleaded, but she did not know that.
“Press here,” instructed Mildred after she handed Ada the small mechanism that triggered the pump that would inject La Verdad into her IV, moments later to enter her bloodstream and take its effect. Ada gave her a knowing and reassuring look, and then she pressed the button. A single “bing” of the machine as it started to administer the drug was the beginning of the end of two lives, one literally, the other less so. Millie lost her composure as tears began to stream down her face.
Knowing that such a display of emotion would be cause for her removal from the remainder of the procedure, she jammed a chair underneath the handle of the otherwise non-locking door. She knew that no one would try to break down the door in these, Ada’s final moments, but she also knew that she would lose her job over this, and she wished for nothing more at this point. Her continued employment had not the slightest importance to her now, nor did anything beyond her remaining moments with Ada.
She crawled into the bed with Ada. The drug would still not take her for at least a minute. Clutching Ada’s hand in hers, she lay with her face just inches from Ada’s, who had turned to face her.
“Read in my eyes…” Millie began. She did not finish the sentence, as her throat tightened, grinding with thick phlegm, and her eyes ran over with tears.
“I know,” said Ada, whose eyes also spoke thousands of words, not all of which were understandable to Millie.
Moments later every muscle in Ada’s body loosened as the bliss of La Verdad started to take ahold of her. “Mmmmmmm,” she murmured as her eyes took on a faraway look. “Ohhhhhhh.” This was the common response. The faraway look would never return and it was just a matter of a short time until Ada was truly gone.
Most patients in their final moments would exclaim wonder at their experience as they were opened to a profound unity with everything. “It’s beautiful! My God!” patients would gasp. Always it was about their personal experience of these few moments of ecstasy, but of course Ada was different than all those who had gone before her.
“Oh, my darling! If only you could see!” were her last words, spoken with surprising clarity, as her eyes pulled their focus from infinity to far closer. And then she smiled one last time and then she died and so did Mildred.
As the monitors showed their proof of Ada’s passing, so began the pounding on the blocked door to her room, a room that would no longer be hers, and a room that Millie, for her part, would also never see again. For she could never go back. After the loss of this woman who had been her mother and her daughter and her sister, she could never continue on in her previous life, the life of Mildred, nurse at the Verity Clinic. She removed her hand from Ada’s still warm hand and kissed her gently on the forehead, whispering, “Thank you for giving me the chance to feel this way about you.”
Millie walked resolutely to the door, removed the wedged-in chair. The clinic guard and the Chief Administrator spilled into the room. Millie thought that they were yelling at her and demanding an explanation, but she barely heard them. She walked out the door from Ada’s room, down the hallway, and right out the front entrance. Perhaps she had been followed by the yelling administrator and perhaps every staff member nearby stopped and gawked at the commotion, but Millie simply had no ability to care about any of that.