Nothing Lasts Forever

Chapter Eighteen


It was one of those clear days in San Francisco when there was a magic in the air. The night wind had swept away the rainclouds, producing a crisp, sunny Sunday morning.
Jason had arranged to pick up Paige at the apartment. When he arrived, Paige was surprised at how pleased she was to see him.
"Good morning," Jason said. "You look beautiful."
"Thank you."
"What would you like to do today?"
Paige said, "It's your town. You lead, I'll follow."
"Fair enough."
"If you don't mind," Paige said, "I'd like to make a quick stop at the hospital."
"I thought this was your day off."
"It is, but there's a patient I'm concerned about."
"No problem." Jason drove her to the hospital.
"I won't be long," Paige promised as she got out of the car.
"I'll wait for you here."
Paige went up to the third floor and into Jimmy Ford's room. He was still in a coma, attached to an array of tubes feeding him intravenously.
A nurse was in the room. She looked up as Paige entered. "Good morning, Dr. Taylor."
"Good morning." Paige walked over to the boy's bedside. "Has there been any change?"
"I'm afraid not."
Paige felt Jimmy's pulse and listened to his heartbeat.
"It's been several weeks now," the nurse said. "It doesn't look good, does it?"
"He's going to come out of it," Paige said firmly. She turned to the unconscious figure on the bed and raised her voice. "Do you hear me? You're going to get well!" There was no reaction. She closed her eyes a moment and said a silent prayer. "Have them beep me at once if there's any change."
"Yes, doctor."
He's not going to die, Paige thought. I'm not going to let him die... .
Jason got out of the car as Paige approached. "Is everything all right?"
There was no point in burdening him with her problems. "Everything's fine," Paige said.
"Let's play real tourists today," Jason said. "There's a state law that all tours have to start at Fisherman's Wharf."
Paige smiled. "We mustn't break the law."
Fisherman's Wharf was like an outdoor carnival. The street entertainers were out in full force. There were mimes, clowns, dancers, and musicians. Vendors were selling steaming caldrons of Dungeness crabs and clam chowder with fresh sourdough bread.
"There's no place like this in the world," Jason said warmly.
Paige was touched by his enthusiasm. She had seen Fisherman's Wharf before and most of the other tourist sites of San Francisco, but she did not want to spoil his fun.
"Have you ridden a cable car yet?" Jason asked.
"No." Not since last week.
"You haven't lived! Come along."
They walked to Powell Street and boarded a cable car. As they started up the steep grade, Jason said, "This was known as Hallidie's Folly. He built it in 1873."
"And I'll bet they said it wouldn't last!"
Jason laughed. "That's right. When I was going to high school, I used to work weekends as a tour guide."
"I'm sure you were good."
"The best. Would you like to hear some of my spiel?"
"I'd love to."
Jason adopted the nasal tone of a tour guide. "Ladies and gentlemen, for your information, the oldest street in San Francisco is Grant Avenue, the longest is Mission Street - seven and a half miles long - the widest is Van Ness Avenue at one hundred twenty-five feet, and you'll tbe surprised to know that the narrowest, DeForest Street, is only four and a half feet. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, four and a half feet. The steepest street we can offer you is Filbert Street, with a thirty-one and a half percent grade." He looked at Paige and grinned. "I'm surprised that I still remember all that."
When they alighted from the cable car, Paige looked up at Jason and smiled. "What's next?"
"We're going to take a carriage ride."
Ten minutes later, they were seated in a horse-drawn carriage that took them from Fisherman's Wharf to Ghirardelli Square to North Beach. Jason pointed out the places of interest along the way, and Paige was surprised at how much she was enjoying herself. Don't let yourself get carried away.
They went up to Coit Tower for a view of the city. As they ascended, Jason asked, "Are you hungry?"
The fresh air had made Paige very hungry. "Yes."
"Good. I'm going to take you to one of the best Chinese restaurants in the world - Tommy Toy's."
Paige had heard the hospital staff speak of it.
The meal turned out to be a banquet. They started with lobster pot stickers with chili sauce, and hot and sour soup with seafood. That was followed by filet of chicken with snow peas and pecans, veal filet with Szechuan sauce, and four-flavored fried rice. For dessert, they had a peach mousse. The food was wonderful.
"Do you come here often?" Paige asked.
"As often as I can."
There was a boyish quality about Jason that Paige found very attractive.
"Tell me," Paige said, "did you always want to be an architect?"
"I had no choice." Jason grinned. "My first toys were Erector sets. It's exciting to dream about something and then watch that dream become concrete and bricks and stone, and soar up into the sky and become apart of the city you live in."
I'm going to build you a Taj Mahal. I don't care how long it takes!
"I'm one of the lucky ones, Paige, spending my life doing what I love to do. Who was it who said, 'Most people live lives of quiet desperation'?"
Sounds like a lot of my patients, Paige thought.
"There's nothing else I would want to do, or any other place I would want to live. This is a fabulous city." His voice was filled with excitement. "It has everything anyone could want. I never get tired of it."
Paige studied him for a moment, enjoying his enthusiasm. "You've never been married?"
Jason shrugged. "Once. We were both too young. It didn't work out."
"I'm sorry."
"No need to be. She's married to a very wealthy meat packer. Have you been married?"
I'm going to be a doctor, too, when I grow up. We'll married, and we'll work together.
They took a bay cruise under the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge. Jason assumed his tour guide's voice again.
"And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the storied Alcatraz, former home of some of the world's most infamous criminals - Machine Gun Kelly, Al Capone, and Robert Stroud, known as the Birdman! 'Alcatraz' means pelican in Spanish. It was originally called Isla de los Alcatraces, after the birds that were its only inhabitants. Do you know why they had hot showers every day for the prisoners here?"
"So that they wouldn't get used to the cold bay water when they were trying to escape."
"Is that true?" Paige asked.
"Have I ever lied to you?"
It was late afternoon when Jason said, "Have you ever been to Noe Valley?"
Paige shook her head. "No."
"I'd like to show it to you. It used to be farms and streams. Now it's filled with brightly colored Victorian homes and gardens. The houses are very old, because it was about the only area spared in the 1906 earthquake."
"It sounds lovely."
Jason hesitated. "My home is there. Would you like to see it?" He saw Paige's reaction. "Paige, I'm in love with you."
"We hardly know each other. How could you ...?"
"I knew it from the moment you said, 'Don't you know you're supposed to wear a white coat on rounds?' That's when I fell in love with you."
"Jason ..."
"I'm a firm believer in love at first sight. My grandfather saw my grandmother riding a bicycle in the park and he followed her, and they got married three months later. They were together for fifty years, until he died. My father saw my mother crossing a street, and he knew she was going to be his wife. They've been married for forty-five years. You see, it runs in the family. I want to marry you."
It was the moment of truth.
Paige looked at Jason and thought, He's the first man I've been attracted to since Alfred. He's adorable and bright and genuine. He's everything a woman could want in a man. What's the matter with me! I'm holding on to a ghost. Yet deep inside her, she still had the overpowering feeling that one day Alfred was going to come back to her.
She looked at Jason and made her decision. "Jason..."
And at that moment, Paige's beeper went off. It sounded urgent, ominous.
"Paige ..."
"I have to get to a telephone." Two minutes later, she was talking to the hospital.
Jason watched Paige's face turn pale.
She was shouting into the telephone, "No! Absolutely not! Tell them I'll be right there." She slammed the phone down.
"What is it?" Jason asked.
She turned to him, and her eyes were filled with tears. "It's Jimmy Ford, my patient. They're going to take him off the respirator. They're going to let him die."
When Paige reached Jimmy Ford's room, there were three people there beside the comatose figure in bed: George Englund, Benjamin Wallace, and a lawyer, Silvester Damone.
Did you know I'm getting marriedl ... Her name is Betsy... . We're going to have half a dozen kids. The first girl is going to be named Paige.
He had so very much to live for.
Paige stood there looking down at him, tears blurring the room. "Damn you!" she said. "You're a quitter!" She was sobbing now. "What happened to those dreams of yours? I thought you wanted to become a doctor! Answer me! Do you hear me? Open your eyes!" She looked down at the pale figure. There was no reaction. "I'm sorry," Paige said. "I'm so sorry." She leaned down to kiss him on the cheek, and as she slowly straightened up, she was looking into his open eyes.
"Jimmy! Jimmy'!"
He blinked and closed his eyes again. Paige squeezed his hand. She leaned forward and said through her sobs, "Jimmy, did you hear the one about the patient who was being fed intravenously? He asked the doctor for an extra bottle. He was having a guest for lunch."