What Henry Middleton Had Meant To Do Before Dying

By Bryce Taylor

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He had meant to visit Rome, to feed pigeons with fresh Italian bread in the warm shadow of St. Peter’s. Over breakfast he would have swapped stories with fellow pilgrims: a young Parisian filmmaker, perhaps; a one-armed sculptor from the Bahamas; a Canadian bureaucrat who enjoyed mystical visions within the confines of his cubicle.

He had thought of learning Greek, had daydreamed about translating the New Testament into English, not for publication, but for his own intellectual and spiritual enrichment. He had meant to look up local courses that could accommodate his schedule. 

He had wanted to take up bird watching. Slight callouses would form around his eyes from the binoculars, and he would recognize other bird watchers in the grocery store, not only from their own slight callouses, but from the gentle attentiveness that would accompany their every glance. One of them, perhaps, would be a middle-aged widow by the name of Diane, whose green eyes would appear to discern the presence of angels in an avocado. 

He had intended to become something of a film connoisseur, an expert in Hitchcock, Bergman, Malick, Kaufman. He would watch his favorites dozens of times, write essays with unprecedented observations, post them on a blog that would gain a steady readership. Eventually, a book publisher might notice his work and send an eager email. 

And he had meant, just once, to sit down and observe an oak tree as he had observed one in the 5th grade, when Mrs. Galli had taken the class outside to write. Somehow his poem had gone missing, and he wanted now, decades later, to write the same poem, to use the same metaphors, to compare the branches to wild roller coasters, their tips to fingers reaching up, reaching out, touching only wind.

– Bryce Taylor