“Just when you think I’m in the palm of your hand
You’ll hear rattling bottles and clattering cans
I’m a ghost in the grand stand a sack full of wind
I’m a bat in the rafters and a rat in the tin
In the cool before dawn I’m a creak and a groan
I’m a breath on the back of your neck and I’m gone
I’m so god damned alone”
I sat watching her sleep, her breathing steady but not strong; she’s fighting the last of the pneumonia.
She sleeps like a child, her body curled up. “Beloved”, I say softly, taking the hand that hangs over the side of the bed. Her skin is dry, her veins blue against the pale and I’m reminded of reading dead languages on ancient parchment. She doesn’t stir and I know it’s the drugs making her sleep; when I knew her she never slept at night, it was a quality in her that allowed us to have our time together.
I sat with her for hours, studying the lines on her face and wondering what life she led to acquire them. The hospital thrummed around me, an ironic existence, a life all its own that only survives because of the death it deals with hour upon hour. Nurses came and went, monitoring and prodding and smiling the sad smiles of people with enough kindness to do this job for a few years until they burn out and move on. And I sat there unnoticed, watching this woman I knew so long ago.
“Beloved”, I say again a few hours later. “Agapetos” and a smile comes to her lips as her eyes open slowly.
“You came”, she says, before she can even see me, her lungs pushing the words out with effort.
“I promised I would”
“That was so long ago, I thought you would have forgotten”
She grips my hand and I can feel how weak she is, the muscles in her hand giving their all to touch prove to her that I’m solid. Through her touch I can feel this body that I knew intimately in another life. The heart thats beating faster as the drugs wear off, blood pushing against veins that are more brittle than they should be. I can feel the tears swelling in her eyes, the moisture in her lungs, the arthritis in her fingers. And the cancer. I feel it like a hole in her.
We say nothing to each other for almost an hour, filling the time remembering each other.
Finally, “I must go”.
“I will come back tomorrow”
“Come earlier so you can stay longer” she asks and we both smile because she said those words before, the night we met. I explained how I sat for hours waiting for the drugs that help her sleep to run their course. “I won’t take them at night anymore”, she tells me and I start to argue, but I remember her stubbornness and relent as I kiss her good-bye.
“I’m so glad you came”
“Who are you talking to?” says a nurse entering the room as I vanish into the last of the night.