Frost of the afterlife blued his lips, the yellow roses of the wallpaper withering a deep brown. Curtains gently whispered the nurse’s breeze from the room, beyond the whir and ping of life support.
A moment passed, an hour, one hundred years. Her return spoke finality. She was clean, unhurt by his leaving. I wanted to throw myself into her arms but followed her around the small room like an abandoned child. She pretended not to notice, her procedures crisp and sterile—tubing and machinery.
“Stay with him as long as you need.”
When I looked at him again, death had erased the worry lines from his forehead, erased him from the keep of time. The air trembled with the question, Who will grieve with me? Coughed or screamed or imagined and unanswered.
The nurse found me clinging to some phantom wall in a corridor. “You’re so brave.”
“No. I’m not. I’m not. I’m telling you.”
She stared without seeing me. How could I tell her, after I exit this hospital forever, in a week, a month, I will lose myself completely and never come back? There would be no one to slacken the rope.
You’re so brave means I didn’t die when God punched a hole in me, that all the bloody wars I thought were over have just begun. I stand alone, without armor, sword, army.
How hard it is to let go of people with grace. The desolation of ships sailing away, the goodbye fleeing from hearts once so convinced neither could become untangled. Everything has intentions of forever, even so.