It's week 25 of Miranda Kate's Mid Week Flash challenge, and illness, work and general life chaos has meant I haven't been able to participate as much as I'd have liked to, but this week's image really spoke to me. Anyone is welcome to join in, the general guidelines can be found here.
This week's prompt:
They say life’s a bitch, but she's got nothing on the twisted sense of humour Fate has. Finally together, finally able to touch instead of talk, to kiss instead of dream. We were finally going to the ocean. Packing up the car together, all excited. She looked like a painting, the light on her face too perfect to be real. I kissed her, then turned away to load the last bag into the boot. When I turned back, she was on the floor, lifeless, hair sprawled in the mud.
Three months later, life is drained of colour. She smiles through the pain and the sickness and the exhaustion, brave little stoic smiles, drained of their warmth. Every time I walk down this disinfectant scented corridor I hear the doctor telling us “I'm very sorry, it is terminal. We can make her comfortable…” and I have to swallow my anger, my pain, my disappointment, push it all down into the pit of my stomach and try to have my smile ready for her. I can't let her down.
We can't go to the ocean.
She asked me once if I would go for her, after she's gone. I told her not to be so daft, that miracles happen all the time, that she would be coming with me. I knew I was lying. She knew I was lying. But it helped.
We’ve returned to living through shared dreams, texts, snatched moments between chemo and physio and more tests. Funny how life goes sometimes.
We can't go to the ocean.
But sometimes, when she is feeling strong, I lift her delicate, fragile little body into a wheelchair, and we take a stroll down to the hospital garden. Well, I say garden. It's as hopeless as the rest of this place, a few sad daffodils in pots on an area of cracked, fractured tarmac, littered with cigarette butts.
None of this is fair. It should be our time.
“I'll be going soon” she says one night, startling me out of my brooding.
“I'll thought you were asleep.”
“Nah,” she says, “there'll be time for that…” she doesn't finish the thought. “Can we go outside?”
“Now? It's dark, love. It'll be cold.”
“I'm always warm when I'm with you.”
I can't say no to her. Never could, really, but I definitely couldn't now. So I fetch her chair, and argue with the night nurse and find a blanket. She dozes in the chair as I walk her down, returning the night porter’s solemn smile. It's so silent here at night, you could forget the hundreds of families going through their own private dramas in every ward.
It has been raining, and it is cold. The sad little wooden bench is soaked, so I lean on the back of her chair, under the full moon.
“let me sit on your lap” she says, so I lift her as gently as I can, terrified I might break her, and settle into her chair. There's no weight to her now, but feeling her head on my shoulder, and her quick, shallow breathing is enough to feel comfort.
“This garden is so depressing,” I say eventually. “You deserve to sit somewhere beautiful”
“It doesn't matter as long as I'm with you,” she says, “but look there, see?” she points and I try to see what she's talking about. All I see is cracked tarmac potholes filled with rainwater, cigarette butts and darkness. “it's like the ocean”
I put my head right next to hers, look down her arm, and see it. The pothole is what she's is pointing to. The water filling it ripples gently in the breeze, distorting the reflection of the moon for a moment.
“It is” I'm forced to concede, and we sit there for an immeasurable moment, watching the miniature waves lapping at the tarmac beach.
“You can find beauty anywhere, if you open your eyes” she tells me.
We never made it back into the garden.
We never made it to the ocean.
But we built our own ocean, out of dreams.