Written for the prompt(s): I have never been more frightened than when. . . .
|I have never been more frightened than when sitting in the hospital, waiting for some harried nurse to call my name. It’s always more nerve-wracking and somehow more painful than actually being a patient . . . waiting to hear back about and see one.
Suffice it to say, I’ve never gotten used to it.
This time, since receiving a call from the hospital half an hour ago, while at work, was no different, except that it was worse. I knew this would be it. This would be the last time I was called to the hospital for my ailing father.
This time—this afternoon—I would be saying good-bye.
It was all I could think about as I sat in the waiting area of the ICU, Samir’s large, warm hand running up and down my back comfortingly as I stared at the floor. I was tracing the faint designs on the tiles with my eyes when a pair of white-shod feet hove into view.
I looked up from my contemplation of the floor and blinked at the nurse standing in front of Samir and I. She was short, stout, and dark, and smiling a tired nurse’s smile, professional and meaningless. She said: “You can see him, now.”
I glanced at Samir, who smiled a little, pained and commiserating, then back at the nurse—Nurse Tucker, per her nametag—and nodded.
“How . . . how is he?” I asked as Samir and I stood, his arm immediately coming around my shoulders. I leaned against for a few moments, drawing strength from him as I had for the past eight months, since Dad got his diagnosis.
“He’s awake and lucid,” Nurse Tucker said kindly, some of that weary professionalism leaching out of her smile and leaving behind a well-worn, but very real compassion. “In good spirits. And he wants to see you.”
“Oh . . . oh, God,” I said as my strength, native and borrowed, fled from me en masse and I sagged against Samir. “Oh—I can’t—I can’t go in there!” I whispered, covering my mouth guiltily. Samir pulled me into his arms and hugged me tight as I wept suddenly, deeply, and for the first time since Dad told me his condition was terminal.
“It’s okay, baby . . . you’re okay,” Samir murmured in my hair, kissing the crown of my head as I wept on his shoulder. “You can do this, David.”
“No, I can’t. I really can’t.”
“You can, babe. You have to. You may not get another chance to. . . .” Samir trailed off apologetically, sadly.
I sniffed and pulled back a little in his arms to look up into his dark, almond-shaped eyes. “A chance to—what? To hear my father’s last words? To say good-bye?”
Samir sighed, but nodded. “Yes,” he said simply, and my vision instantly blurred again. This time, I wiped the tears away impatiently. Samir came back into focus, his empathetic eyes brimming with tears, as well.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” he said, his voice hitching on baby and the tears standing out in his eyes welling over, and down his cheeks. “So sorry.”
I was startled, for my father and my boyfriend hadn’t always gotten along. Even now, despite Dad’s . . . acceptance of Samir in my life, their relationship, such as it was, was at best civil, and at worst, strained. Part of Dad still hoped, I suspected, that I’d outgrow being gay, politely break it off with Samir, and find some pretty, sweet girl to make him grandkids with.
But four years after coming out and three years after meeting Samir, I’d shown no signs of outgrowing either my sexuality or my boyfriend, whom I loved more than I could accurately say. And Dad . . . was still coming to terms with that.
He might very well die before fully accepting it, I realized.
And surely Samir—always quicker on the uptake than me on my best day, which this was not—knew that already. But he still cared enough about my father—and about me—to shed tears over the idea of his passing.
I reached up and cupped his face in my hand, brushing away a tear that fell with my thumb.
“I love you,” I said quietly, and Samir smiled again, leaning down to kiss me briefly, but tenderly. He tasted like coffee and tears.
“I love you, too.”
“Will you . . . will you come in with me? To say good-bye?”
Samir’s brow furrowed and he held me tighter, his face gone grim and regretful under its wash of tears. “Are you sure , babe? I know this is difficult for you—will be difficult to do alone, but I don’t want to make things awkward for you and George. He doesn’t exactly approve of me, and anyway . . . I don’t want to . . . intrude on a private family moment. . . .”
“You won’t be,” I promised, hoping that Dad wouldn’t make a liar of me. But this close to the end . . . I doubted he would. The last few times Samir had come to visit Dad with me, Dad had been almost cordial to him. And Samir had been gracious, as ever. “You won’t be intruding because you are my family. The both of you. And I need you with me to do this. You’re my heart, and . . . you make me brave.”
Samir searched my eyes then nodded, taking my hand and linking our fingers. “If you’re sure. . . .”
“You’re the surest thing in my life, Samir. I don’t just want you there with me, I need you there.”
“Alright. Of course.” He kissed my forehead and sighed. “Then let’s not keep George waiting.”
Together we turned to face Nurse Tucker. She smiled again, all compassion and approval. “Are you ready, now?”
“Yes,” I exhaled, pasting on a smile that felt about as real as a six dollar bill. Then I took a deep breath and let it out heavily, along with my fear and grief. Away, they went, but not far. And not, I knew, for long. But Samir squeezed my hand in support and I squeezed his back. As long as he was by my side, no matter what happened, I would be okay. “We’re ready.”