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She clutched at my hand. Her thirty dollar manicure pierced through my skin. It should have hurt, but I had known worse pain.
“Sweetheart,” she whispered. Her face was stretched taut with grief and I suddenly realized how old she looked, how broken, how fragile.
And I thought I was the one dying.
They had told me that they would do the best they can, but doctors were terrible liars. I could see the pity in their eyes, There goes another one. And at the end it would just be my mom, my sweet, sweet mom, standing in the waiting room for the news she had always been waiting for, making the calls for my funeral, sitting at the little table she had bought when she was pregnant with me, alone for the rest of it all.
I suppose at the end of everything we should deserve some sort of award. For you know, living. Being you. Not throwing in the towel so early. But I was strapped to a gurney and there were needles pouring various drugs into my already-failing body, and I couldn’t help but think that being this, a vegetable responsible for the eternal suffering of the person you loved most in the world, really called for any sort of honors.
I wondered what it would be like. If my life would flash before my eyes. There wouldn’t be much to flash by though. Mostly mom, a lot of books, the sky blue walls of my room. Maybe I would see a blinding light. Or maybe it would be just like falling asleep. Except this time I would never wake up.
I just didn’t want to be severely disappointed when I would transcend that border between Shitty Reality and the After. Join the masses of blanched husks of the old, the unlucky, the forgotten, the regretful. I wanted some kind of closure, a period. Not a semi-colon or some frigging comma, but a solid period. An answer, a lesson, a closing act, an ending.
She was crying.
My voice cracked, and I hated myself for it. Surely on this planet the only thing worse than living is outliving your child. Not that I would ever know what that would feel like.
I wondered what they called parents who lost their children. Parent-orphans. Parorphans. I wondered why they didn’t have a special place just for them, a quiet house by the seaside where they could drink lots of coffee and listen to bad music and plant some flowers and knit quilts and let the scars scab over, inhale peace and learn to live again. Because after watching my mom, the strongest woman, best woman, I had ever known, shatter like this, I really think that they deserve it.
“Mom. I love you, so much.”
And even right now, she managed to smile. She leaned over gingerly, like I was a porcelain doll, and she hugged me and I hugged back and we were both a tear-sodden mess but it was okay, she was the last person I had.
“Okay,” the nurse said. I had to go.
Mom pulled away. She was still so beautiful. “I love you, always.”
“I love you too.”
And she kissed me on the cheek and I wondered if she shuddered at how papery thin it was, how I was practically almost dead.
But that’s the beauty of it. I wasn’t, not just yet.
The nurse wheeled me around and I couldn’t turn to wave at her because I was trapped with all those goddamn straps, but I could feel her standing still there in her oversized coat with that hideous plaid umbrella in one hand and my goodbyes in another. Waiting. Hurting. Living.
Maybe she’d finally get remarried. Get a dog. Sell the house and move far away. Move on.
And someday, I’d get to see her again and she would tell me all about her honeymoon in Paris with her new husband and the way her golden retriever always sheds on the carpets she bought from a stall in Singapore. We’d laugh at all the parts we aren’t supposed to and I’d treat her to some ice cream, if there is ice cream wherever people like us go.
If there is, I’d want strawberry.
It’s not so bad.
I had a good run. I hope you do too.