They let me in the room with her and I walked without meaning to walk. It was bright with big windows covering the opposite wall looking out onto grass and a bed at a right angle to the light so that lying there she rested her chin on her left shoulder to gaze out and had to roll her head rightwards to see who came in. Walking as I was she got bigger and I started to feel her fear and only then did I realise that I was absolutely terrified and had been for a long time though I can’t say when it started. The room smelled sterile and smelled like a room you shouldn’t leave. It made you want to run but made you feel like you absolutely couldn’t; she wanted to run but politeness kept her sane.
She looked at me and it felt like when we met at a station or arrived by taxi and hadn’t seen each other in a while. Except this time we had seen each other but wouldn’t see each other for a while yet. Her eyes were filled with tears and she had a smile like she was happy and proud and surprised in her happiness but glad, and that it was all too much to bear. ‘Hi.’ her voice was stronger than I thought and I knew that I loved how she could be so full of emotion but still function and not collapse.
I couldn’t say anything but patted her with my hand. We both cried quietly. I started to feel I should be doing more and I wanted to tell her but now it all seemed lame and wrong and stupid. So I told her I loved her and I felt I was saying it to be strong and make her feel safe but of course I didn’t feel safe and I heard it as a squeak and more air than sound. I wanted her to say it and she did and her face was still proud but now also concerned but concerned for me and how I was and in a moment all this love turned to hate and then all I felt was shame that I would make her worry for anyone but herself and then blame her for it. It couldn’t end like this so I started to tell her and at first I fumbled and had to keep starting over but then I forgot where we were and even that she was there and I just felt what I wanted to feel and before I knew it I had said it.
‘Here’s what’s going to happen. We’ll cremate you. You’ll be ash. And… well ash is a great fertiliser. After a volcano the land regrows and the crops are full, for years they’re full. So I’ll take you, and--- remember when we went to the garden centre? You said we should get lilies and I said we would and I haven’t. Well I’ll buy some and I’ll take you… I’ll take you…and I’ll plant them and mix you in with the soil. I’ll mix you up with the soil and I’ll plant them and they’ll grow and… you’ll be in them. And I’ll look out and see them growing and know that you’re in them. And when they’re big I’ll pick them and smell them and put them in vases all around the house and I’ll always be with you. Because I love you so much. And you have to know that. I love you so much and I might meet someone but it won’t mean anything because they aren’t you, do you hear me? I will always think about you because you are my heart and you always will be. Do you understand? You have to know that because I’d want to know that, desperately; that not for a second will you be less important to me than you are right now.’
Only then I saw that whilst she was touched and she nodded and her face filled with yet more pride it was all show this time and maybe always had been and really she was just scared. I knew then that she was really only grateful that I cared so much to need her and that she didn’t really care if she was a plant and that was fine with me.
By the time the footsteps came we had fallen onto each other and were kissing clumsily because we were too busy crying but we were smiling with this painful relief that we weren't acting strong anymore when we weren't. And I had begun to feel excitement for some reason that this would all be over soon and I could go back although things would never really go back of course. But now this felt right and I was glad that I had told her.
The nurse came in the needle went in and she was gone. I saw I was walking and in the corridor and the moment I saw I fell in a stumble against the wall and slid and couldn’t feel a thing for all the shaking. I shook on the floor and wept and shuddered in sobs and no why did I leave I didn’t want to leave yet I wanted to be there with her but I can’t now she’s gone.
I looked around dumbly as people saw but couldn’t give what they thought they should because they were embarrassed or busy feeling. And I looked around for the family I knew wasn’t there because my family had been in that bed and now had faded along with my heart. I was sharp breathing and strange noises and that was everything for a while until someone helped me up and walked me around until I took my body back and walked to my car and went home and stared blankly at a door and remembered I’d forgotten something and went back to the car again to get lilies.