As I embrace you my hands drift over your thin skin and the hard protruding bones of your back. This was a new feeling of you that I’d not yet grown accustomed to. I think of our first embrace and the many there after, where you enveloped me with strong arms. My hands would slide over your strong shoulders and down the length of you, the tips of my fingers pressing into your taunt muscles.
I slip my hand into yours, our fingers instinctively intertwine. The contrast in the color of our skin still surprises me, your dull yellow fingers clasping mine that hold hints of pink. These dry wrinkled fingers that cling to mine are unfamiliar, yet I hold them, rubbing my thumb over rough patches of skin and knobby knuckles. I look upon these fingers of yours that use to dance freely over the black and white teeth of your keyboard. Fingers that had once traced the peaks and valleys of me in exploration, appear to be decades older than the man they belong to.
You look intently at me; your beautiful brown speckled eyes appear to be drowning in liquid pools of yellow. The corners of your mouth slowly turn up into a small smile and you stay that way for a moment, looking at me and smiling. You look tired. You always look tired. I don’t say what I think. What now? Are you scared? We don’t talk about what is happening. We already know.
“Would you like me to rub your feet?” I ask, as I stand to make my way to the foot of the bed. I already know you do. You don’t talk, talking is hard. Instead you nod. With lotioned hands I kneed the thick swollen flesh that has swallowed up your feet. Feet that had once effortlessly slipped into your favorite Adidas were now too swollen to wear shoes. Feet that had carried you across the basketball court on countless occasions, could now barely carry you to the bathroom.
How can this be your body? I think, as I work the lotion further up and over your calves. You still wore the gym shorts I’d helped you put on two days prior. I’d sponge bathed you, lathering soap over the purplish bruises that covered your bulging belly, a belly so full of fluid it appeared as though it might burst. When I carefully cleaned between your legs, my touch was that of a mother cleaning her child, not that of a lover in an intimate moment. I couldn’t remember the last time you’d made love to me. Impotence was one of the first bombs your alcoholism dropped on us. At one time our union had been magical, a feeling as though we’d melted together to become one. I cleaned you and dressed you as I would a small child, all the while I looked upon your body with the jolting realization of all the things it could no longer do.
When I left you it was not because I didn’t love you, it was because I refused to stay and watch you kill yourself, each drink a step closer to your death. I knew this time would come. I had hoped it would be so far from now that I would never know about it. Does that make me selfish? I did not want to hurt.
Just one week ago you were restrained to your hospital bed, confused and scared, rambling about how the nurses were trying to kill you. When I first walked into your room I questioned if you recognized me, but then you told me you wanted to kiss my pretty face. For a week you fought your confusion, often believing that you were on a cruise ship. Most likely remembering the cruise we were on a year ago, when things were better. With each shift change I managed to work in conversations with your caregivers about what a caring, intelligent, educated man you are and that this person that they see now, is not who you are. Alcoholism can happen to anyone. Don’t judge! I’d wanted to scream.
We’ve been told that you have end stage liver disease (end-stage-liver-disease ) and that you have a 20% chance of making it through the next 90 days. My mind is a scramble, constantly searching for all of the words that I need to say to you, while I still have the time to say them. Gone are the lectures of how your drinking will kill you and rants about how you’re the one to blame. They’ve been replaced by words of love and actions to make you comfortable. Strip away the disease and there you are; the most intelligent man I have ever known, a talented musician, a gentle lover, a loving son, a compassionate teacher and a true friend. I want you to know that I love you dearly and that I am angry as hell that I will have to watch you die. But in this moment, at this time, there is no place else I would rather be, than by your side.Browse Front PageShare Your Idea