He is propped against the pillows, slightly elevated, breathing shallowly to minimize the pain. The rail of the bed digs into my thigh, but I stay, perched in place, to watch and wait.
We are clasped, loosely holding one another’s forearms instead of holding hands, so has not to disturb his I.V. I am wrapped in my favorite Eeyore sweatshirt to ward off the chills that come unbidden, despite the fact that it’s not cold. My breaths timing with his, I keep silent vigil, watching and waiting amidst the beeps and drips. The hrrrrsht-hrrrrsht flow of oxygen becomes the bass, the beat around which the cacophonous symphony of hospital sounds is woven. His eyes flutter behind twitching lids in counterpoint rhythm to the melody he is stroking against the inside of my arm. Rough fingertips caress the fabric of my sweatshirt for several minutes and then abruptly stop.
He opens his eyes and studies me with brief lucidity, a puzzled expression on his brow.
This is all I need, this brief moment of clarity. He will not remember it in the morning, but he needs to know – before he goes to sleep for the night – what has happened. It has been a long 18 hours and while (selfishly) I want to sleep, I want much more for him to be able to sleep. In peace.
I open my mouth to explain why he’s here, to explain what’s happened, to tell him that something simple became a bit complicated, to reassure him that everything is okay . . .
But before a single word can escape my mouth, he interrupts me.
With puzzled expression still in place and a goofy grin on his face, he starts stroking my arm again and asks the most pressing question on his mind.
“Hon…” he begins.
I am prepared with succinct answers to any question he may ask about the hows and whys, and I wait expectantly while he gathers his thoughts.
But his train of inquiry is on a different track.
“Hon,” he begins again with purpose, clearly needing needing an answer to A Very Important Question. “Hon, were you always this soft, or is it because I’m high?”