I swallow hard; lately there is always something acrid and dusty sitting in my throat. It is the taste of bitterness I think. But surely a mother has every right to be bitter? It is only twelve months ago that you were dancing against a blue sky, your sticky palms opening as the falling petals of late summer drifted down to meet you. My memory cradles the image, handling it as delicately as though it were made of gossamer.
Such a short space of time but this illness has consumed you. Consumed both of us, where is the woman I used to be? And where are you? Hardly any time at all and those limbs that once held up the sky could easily belong to a Holocaust survivor. I hold you close and stroke your hair. Pretend that I still smell the scent of sunshine and baby shampoo. Pretend that the reaper is not in the room.
We lay down together, side by side and gently I run my fingers along the length of your arm. Avoiding the multiple spots where needles break the perfection of your skin. I wish I could absorb you back into my body, protect you with the very substance of my being the way I once did. But there is no going back.
And suddenly I want nothing more than to collapse in my own bed. To validate my own life by thrusting my body hard against my husband and proving to him that he still matters. I want to place a hand upon the sleeping backs of my neglected children and feel the rise and swell of healthy breath.
So I go in search of the nurse and she takes me by the arm. Her voice is a gentle benediction. She reassures me that there is time, that I am only a phone call away. That it will not be tonight. I believe her because I want to. But she is wrong. And in my heart your broken eyes accuse me.