“Maybe it’s nothing,” I say as I stare at the gray wall in front of me.
“Maybe it is.”
I gently trace my fingers over his knuckles and give his hand a protective squeeze. “It’ll be okay, you know. I’m here. We’ll be okay.”
He awkwardly shifts his weight to his other leg and jams his hands in his pocket. “Yeah.”
We are enveloped by sounds. A gentle humming seems to emanate from the flickering overhead light while the constant pitter-patter of human steps reverberates through the floor under our feet. Every few minutes a telephone rings, interrupted soon after by gruff mutterings rendered unintelligible by the general chaos in the air. I notice a low rhythmic pounding and realize rather uneasily that I am noticing the sound of my own heart. Or maybe his. Or both.
Sometimes, in the moments right before sleep overtakes us, I wait for our heartbeats to converge. Resting my cheek on the cavity of his chest, I let the thumping echo through my body until every nerve ending signals my own system to follow. For a few moments, the blood pumping through his veins flows through mine, too. We are linked by something so simple, so primal, that no power in the universe can tear us apart.
The first time he ever slept in my bed, he passed out while laying on my left arm, and I woke up with the horrifying sensation that I’d lost a limb. When I woke him up (begrudgingly) to ask him if he could please move, he laughed, this deep, rich, beautiful laugh, a laugh I fell in love with over and over and over again. He kissed the fingers of my limp, dead hand and held it tightly. “When you start to feel again, I want the first thing you feel to be me.” And it was, oh, it was.
I hear his name and snap to attention. Someone walks by with a manila folder, deeply absorbed in its contents. Someone bumps into someone else and spills her coffee, resulting in a myriad of hasty apologies and a promise of penitence. Someone stands in front of us, frowning, one thumb resting nonchalantly under the loop of his suspenders. It is he who speaks, tersely and emotionlessly, those precious few words that bring us closer and closer to the moment of truth.
“We will see you now,” he says with finality.
The one person I am sure I love walks away from me. I wait for him to turn around and look into my eyes and tell me not to be scared, to take my hand and let his pulse surge through me so I can believe that everything will be okay. But he doesn’t. The sound of his footsteps fades slowly with the distance, echoing less and less through the darkened hallway, and I am struck once more with that same startling and horrifying sense of loss.
I want to tell him that when this nightmare is over, when he finally starts to feel again, the first thing he feels will be me. Until then, I won’t let go.