Love is watching someone die.
What Sarah Said – Death Cab for Cutie
I buried my toes into the cool sand, raised my feet and shook them gently watching the grains fall back to the ground. I sighed. It didn’t matter how deep I buried it, how far I ran from it or how careful I hid. Like the sand all it took was a gentle shake before the barriers fell away and I was left painfully exposed.
“Why so glum chum?”
I turned my head so that I could look into his eyes. They sparkled with the mischief that branded him like a tattoo. I tried to ignore the tourniquet that wrapped itself around my chest and forced a smile.
He gave my shoulder a small squeeze and I tried once again to force the words out my mouth. I attempted to go for the truth but it stuck to my throat along with my courage. Resting my head against his chest I tried to find comfort in the silence. We had done this so many times before – sitting on the beach, lost in our own worlds watching the sun become a falling ball of fire. But today the silence was oppressive. The fog of the things left unsaid snatched the oxygen from the air and I could not breathe.
I stared out at the sun slowly sinking on the horizon and the purple and pink clouds swirling in the pale blue of the sky. It was funny how the day was most beautiful during its last moments.
I willed the tears that hid just behind my eyelids not to fall. I took a deep breath, “Kiss me.”
He grinned – his brown eyes still alight with mischief. I swallowed the tears. Soon there would be no mischief there – the sparkle would be gone.
He lowered his head and pressed his lips to mine. He tasted like the remnants of the cheesecake we’d had with lunch and felt like the heaven I could already feel slipping away. I pulled away when I could no longer stop the tears from falling.
“How long have you known?”
He stared out at the ocean, “I don’t know. Two months maybe.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He pulled me closer, “I was waiting for the right time. But there was no right time.”
I let the question hang although I didn’t want to know the answer. I didn’t know if I could handle it.
He shook his head, “I love you.”
“That doesn’t answer…”
“That’s all you need to know.”
I started to protest but he placed his index finger on my lips and shook his head again, “That’s all you need to know.”
“Are you cold?”
He shook his head but I still moved to get another set of blankets. I’d already tucked four around him but the shivering didn’t stop. He reached out for my hand as I draped yet another blanket over him.
His voice was hoarse, his breaths shallow. He was the furthest from fine as he ever was… or ever would be. I wanted to scream, kick or punch at something. Then, I wanted to sink down unto the floor and cry myself dry but I couldn’t. I would not let him see me like that.
“You look it,” I said finally. “This is a good look for you. Should have stumbled across it years ago.”
He smiled. I wished I’d never had to see him like that – face drawn, eyes hollow, lips barely able to move. Yet the only thing worse than having these images seared into my brain forever was not being here in this moment as Death stood outside the door, tying up his shoelaces as he readied himself to step inside.
Panic rose up in me like smoke. Each breath he took carried him further away from me and there was nothing I could do about it.
“I love you,” I whispered.
He tried to smile again as I caressed away the tears that fell to his cheek. I closed my eyes and imagined us sitting on a beach watching the sun set as I rested my head against his chest. Then, I listened to the beat of his heart and felt his chest rise and fall with his breaths until they both ceased.