I let my hand glide over his calloused finger tips, taking pleasure in the feel of the rough skin. Hoping that maybe I could somehow revive his barely beating heart. I figured that maybe the passion in my heart would flow through the blood in my arm to my fingernails and electrify him back to life. The incessant beeping of the heart monitor brought back so many memories, as he lay comatose, honey skin lying prostrate on the bleached white hospital sheet. My elbow tingled with glee at the memory of his hand guiding me down the mountain of stairs as we left my senior prom. I had hoped the staircase would never end or if it did, end right at the altar. The only man that I’d ever fully trusted, who knew my most embarrassing and shameful secrets yet still chose to call me his friend. Friend. Sister. Those God awful categories that crushed my heart a little bit more each time he put me in them; every syllable penetrating my core with venomous pain. So many nights had I hoped that he would realize that all of those other girls that he chased didn’t know his worth, not like I did. Those other girls didn’t tremble at the mention of his name or quiver at the sound of his voice. They hadn’t sat up with him when his father died and held his hand while he cried. And none of those other girls loved him enough to simply let him go, with an asinine prayer that he might, one day, find his way home.
His sister had gone to take their mother to the hotel about a half hour away. I had decided to stay. I had twenty minutes before visiting hours were up and I decided to do what I’d dreamt of doing for two decades. I crawled into the bed with him and wrapped my arms around his puggy waist. Burying my head into his unwashed, sweaty chest, I tried to inhale whatever was left of his scent. Images of him in his car, being smushed against a pole by a sleeping truck driver flashed themselves into my head. I was always able to read him. I listened to his heart beat and felt my own pulse, they were in sync.
Brain dead they said. Unable to speak, to move, they said. But I knew he could hear me, he could sense my presence. No matter how far we were physically, we could always read each other. My spirit could communicate with his spirit from 3000 miles away, I was hoping that if I hugged him tight enough, squeezed him hard enough, our spirits could say what our mouths were unable to.
“Are you scared?” I whispered. So the grim reaper wouldn’t hear me.
“Petrified.” I squeezed him tighter.
“Don’t be. You’ll be fine.”
“Charity, you know I –“
“-love me like a sister. Yeah. I know,”
I craned my neck up to look at him. “I love you too.” He assumed that I meant as a brother. There’s no need to upset the spirit of a dying man.
“You remember what you-“
“I remember.” Tears stole my breath.
“Are you gonna-“
“Yes….shhhhh. I know.”
With that slight reminder, I leaned over and pulled the plug on his life support. He had complained for years that he’d rather be totally dead than brain dead, lying like a rotting vegetable ignored on a child’s plate. Tears rushed out of my eyes as I kissed him fully on the lips. True love is when you can put their happiness before your own, and when you can learn to let them go even if it means that they might never find their way home.