They streamed in and out all day. Random family members and friends at various levels of closeness. All of them had the same gaunt expression on their faces as though I were dead. I chose to speak to each of them, but loathed the tone they took with me. Worse still, it was the same speech with countless variants. How am I doing? How am I holding up? I’m sorry this, or that. It was all the same.
The door opened and my wife came in like an angel. The sun reflected off her brown hair, giving it the appearance of amber. Her smile, though sad, was still breathtaking. The sadness sitting just behind her dark-ringed eyes, was hard for me to see, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
“The kids are coming by today,” she said as she sat next to my bed.
“How are they-” I felt a spike of pain in my stomach that stole my breath. My face contorted and my hand instinctively went to the location. Emily didn’t react, she knew me better than that. Instead she waited for the pain to fade from my face. It did, as it always did. “How are they handling the news?” I managed.
“They aren’t handling it well,” she replied, the smile vanishing from her face.
“How are you handling it?” I asked.
“I’m going to get you some water,” she replied leaving her chair. “Your lips look dry.”
“Emily. You need to be honest with me, you know that. We have never stopped from telling each other the truth.” I pressed, “How are you doing?”
“You shouldn’t be worried about me,” she said, “I’m not going through what you are.”
She returned to me with a small cup of water. I took a sip and set it on the table next to my bed.
“Are you scared?” Emily asked after a moment of silence.
“Yes and no,” I said, trying to pull my thoughts together. “I’m not scared of dying, but after thirty-seven years-”
“Thirty-eight,” she said
“-Thirty-eight years,” I corrected, “I never thought I’d actually have to say goodbye to you. That’s the hardest part of this. I love you, Emily, but I’m not ready to say goodbye. I’ll never be ready to.”
She leaned in to kiss me on the forehead. I could feel how cold I was from the feeling of her soft lips on my skin.
“I don’t want to say goodbye either,” she said as she leaned back. I could see her tears.
I nodded, but didn’t say anything. There was nothing left to say. Instead, I reached out and took her hand. My hand looked thin and pale compared to hers. I hadn’t realized how much weight I had lost.
Another pain exploded in my stomach and the machines in the room went haywire. My hand left hers as I curled into a ball, and everything went black.