We lasted a day, you and I, in the bright autumnal sunshine. We lasted a day and never spoke but listened instead to the dusty shuffle of feet. Around us, the curtains hung like shrouds, shredding the light and laying shadows upon your face.
We lasted a day before you faded away.
It wasn’t love that brought us together, your heart too fragile for such frivolity. I just had time to kill. Time to sit beside the stranger for whom an entire hospital held its breath.
Led to your side I wanted to talk, but my news seemed too full for your already bloated belly and my word died on your cold lips. So I sat, shyly at first and a short distance away, remembering how I felt on a first date or as the new boy at school. I tried counting time against the clatter of cutlery at neighbouring beds but time seemed patient and I stayed.
I even, briefly, held your frail hand.
But no words.
Instead, ours became a love affair of listening. With me hearing each tiny sigh you sent back into the world, and you the tectonic shift of tumours colliding within. Our relationship held steady and nurses brought sandwiches and drinks as though to keep me sweet, embarrassed, perhaps, that you were ever alone. We were strangers, sure enough, but all love starts that way.
I fooled myself into thinking it could last, into thinking I could stay or maybe you could stay. But it couldn’t last. You only get to love a person once. Maybe for a few hours, maybe for the rest of their life. Sometimes it is both.
I left first. Leaving you alone once more, as I ran the length of the corridor towards the sound of my second son being born; a new stranger to love.