I went down the hall to get a cup of coffee. I was strolling. Waiting for death, so I wasn’t in a hurry. My shoes dragged on the linoleum floor. It squeaked. A man in a wheelchair looked at me irritated; he should thank me, that was an improvement to his condition, before he only seemed absent.
The doors to the rooms of some patients were open, others were closed. I walked by, looked inside. Bouquets of flowers and gift baskets stood on the tables. Some of the relatives or friends sat with the sick, whom I saw laughing, talking, crying, and remaining silent as I passed by. It was rarely quiet, because they found another reason to talk here. The machine only took change. I asked a nurse to change a tenner.
“No exchange office” she replied annoyed under the busy clicking of the computer keyboard.
“I’m here to visit my terminally ill father, and you’re even denying me a cup of this hospital dirt brew?”
It seemed too much.
“I’m sorry” she responded. She pulled out her wallet, changed my tenner. I went to the vending machine. Pressed the vanilla cappuccino. Something exotic for this extraordinary day. The machine started to work. The coffee flowed, but no cup fell. I watched the cappuccino come out of the nozzle and ran down the drain.
“YOU SHITTY CONTAINER, ONLY GOOD FOR SPARE PARTS”
The kicks didn’t change anything. The coffee was lost. My Euro was gone. On the way back, I cursed the loss of the coin. Then I was there again. In this room. Why I came back? Because if you don’t have anything anywhere, it’s the all same wherever you’re going. The hoses in his arm. The snowflakes dancing in the wind. Some got stuck at the window where the warmth of the room melted them.
I’ve been thinking about death a lot these past few weeks. Maybe it was my fault he was here. Did I curse him with my words? Did I sleep the sleep of a crown witness, ready to confirm his sins when the time for his judgement had come? Had I led him to the slaughter? Had I pulled a knife and shoved it between his ribs? The world wasn’t like that. She doesn’t give you what you want because you want it and whether I was here or not just made a difference to me. But still I couldn’t look at him. His frail, stiff body in pastel hospital bed linen. I watched the snow on the glass melting from the window.
The nurse came into the room. She didn’t seem to mind the dying man. It wasn’t the first time I saw it. I didn’t even know if she even noticed people when she walked into a room. It was just a package that had to go out; a project that had to be done; a bread that was destined to be baked. She was overlooking the monitors. Wrote something in his file and left the room. I was standing by the window. Watching the snow fall.
A gasp. He’d woken up.
“My son, I can feel it”
He was coughing. I went over to him and gave him a tissue. He spat the phlegm in it, then I took it. I felt his trembling. There was pudency in his eyes. He had always been the stronger one of the two of us.
“I feel it. It’ll be over soon. You won’t have to be here anymore”
I saw the tears, and the shame he felt for the tears. I stroked them off his face. He was angry at that. It was hard for him. He didn’t want to expose himself. Not even now.
I sat down next to him. My father took my hand.
“I’ve always wanted the best for you”
His words. Full of grief. That wasn’t my father. That was a human. Not my father. I nodded. I didn’t mean to argue. Not with an old, dying man.
“I know you hate me. You probably waited for that moment…” he coughed “… I’m asking you…”
He stopped. I handed him some water. He sipped on it for a second, then I took the cup “… please…”
He inhaled. Cough. He squeezed my hand as hard as he could. It hurt, but I didn’t back down.
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