Life and Death: In the Squeeze of A Hand

I am in the hospital room. It’s bright but the light can’t get through to me.

When they deliver my food, it takes me back to the place I thought I had escaped. I wonder if the chicken whose wings they fried made it past a day because why is it so tiny? Is this really what I paid for? Why is my coleslaw so small and why is there no cream in it?

I want to think I’ve been scammed, that I didn’t get what I deserved. Instead, I start to compensate, to make excuses for them. I start to blame myself instead. Maybe I wasn’t clear, maybe they made a mistake, maybe cabbages are expensive. I would conveniently make up anything, do anything but accept that maybe the problem isn’t me.

This is the exact way I was with him. I conveniently overlooked every sound I heard, every expression he made when he thought I couldn’t see. But I saw, and I heard but I made myself believe it was something else. I now know to see what people show me.

I my mother’s eyes start to close. “What’s wrong?”

“I just want to get some shut-eye,” she replies.

I know. Every part of me knows, they told me to expect it. Still, I say,

“I’ll squeeze your hand every five minutes, just squeeze back to let me know you’re still here.”

She smiles, squeezes my hand, and closes her eyes. The squeeze is weak and I can barely feel it but it’s comforting still. Her smile doesn’t look like a smile, it looks like a ghost of what it once was. After all, didn’t she die many years ago?

In my family, we love caps. My mother is the only one who prefers scarves. She wraps them so tight around her head that I want to ask her if she can breathe, if she isn’t suffocating.

Because I love magic, and I like to think I can create illusions, the foolscap is my signature. I should have known there was more to it. That I was a fool. But how would I have known? I was only nine.

He was my hero. I loved him, adored him even. What more could a nine-year-old expect but the double-rolled fish roll from the bakery beside the bank he works at? What more could I have needed than for him to carry me whenever he got back from work? But really, it wasn’t about what he didn’t do for me. It was more about what he did to her.

In my mother’s eyes, I saw the pain. In the way she moved, I saw her accept that she would never be enough. I heard the shouts, I saw the look of disgust on his face each time. But I was a magician. And I am a fool. I conveniently and continuously lied to myself that it was something else. That it wasn’t the sound of my mother dying.

It’s been five minutes. I squeeze. Once, twice…

They’d told me to expect it…

Three times.

She doesn’t squeeze back.

Hi, it’s Lieme here. This is a story about life, pain, and reflection. If you liked it, please like, share, and comment. You can enjoy other short stories like this here.

-Photo from Unsplash.

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