Everything to Live For
My eyes open of their own accord.
My first awareness is in my chest, a hard round mass that feels ready to burst.
Eyes close; open. Deep breath, halted halfway in; the gatekeepers have decreed that none shall pass, and I must be sneaky, forcing the air in a little at a time so that no one notices.
I feel my upper arms tingle as the adrenaline rises.
Breath hitches now, ready to stutter and collapse with the first tear. Eyes close; open.
He needs his sleep. I do not want him to hear.
Blind hands reach for the nearest device: four minutes past two. They say midnight is the witching hour, but they don’t know.
The witching hour is the moment you awaken in the night and wonder whether it’s too late, whether one of these tortured breaths is to be your last.
Rise and pad softly down the hall. Come back; drink as deeply of the water as your chest will allow.
It hurts to swallow.
And you wonder, again, whether it’s all too late.
Was there time? These three months gone, and another half too. The doctors could certainly have ordered the tests.
No one cared.
Should you have known? But how? Until that day you almost died, how could you have known there was a problem?
These are the questions for the dead of night, questions of the dead and the not-yet-dead.
And you feel the tears rise with the fear, and your face tingles and your mind burns, and you want to reach over and wake him and tell him your fears, but they’re his fears, too, even if he doesn’t fully realize their scope, and only one of you should bear that burden, and so you don’t.
Your each instead for the book, and you try to lose yourself in another place, another time, another way of being that is not yours no matter how much the world tried to make it so. And you can read, grasp, absorb, but still, there is that errant ticking below the surface, time washing away on a river of tears uncried.
The world loves to imagine the mystery and romance of the dark night of the soul, but the truth is, there’s nothing romantic about it. It’s tortured, yes, but also as mundane as it gets, that atavistic fear of it all ending when you haven’t lived yet, not enough, not now, it’s not time, please, I just want more time with the man I love.
And so you blink away the blur and you frown at the page until the letters come back into focus, and your head hurts with the effort but it’s better than focusing on the pain in your chest, that mass that could be nothing or anything or the worst thing of all but no one knows because no one cared to look.
You read, and read, and suddenly the exhaustion overtakes your body without you knowing it, and you wake up with your face on the book and you shove it away before you can wake up enough to feel the fear again.
And as the dark begins to lift, the tears of an electronic device pull you from your dreams. The oxygen has come unplugged; the battery is spent. And in the time it takes you to plug it back in, you’re awake, awake in spite of yourself, and you get up in the dim gray light before the fear can settle into your bones again.
You get up, and you hobble toward the day, and you see the clouds all around with the light above them and you know that you cannot give this up, not yet, not yet, please, not yet.
And you begin your day in this place that is now your home with the man who loves you, and you look outside at this land, his land, so far from your own and so different and yet so unutterably perfect. The mountain is so old, the sky so impossibly blue, the spaces between distant and yet home to your spirit.
And there is everything to live for, and you will fight.