I read to you while you sat before your tray, chewing determinedly at the leg of chicken while I carefully, lingeringly, just short of happily narrated the story of Macondo and the Buendía family. Almost always someone would come in before you were done and I would fold the book around my right index finger in the vain hope that they would hold up in the doorway, smile and back out to let you finish, to let us finish, but eventually I would slip the red ribbon in the place held by my finger (forever now between pages 264 and 265) and put Gabo aside.
After the tray was whisked away and the pills dispensed and the shots administered, you would place your long fingers squarely over the arms of the chair and slowly unbend yourself into a standing wobble, reach out to give my shoulder a squeeze before you settled your feather weight on it for the slow, bathrobed shuffle along the busy corridor. Taking a right, down the longer way you would head first, nodding to the jaunty executive who trailed his wheeled drip behind him. As we crossed the nurses’ station you would smile at the young nursing aides, who would regale you with wide, surprised smiles of their own. Past the still noisy visitor waiting rooms, you would avoid the open doors of the elderly and the semi-conscious, turning around at the stairwell where you would often give me a kiss and lace your fingers through mine to head back up the home stretch to the opposite end of the second floor Palliative Care ward.
Your father would usually end your constitutional, hailing you from the doorway of your room: “Què tal un massatge, chato? Com tenim aquests peus?”, rubbing his hands with our almond oil as you settled back into the dingy brown armchair to pull up your pajama legs and lay your swollen ankles in my lap to let El Jefe work out his perplexity and fury on your calves and shins, purportedly to bring the swelling down with his energetic chafing.
Once he and whoever else who remained had straggled their way out, heartily encouraging your speedy recovery, I would curl up next to you for a few minutes, then run my hands softly over your shoulders and arms, your thighs and calves until your brow softened, your eyes began to droop and I could feel you relax. Then I knew I could leave you for the night. I would stand, press my lips to yours, collect my things, check your water, your pillow and edge toward the door. “¿Estás bien?” I would ask every evening with a warrior’s smile and wait for you to smile back and nod. But that night when I asked instead “¿Cómo te encuentras?” you raised your head, boring your eyes into mine with a look that was more defiant than tender, and clearly, emphatically replied: “Enamorado”.
Els Prats de Rei
1 day ago