Saturday 6 June 2020

'Picture Perfect' by Riham Adly

Years ago before I started stalking you, you were nothing but the version I made up in my dreams. You were a quiet man, quick on your feet to soothe in your stuttered coos, but in slow motion. You could read lips like me. You knew the difference between a reactive behavior and a responsive outburst.  You had a lot in common with quantum physics.

But today, you’re walking down the aisles of the supermarket like a G.I. Joe looking for toilet paper, and maybe that once feasible but now elusive sense of careless inclusion that everyone can’t afford right now.  I inch closer to you and watch your sharp jawline and sniff your calm fragrance of bitter greens. When you look past me onto the empty shelves, I consider handing over the two rolls I managed to snatch, but that’s not how I imagined our very first meeting. I force a cough and the look of fear looms in your eyes. You run away from me.

Rocking through the night between wanting and not wishing, I wonder if I should skip the appointment I booked to see you in the law firm you work in. What if the words I want to say come out still, like the walls you put between us when you decided to leave a long time ago? That thought didn’t come out right. Mother, god rests her soul, used to hate clichés, that’s why she gave birth to one, she used to say.

In the hospital where I work as a nurse in the geriatric wing, the days pass slowly like being underwater. I used to take care of the beds, feel them, whisper to them, ask them to be good and patient to all our patients,  until one day my mind starts beating furiously and also helplessly when all those people coming into the ER start falling out of breath. The beds run out, and there’s nowhere to smoke or meditate.

When they bring you in, I don’t recognize you till after I’ve hooked you to the very last ventilator on the very last bed we have. You don’t look like your recent Instagram photos with the confident emojis in the captions, but you do look at me with eyes so full of gratitude, which I have to admit, cliché or not, is just, so, dang, perfect.

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