You are, but soon won’t be. Yet for me, you will for eternity be.
The assistant doctor tells me that he cannot say.
Cannot say what?
The question ricochets upon the trampoline of my churning stomach. I want to squeal, squall, shriek and scream the question out at him. Yet the question hangs like a hook from the ceiling of my throat unasked and unarticulated waiting to be dressed in the sartorial glumness of my fissured voice, livid and enraged at being suppressed thus.
I finally whimper out the question, slowly but steadily, hopelessly yet hopefully.
He does not quite say it explicitly but I can hear it clearly in the elegiac finality of his voice. A mirage of full stops and deserted dead ends dances in front of me as he tells me that miracles do happen and that all is not lost even though he would proceed to call her current state “critical”.
Neither here nor there but prancing somewhere in the liminal space between here and there is how he would probably have put it minus the frippery of medical jargon. It takes a few more seconds of further prodding and I know that there is in fact no liminal space and that there is no here but there is still a there and that she will soon likely be there.
Like falling snowflakes nestling on the blades of verdant grass. That’s how softly he breaks the news of my grandmother’s imminent and final departure from the world. I, for my part receive it with none of the onomatopoeic connotations of the word “break”. I manage to weave a placid expression and spread it like butter upon the length of my face, feigning a calmness I do not feel. Beneath the veneer of serenity I writhe in the flames of utter despair and anguish.
I see her through a crescent-shaped abrasion on the privacy glass. The heaving silver of her hair rises above the horizon of her blanket in startling hiccups. The machines that are plugged into her beep like endless dial tones but her wire-bedecked body does not answer. The stark whiteness of the hospital caves in on me like an avalanche. An osmotic mixture of iodoform waltzes in wisps and swirls around me. The glowing skyline of the city looks at me bleakly through the bay window, impervious to life on the other side of the glass. Time inside the intensive care unit of the hospital is frozen in its own frame. I know that my grandmother is soon going to be out of time altogether yet this fact persistently evades me, revealing itself to me only to become a dim obscurity once again.
I’m awash with tears yet my eyes are dry. I’m swimming in a cesspool of emotions. Her blood pressure is plummeting fast. I can see her but she can’t see me. I’m drinking her image up, tracing her form, stamping her indelibly upon the palimpsest of my mind, savouring her, keeping her for as long as I want. Yet she can’t keep me. The thought that she does not know that I’m looking at her through the crescent shaped abrasion is killing me. I want to believe in clairvoyance, telepathy and extrasensory perception. I want to read her mind if she is thinking at all. I want to break the privacy glass. Smash it into millions of glistening smithereens. Most of all I want her to know that I’m thinking of her. Can she feel the sickle of death hanging over her? Can she see her life unwinding off her like endless strings of reels from obsolete cassettes?
I schmooze with silence in the narrow passageway. I tell myself that I’m just a crescent-shaped abrasion away from her yet she already feels myopic, sepia and blurred to me. I try to cling on to the last vestiges of hope but I know that I hang precariously and that the wooden projection that I cling to is creaking and breaking slowly but surely.
I long to dredge my grandmother from the depths of the abyss she is slowly sinking into. Some gems can’t be dredged, I tell myself.
And that is how I break the news to myself, gently, slowly and finally, That she is but soon won’t be.
That all she was and is will become glossy clouds of translucent mist.
And that even if she isn’t, she will, for me, forever be.
Harsahej Mann is a 22-year-old writer. Her non-fiction pieces have been published in publications like the The Tribune, The Literary Digest, The Raw Whispers Magazine and Feminism In India. She is currently interning as a staff writer and content manager at Glam Talks Magazine.