A Child Dies
Dribbling rain outside his window makes him dreamy. He has forgotten the touch of humanity that once made him whole. He has forgotten the vase stuffed with lilies atop his coffee table. He has forgotten life in an attempt to ward off thoughts of a dying child asleep in another room.
He thinks: “Speak to me.” No one answers. He longs for God, longs to believe in such intangible entities.
Still, the child lies dying, sleeping. Tears beg to come, but he wards these off as well. It’s not time for tears or anger. It’s not time for sadness.
He holds his heart as if to ensure that it remains inside, locked in his chest with the ache. The child coughs. He starts, is awakened from the contemplation that took him somewhere else for but brief moments.
Her cough is something of a relief to him. She’s alive, she’s still breathing, he thinks. He lowers his back to the floor with a soft sigh. Sprawled there now, on faded, stale carpeting, he breathes better and tries to forget what he is unable to.
His skin is prickling with an anxious tension. He wishes he had the will to peel it off bit by bit until he is simply a tangled mess of bone and blood. He seizes the arm that once held his chest and tentatively scratches it with his unkempt nails.
Scratch, scratch, scratch. Feel, feel, feel.
Harder he presses into his skin until it is raw and weeping. Kill the pain, live the pain. Focusing his energy to the task is gratifying. He stops. A drop of blood trickles to the floor.
Now and only now, can he cry. He remembers humanity, his wife, the toast he left on the counter, the lilies on the table. His ears are wet his tears, his nose runs. He sobs and trembles and bleeds and remembers.
The door opens behind him. His wife calls out to him. A child dies. A father cries.