The days and nights spilled into each other, swirling together, losing distinction under the constant glare of the fluorescents, the incessant hum of the machines, the monitors. The mourning.
His own internal clock had been reset weeks ago. Imposed by somebody else’s med regimen, dictated by somebody else’s test schedule, reinvented by somebody else’s heartbeat.
Gilgamesh didn’t fall apart until after.
He sat waiting for the after. Expecting it. Dreading it. Like those brief seconds before the needle plunged, or the trigger squeezed, or the rope broke. When you knew it was coming, knew the fallout would be fierce, but you were still able to live in the half second between knowledge and acknowledge.
Body can only withstand so much . . .
At first he rode the whiplash – good days, bad days, last days. Now he just sat in the chair. Watching, monitoring, waiting. Hope slow-dripped in the percentage points. In the statistics. In the oxygen levels.
And then it got worse. He found himself outside the glass again. Looking in. Afraid to look. Modern Medicine hunkered down, battle ready. He felt a listless curiosity. And then he felt nothing. He stopped looking.
Enkidu took twelve days. They were now going on sixty three.
He sat as silent sentinel, lost in his own misery, until an unexpected movement shattered the Shivah. He watched the pale, bruised hand tug at the edge of the blanket. He blinked. He saw the hand slide up toward the tubes, fingers moving, touching, exploring. He couldn’t get his brain around the action. Around the movement. Around the implication.
He stood. His eyes remained transfixed on the hand that now patted the blanket. First slow, then faster. Emphatic. He moved forward, mesmerized. When he got close enough, the hand reached out, touched his shirt. He stepped back. Recoiled. Confused.
Enkidu had touched Gilgamesh’s heart for courage.
Finally, he tore his eyes away from the hand, sucked in a breath, and for the first time in thirteen days, he looked at the face and into the eyes. Wide open questions. Raised eyebrows that only meant one thing. But he didn’t understand now. He couldn’t remember. He had lost that language sixty three days ago on the bloodstained concrete in the middle of their urban forest.
He looked back down at the hand again. The fingers curled in and he watched the thumb turn up and out. A signal? A statement? Assurance? He fought the hope that snaked its way up his neck, insidious and false. Worse than no hope.
He watched the subsequent invasion from a dream. Doctors, nurses, new meds, different tests, steady heartbeats. He hung back. Waiting. Watching.
Gilgamesh had to be pushed into the fight.
The hands were busy. Fighting other hands, pushing away needles, tugging at tubes. The first wave slowed and he dared to look at the face again. The questions still remained there, unanswered. He looked away. When he turned back, he watched the hand rise, saw the fingers curl down until there was just one. One glorious, defiant, shaking finger, stabbing skyward.
The bird majestically flipped. At him.
The room shattered into a million pieces. Sixty three days fell to the ground, knocking him back into his chair. The world came about, surged forward once again. The wait was over. They had finally reached the after. The ever after. The living, breathing, desperately prayed for in the middle of the darkest nights, never to be hoped for, ever after. He looked again into the eyes. Starsky’s eyes. Alive. Alert. Annoyed.
Everything came flooding back then. The language, the past, the reasons, the connection. He had forgotten it all. Death had become an intimate that allowed no distractions. No looking away.
He stood and readjusted to the experience. No longer waiting, but observing. Noting. Absorbing. Fussing. Overdoing. Looking forward would have to come later. That it would come was enough to fill in all the empty spaces. It was okay for now just to look.