My little cousin's dying. He's seven and three-quarters (he's very adamant about the 'three-quarter') and he still refuses to admit it. I went to visit him in the hospital today. This is what he told me, and I learned more from a little boy today than a thousand books could've told me.
Past fake-cheerful paintings
And sterile walls, doctors
Rushing along the hallways,
And people I wish I didn't know.
He sits there, so small and
Fragile-looking in the hospital
Bed, but he still smiles for me
And tries to sit up. I hurry over
And stop him, while his parents
Give me a faint smile and leave the
Room quietly, my aunt turning back
And giving me a look that clearly states,
Tell me if anything happens and I nod.
He's weak, struggles to breathe, but he
Has the breathing tube in and is
Hooked up to the ventilator, what is
Keeping him from suffocating. He
Looks so damn happy to see me,
And I lean over to grasp his hand,
Asking him how he is (a stupid question)
He says 'okay' in a scratchy voice,
With the tone that an almost-eight-year-old
Should never have. One that says that
He knows what's coming, the pain
And suffering, and that he's not oblivious.
It's selfish of me, but I want him to be five
Again, to be able to breathe without
Help and to not gasp and to live past ten.
He smiles at me wonkily and hands me
Something. It's a piece of paper, the back
Of a blank doctor's report -Dr. Davidson
Must have given it to him- and on it,
In slanting, mis-matched, crazy lettering,
Obviously written with a blue crayon, it says,
i lOve yOu, COuSin, lOtS Of KiSSeS, yOu
aRe like My SiSteR. He was taken out of school
Before he could learn certain things, and I press
My lips to his limp hand, tears blurring my vision.
But I blink them away, ignoring them in favor of
Giving my attention to him. Oh dearie, I think,
What has life done to you? And I reply with a,
'And you know you're my brother.'
He seems vaguely happy at that, the best I've seen
Him in a while. I swallow hard and listen as he
Says, 'I don't want you to love me.'
I must look confused, because he quickly explains,
'I don't want to hurt you' With dwindling confidence.
'No, no, Blackbird' I use the old nickname from
When he'd run around and stop suddenly, pointing
To the sky. 'A blackbird', he'd say. My eyes are stinging.
'I'll always love you, to the moon and back.'
My throat is dry. 'You know that.' He looks sad,
And I stand up abruptly, as he's getting tired,
And I say, 'I'll be back tomorrow. Like always.'
And he says, 'Good luck.' And I can't help but
Wonder what he means, so I leave the sick boy
To sleep, holding back salty, burning tears,
Keeping my head down as I pass his parents,
Looking at his old room, where he used to be,
Standing in a room cleared of any evidence.
In front of a pristinely folded hospital bed.
It's been a week since he was moved to the new ward.