Draw What You See

Draw what you see. Your high school art teacher drilled this into you from day one in her class. Always draw what you see not what you think you see or what you want to see or what you think someone else wants you to see. Just draw what you see.

You read the message. You see it and it sees you. It says you should go to the hospital if you can and you know what it really means. You know you must go right now, you must slam your laptop shut, shove it in your bag and get out. Get out now. Draw the rain, racing down while you sit in the car knowing and not knowing anything at all.

You fight for parking, fight the racing rain, fight the stairs and the stale corridors and the long, long walk through post-op and oncology and radiology and wards and wards and wards. You see the doors to ICU as if they materialise out of nowhere and they are suddenly right in front of you, solid and silent. A tentative push. No give. Through the window you see a mother and a son-in-law holding each other, a scaffolding embrace. And you know as soon as you get through the barrier you should be scaffolding too, you need to hold things up even though you don’t know how.

You see nothing and everything. Every little detail that means something, every exchanged look, every word whispered, the furrow of a doctor’s brow, the collapse of a mother’s strength. A nurse lets you in. You stand there useless, unseeing and knowing nothing and everything. And then they let you into the room, the inner sanctum. And suddenly you see everything. You draw the line of drips from a fragile, familiar arm. You draw the figure you know but it is different, smaller, contracted, lost. You draw the lines of closed eyes and the shape of a mouth, but it’s not the same, it’s not what you are used to seeing, no dancing playfulness, no laughter. That laughter. You see it for what it is but don’t know it at all.

The hand feels the same, warm with life. It doesn’t respond with the usual squeeze of recognition. It doesn’t respond and you don’t know it anymore. You wait without knowing. But you see. You see doctors and tears, stone faced nurses and sad nurses, family, friends. Tissues, tea, a room cleared a few doors down to sit and wait and try not to think about losing what you are here for. You sit on the floor because the chairs don’t seem real, nothing is real but the floor underneath you and the wall you lean against. There is no world but this right now. Every time someone new comes in it becomes their world too, and you take them in, you absorb them and you see that there is nothing else right now for them too.

You know that waiting is temporary but you hope to wait forever. The room fills and empties, there is late night tea and hot chocolate and Lemon Creams brought in by someone from the outside who is now also only in this world right here.

You go into the ICU room, step close to the bed. The room is already empty, you see this now. You offer all you have at 2am: a foot rub, watering eyes and hollow words that it’ll all be okay. It won’t though. You see that. But then there are words of love and gratitude and nostalgic dips into all those moments together that are right there on your tongue, as if they happened yesterday. Smile. Talk. Rub. Cry. Repeat.

And then you are in the car on the highway at 3.30am going home to sleep and not sleep. And then you are awake and rushing to get dressed, to get back. And then you are there, like you didn’t leave. Maybe you didn’t leave.

You are in the room. Family. A few friends. A husband, reading her favourite poem. Each word burns in its beauty. It hurts to hear but it’s all you want to hear.

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where”

It’s hard to breathe.

“I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride”

Respirator removed.

“So I love you because I know no other way than this”

Can I make her more comfortable? Yes.

“Where I does not exist, nor you”

Watch the monitor.

“So close that your hand on my chest is my hand”

Watch the monitor.

“So close that your eyes close as I fall asleep”

Temperature drops. Plummets.

This is it.

There is no more.

Draw a sister on a plane. Racing to reach her in time. From across the globe. But it’s too late. Draw three people waiting with their lost one until her sister arrives. Guarding. Talking. Saving this sacred space.

Time is nothing but everything. A sister arrives. You hand her the space. It is hers now.

Draw the little girl, now with an aunt she’ll never know, asking if she can have the bobbing Happy Birthday foil balloon in the corner of this soulless room. See yourself with smiles and tears and nothing but the little bit you have to offer — the balloon you gave her aunt seven days earlier to celebrate another year of her life. But you didn’t get another year. You got seven days. And it was only seven days earlier that you realised for the first time that this may end in loss. See your blindness and draw it. Draw the hopeful naivety. Draw the things you purposefully didn’t see to save yourself. With the pointless hope of saving her. Give the girl the balloon. Walk away.

Draw the funeral. You walk her down the aisle, you speak into a microphone. You say the things that need to be said. She is a cup of tea in a delicate little teacup. She is not in the box. She is free. She is the earth, the soil, the wind, the rain, a bird’s call. She is both still and scattered.

Draw what you see. Even when it’s ugly and it hurts. Draw the things that no one else can see. Drawing those things will make them real and that will scar you but you will see clearer. Love deeper. Forgive. Appreciate.

She rests in her favourite place. Draw the peace.