And here again, is that metallic taste of mortality in the mouth.
The one you keep trying to forget, the one you mask with the salt of everyday living. Lick into sealed envelopes filled with secret fears, shelve away out of sight every morning before you get dressed for work.
But one that you catch yourself tugging at with your tongue on a languid Sunday afternoon, letting it flood your mouth till it draws tears and a thousand uncomfortable pin-prick questions again.
Questions. Should death come quickly and unannounced one morning to those you hold dear? Creeping them away in a whisper while you’re busy watching the spring birds outside your window. Leaving you with a stab of regret, that missed hug (that will make you compulsively hug people the rest of your life) but otherwise relatively swift, painless, decisive?
Or should it ‘give you time’ to say goodbye? To hold on to a rapidly slipping mass of flesh you can no longer recognise as one that once held you. For your last memories together to be those of hospital plastic beeps, the smell of rubbing alcohol, that cold uneasy ICU gloom. And that expanding weight invading your chest like cold tar as you struggle to keep holding her oedema-swollen hand, but you can’t bear to look any more into that moist eye, watching her pain like a useless voyeur, wondering if she knows.
A blanket of silence in the waiting room smells mustily of inevitability. Bright fluorescent lights shamelessly expose everyone’s sense of transience. Everyone counts their breaths. A dark family reunion where everyone reaches out in feeble efforts to cheer the other up. But “It’s so good to see you” takes new meaning. You can hear the edge of urgency in their voice when they say “You should come over and meet us more often.”
Eventually everyone troops out, in alternating submission and denial. Coming up for breath in the careful constructs of our lives, that allow us, for now, to pretend that we have time.