A coincidence of names
Remember that October day and our last, big fight? It was a new moon night when darkness engulfed our hearts more than the sky.
“Wait Susie, wait. You can’t leave me!” You had shouted after my receding figure as I unlocked the door and ran into the dark night. When my bare feet took off into the fall late hour, the chill in the air was a relief, like icy water poured on fire. There were deep, burning sensations inside my body, you had no idea of how badly I was scorched, darling I hid it all. It was so bad that I wished snow had covered me before winter was there.
And my other burning self, the feelings? I couldn’t keep the lava contained within, it was erupting, with the dawning of what a cruel joke our love was. But didn’t want you to be swept away by that molten lava. Then, as I ran, in the stillness of the sleeping world, your voice followed me,“I will be waiting for you, I love you know…”. And it echoes to this day.
I also heard myself shouting over the shoulders, “Johnny, I am not the same person anymore…can’t stand this stressful relationship.” You didn’t know how my being had changed, really was gone from inside out. When I said I didn’t care for you anymore, giving your freedom was my love. I didn’t want you to see my shrinking self and witness how sand was giving away beneath me feet.
All that was six months back. But, Johnny, how happy you would be if you knew that your Susie is all yours now. As my weary eyes take in the last of the sunlight of the day through my hospital window, I cling to my blue hospital gown, your favorite color. The nurses call it, “Johnny”. See, now you are with me with this strange coincidence of names. Love comes back in one way or the other, right? “Johnny” is what I called you back then and “johnny” you are now. Though your dark eyes do not bore into my lake blue ones any more, neither do our bodies entwine, the name holds its space in the loneliness of my chemo days.
On days, when the nurse comes in to take me to insert countless needles into my body, to keep breathing for a while, she smiles, as if I were her princess. But it’s what she says that fills me with light, “Susie, here is your johnny gown dear, let’s get into the fresh one.” And then when I slide out of my hospital sheets to allow her to change my gown, in my mind, I allow my “Johnny” to take me in. I am sure the nurse has no idea that I see your bronze body in that cotton gown, your dark hair and your loving smile. Johnny, in my hospital life, you come with floral fragrances or at times smell so hospital- like. But my love,only few months back, I could smell the aftershave and at times, your toothpaste every time you were near. Remember those long, morning kisses, before you went off to work for the day? Especially, days when I began to feel sick and started staying home, when I would cling on to you because I was scared of what was coming? Wish it was all a bad dream, only futile it was not.
Physically you may not be near me but your being is. You know, the other day the nurse came with a washed johnny and said to me, “Here let me fasten the twill tapes for you”. And then, when she ever so gently helped cover my bare back, her fingers were on my skin. I could distinctly feel Your touch! It made me shiver, were your there Johnny? You know spirits have strange ways of coming to each other.
I couldn’t or didn’t want to tell the nurse that the love of my life was named “Johnny” but had a last name too. At times most beautiful things come in silence. She couldn’t have changed our fate, could not have understood how a drowning girl was clinging to love in her counted days. I do not expect strangers to understand how, in the final days of my losing battle with breast cancer, I have found you in a name? Tell me, how do you have it all and then nothing, why is happiness a mirage?
I should tell you that my nurses make sure that my johnny gowns come to me with love and all freshness with every change they make. The kind people want to give me the best of times in my worst of fears. When my gown is on, my real Johnny, seems to hold me, and I find a security of love that helps me through each day. I imagine it’s you caressing me and I feel whole again. Cancer makes me live in different time zones of past, present and future. The skeleton that I have become can only time travel to our days of togetherness and find love all the way. Sadly though, each so vibrant, bangs doors on my hopes.
Sigh. Most likely, two months I will last, so the doctor had said. So that is the time I will have time with you, hospital johnny and my real man. Then I am to take off to a journey all on my own. After each chemo I wait for a fresh gown, I inhale deeply into the cotton crispness and imagine you, my Johnny, holding me. When you read my letter, I will be gone, no more of loudness beating into deaf happiness. In those last thundering days with you, it was actually my silence wanting to scream, “I love you Johnny, on Earth, heaven or hell. I didn’t know how to face my my monster, didn’t want you to see my rotting body, so I ran away.”
PS. Forgive me, when death said “Hello”, I didn’t know how to say goodbye to you. Shh… I requested that I be cremated while I am wearing my hospital gown, for that is how I could be with you, my hospital “johnny” and my lover “Johnny”, the man”. One thing though, don’t dare follow me, be a good boy like that October night. I want you breathing for me.
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA.
Picture source: Internet