I held his hand gently and walked him to the bed. The bed was a clear two inches taller than needed. He let his weight fall on my right hand as he propped himself up on the bed. Sitting up with a slight droop, legs dangling over the edge of the bed, he casually tossed his flip flops aside. He giggles like a little boy at his giant man-sandals on my feet; I’d insisted on exchanging them before we went in. He undoes the first two buttons of his shirt, looking around in search of those familiar eyes.
Is she not going to come in?
In a bit. She’s taking care of a few things first.
*giggles* She’s scared, I know.
His eyes scan the corners of the room, registering the familiar and the new.
Are you scared?
No, no. What’s there to be scared of? I’ve done this already. Once!
He sounds confident, almost touching on arrogance. I pump up the pillows behind him, quietly suggesting he lie down on the bed. He looks behind him, pulls up another pillow on top of this one, and rests his back on the bed.
He looks surprised when she appeared out of nowhere, pulled a light blanket over him till his chest and disappeared. His fingers fumble on top of the blanket as his eyes scan around the room.
Don’t you have other things to do than this?
Haha! No, I’m going nowhere. I’m a little nervous though. They tell me it hurts, especially the first time. Is it true?
You won’t get anything in this life without some pain. We should learn to bear a little bit of pain, no? But it’s usually over before you know it.
I repeat his words in my head to reassure myself. At the foot of the bed, I see his legs dangling out, shaking to some mental tune. My thoughts drift to her and I wonder if I should go check on her for a bit. The blanket lady walks in, touches his arm gently, checks on him, smiles at his surprised face and ambles out, nonchalantly. He looks around, absent-mindedly putting his buttons all the way up to his neck.
I wonder if he was cold and tuck him in on the sides. He flinches and I back off, wondering if I’d overstepped my limits.
It’s a little crowded in here, no? I don’t know if I’m hot or cold. Can we take this blanket off? Oh! But it is cold; I should leave this on, I guess.
Do you want me to call someone?
No, but this pillow… My back hurts.
Why don’t we incline this bed a bit? Here, better?
Do you want to move up a little? Your feet are dangling far off the bed.
Involuntarily he sticks his hand out and I hold it, as he hoists himself higher up on the bed. His feet are still off the bed but I think he looks a little more comfortable now. The door creaks open and she walks in; he straightens a little under the sheets. She smiles sheepishly and he returns the look.
It’s getting all crowded in here now. I think you guys should leave. It’s almost time, anyway.
I stand rooted to my ground. I realize he’s trying to get us all out of the room under false pretense.
It’s not time yet. Will be around for a bit longer.
We turn around together as she waves and leaves, the door creaking behind her. His blanket is down to his waist and he looks a little flustered.
Think it’s time you removed that shirt. Why don’t you?
Oh! You sure?
I help him slide his shirt off from his back. I feel like he’s wearing a few sizes too large. Or had his body gone down a few shirt sizes!
He sits upright on the bed, his back no longer resting comfortably on the pillow. He holds his chest tight with his right hand, looking at me with pleading eyes. The blanket lady walks in, holds his other hand and soothes his nerves. I slowly rub his back as I ask him to relax. He sways forward and back like a little boy waiting for his turn to go up on stage.
I don’t think we should do it now. It’s a big mistake. Can we leave and come back another day?
Relax! You’ll be fine. Don’t think too much about it. Just let it happen.
No! I can’t sit down anymore. Can I stand, please?
Blanket lady and I hold him up as he steps down from the bed. He lets the blanket casually fall down on the ground. He takes a few deep breath and I sense his composure returning.
Is it time yet?
I look at his frail body, fragile skin wrapped around bones,wondering when age had caught up this soon. I walk with him slowly into the other room, holding his arm tight as he stabilizes his footing. The table has been set ready, waiting for him. He lets go of my hands, walks over confidently and sits on the table.
Eyy! No visitors in the operation theatre, he yells, as the nurses around giggle.
All the best, daddy! I give him a tight hug and run out.
I turn around as the door closes behind me. He lies down on the operating table, as the doctors place the anesthesia nozzle on his nose. The door slams shut.