Copyright is held by the author.
THERE WAS no perfect time to tell Brent. There was always some aunt or uncle or old pet close to death or dying — always someone sick or feeling suicidal. And there was never any point in our years together when he wasn’t always working on the next greatest thing — his latest digital startup that would make it big — he and his coders pulling all nighters fueled by pizza and beer and god knows what else. He never stopped for a breath. He never said okay, I’m okay now — now I’m on my feet. If only he had, you know? Stopped, unplugged from his screens, maybe he would have seen. But I don’t believe that now. For years I believed it: I waited for that breath, but not now. So no good time. It was always going to be a financial disaster for both of us, regardless of whether I waited for his ship to come in. But yes, I suppose I do see your point, telling him like that.
I was there you know when Bob died — I liked Bob, well at least some of the time — and there was no one else. My mother-in-law’s been gone for five years. So when the call came; I was the one who was there. Brent was off on another business trip. I was the one who came down to the hospital at two in the morning. I was the one who held that old man’s hand for ten hours straight as they pumped him full of morphine. And all Bob said that whole time, all that I could make out was him asking me to wake him when Brent got there. And I did try to reach Brent — he was in meetings. I left messages, texted him, but by the time he called me back . . . he would have been too late anyways — even if he had hopped a plane that night.
So it was just me and Bob and the night nurse and the clock on the wall. Just me listening to Bob breathe.
The nurse warned me about the rattle — a natural function of the body shutting down. Bob didn’t even know he was doing it. On every exhalation: a sigh, a groan, a cry. Some of it I swear sounded like laughter.
The intervals between breaths grew longer and longer. I found myself holding my own breath, waiting for Bob’s next one. And I remember thinking I’ve had enough of waiting. I just want to stop waiting.
I JUST WANT TO STOP WAITING.
So I got up from the chair and let go of the old man’s hand and I went to pee and I missed Bob’s last breath.
And then Brent said to me in the car driving back from the airport when I picked him up that he was so sorry, that it was a really important meeting — it was in fact a crucial meeting. He kept repeating that over and over as if that explained everything. I don’t know whether he was trying to convince me or himself.
So no it wasn’t great timing. I probably should have waited until after the funeral to tell him. But I just wanted to stop waiting.