When Cid’s nurse came in with his nebulizer, he asked her if he could see the priest who looked after the patients in the hospital. Looking into his eyes she patted his hand and said she would look after that right away.
I sat beside him and watched as he held his nebulizer mask up to his face and breathed deeply. When he closed his eyes you could see the dark circles and the blue veins on his eyelids. A sudden fear flashed through me as I looked at him and I recognized it for what it was. I didn’t want him to close his eyes around me because I didn’t want to imagine him with them permanently closed. Ashamed of my fear – I looked away. When I looked back he was smiling at me again and he made a silly face around the mask. I wanted to cry. I wanted to weep and wail and scream at the top of my lungs. Instead I smiled back and told him he was crazy.
I crawled back up on the bed and nestled myself once more into Cid’s shoulder and we resumed our chatting. We laced our fingers together so tightly that sometimes it hurt, but neither of us cared. But both of us were afraid.
I can’t tell you how much time passed before the priest arrived. It might have been hours, it felt like days, but suddenly he was there. A stranger with a kind face walked up to Cid’s bed and smiled at us as we lay wrapped together in our need for each other. I know I raised my eyebrows in a silent inquiry until my eyes suddenly focused on his collar. Then I knew who he was.
“Are you Cid?” His voice was soft and gentle and full of understanding.
We both nodded at the same time and he laughed a little before extending his hand. We both shook it. One after the other.
I felt like we had been transported to a bubble and the three of us were encapsulated in this glowing warm light. My chest hurt and I thought that perhaps there wasn’t enough air in that bubble and that I should step outside so I could breathe. When the priest looked at me and asked if he could be alone with Cid, I gratefully smiled and disentangled myself from Cid. Finger by finger. I could tell by the way he held on that he didn’t want me to go, and I couldn’t look at his face where I knew I would see the fear I could feel in mine.
“I’ll wait outside Cid.” I gave him the most reassuring smile I could drum up before I went and stood out in the hall and stared at a spot in the paint.
I stared at that spot for an eternity.
Eventually I checked my watch and saw the priest had been in with Cid, behind those closed curtains, for over an hour. Just before I had stepped into the hall, I had heard the priest ask Cid if he would like to make his confession and I had heard him reply with a ‘yes’.
I went back to staring at that spot until my view was interrupted once more by that same collar. He took my hands and squeezed them tightly.
“You must be a very special woman,” he said. And then he was gone. He left me staring after him with a questioning look on my face and the need to gather my strength and smile once more teasing the back of my brain.
“You must have been very bad all your life for a confession to take that long Cid.” I tried to put as much laughter into my voice as I could so he wouldn’t have to reveal to me what had occurred while my legs grew numb and I was still seeing spots.
“I had to confess to being in love with another man’s woman. It took a long time.”