Stage 4 Homesickness

By: Caden Pearson

There’s a question in her blue, misty eyes.

His don’t answer.

Any pain he might be feeling leaves no mark on his stony features. The haze of dim lights and the whirring of the machines hooked up to him have dulled both of their senses and suspended them in the state of prolonged bewilderment that has become their normal.

A sunset blurs into dusk. Dusk gives way to night. Night bleeds into a sunrise and she’s still sitting by the window next to a vase of artificial carnations with their stems stuck in green styrofoam. A digital clock on the wall shows the time in red block numbers. Below it hangs a crucifix; the man whose frame has been wasting away and now occupies just a fraction of the bed resembles the man stretched out on the cross more and more with each passing day.

Today is Sunday, although she only knows that because she’s reached the last day of her weekly pill organizer. Which means a nurse would be in soon with a tray of breakfast and a cup of shaved ice sans the cherry syrup, per his dietary restrictions. He would offer it to her. She would decline. He would work on the shaved ice for about an hour until another nurse would come by, making her rounds, poking and prodding at each patient in turn. Every time he says he’s being poked to death. Every time he lets the nurse take a blood sample and accepts a Dixie cup of medicine to combat the side effects of his treatment. He downs the pills, asking no questions. He’s willing to try anything. And as long as he’s willing to try, she’s willing to stay.

After fifty years of marriage, the words “visiting hours” no longer apply.