I could hear the rustling in the room, so I knew he was up. Yet, when the light flickered on in the balcony, it caught me off guard.
“Okay if I join Miss. 3.am. night wanderer?”, peeking in through the door, he asked.
It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the dark. I was slumped on the floor, hugging my knees hard. Seeing no reaction from me, he came closer. One look at my tear stained face, and he was sure something was off.
He snuggled up beside me, wrapped a hand around my shoulder and asked, “Hey, everything okay?” It was all I could do to not start crying again. But no. I had to be strong. For him.
With all the courage I could muster, I muttered, “I got the results.”
“I thought we were gonna get it together?”
“I am really sorry. But, I had to do it on my own. I needed to be alone.” I had somehow managed to look him in the eye.
Silence dawned on us as an uninvited guest. The inevitable question hung melancholically in the air. His eyes spoke to mine, but the lips just couldn’t find the words.
Saving him the trouble and dejectedly looking at the floor, I swallowed hard and said, “It’s positive”
I could sense the blood draining from his face as the news registered. I could feel that silent twitch of his lips, the muscles of his hand around me tighten and those quickened heart beats. But no matter what, I could not fathom to see for myself.
“It’s… it’s ok. Everyone manage these things. And we will probably be fifty and dying anyway when it …”
“It’s progressing fast.”
That did it. He hugged my numb body so tight, as defeat surrounded us in all its glory.
I slowly detached from his grip. It wasn’t over yet. “I am…I am leaving”
“Oh, there are other treatment options? See I told you it was gonna be oka…”
“No, Neil. I am leaving…you”, looking him in the eye, feeling all the hurt in the world, I said.
As it hit him, and hit him hard, he pushed me a little and shouted, “Are you fucking kidding me? What makes you think that I will leave you alone in this?”
“I know you won’t. That’s why I am leaving.”
“It isn’t going to be that big a deal. We…we”
“It won’t be a big deal right? There won’t be a we anymore. It will be just you.”
“Rach, please don’t do this. You will be fine”, he begged, holding both my hands in his.
“Yea I will probably be fine, cause I won’t know anything anymore right? I won’t remember anything. I won’t remember how we met or how we kissed the very first time or the day we moved into this apartment. I won’t remember the plans we made, the dreams we weaved together. I won’t remember our wedding day or the way you looked at me while I walked down the aisle. I will not even remember you, Neil. How will I miss and be hurt by something I won’t even remember? So yea I will probably be fine. But you won’t be, Neil.”
I was hoping against hope that he wouldn’t start crying. I just wouldn’t be able to handle that. I took his face in my hands and continued. “My Alzheimer’s is going to affect you more. Neil, I will not remember to love you anymore. I won’t tell you how much I love you or what you mean to me. I may not even let you near me. And you are gonna remember it all, feel that hurt over and over again for a very long time. I just cannot do that to you, Neil. And I hate to say this, and I know it is selfish of me, but I wish you had it too. Just a little bit at least, so you will forget the pain too. And then we could be together. But that is senseless and not going to happen. So, this is the only way. I am sorry”
“Rach, I don’t care. I…I’ll die knowing you are all alone in this. Please don’t…”
Laying a finger on his lips, I said, “Shush…I am so sorry. But those rare few minutes when I do remember things, if I do, I need to know I did the right thing. I don’t wanna look at you and remember how I had forgotten you for all those days, months or godforsaken years. I don’t wanna remember I had looked at you like a stranger and probably even went as far as hating you. You deserve all the love in the world. And that is all I want to remember for the rest of my life”
With that, he broke down completely. I hugged him tight as we both wept hard, trying to ward off all the pain. I held on to him with everything I had, knowing how it might just be the last. As the night loomed towards its end, only our sobs remained.
“Where will you go?”
“Donno. Maybe to mom’s”
The oblivion that enveloped us asked and answered a million questions. We didn’t dare leave each other’s embrace, hoping that the dawn will come a little later.
As morning loomed in, I kept staring at her face. Curled up beside me on the bed, she looked so at peace, and happy. Though, the dark circles under her puffed up eyes told a different story; remnants from last night. I tucked a loose strand of hair that kept waltzing over her face, slowly behind her ears. I didn’t want to wake her up, god knew what was in store for her this morning.
Nights like the previous one were getting more frequent. Things were getting harder than ever. But I wasn’t going to give up on her, on us. Her slow movements on the bed interrupted my thoughts. Every morning, for the last two years, I have watched her waking up. This was the hardest and the most tormenting part of the day for me. Because there was no way to tell who would wake up- my girlfriend, my wife or a stranger I am not supposed to know. As her face turned a tad bit childlike, while her eyes adjusted to the light, she gave a faint smile. My heart skipped a beat, like every single time, knowing she recognized me. The hard part was over.
“Good morning honey”
Stretching herself, and with a full smile, she said, “Good morning.”
As her glance shifted from me, her face changed colors. “Shit! It’s late. Why didn’t you wake me up? I barely have time to get ready.”
My heart did a somersault. Selfish, unkind, and maybe even cruel, I know, but I didn’t care; I hoped like hell that she didn’t remember last night. “I will do anything, but, please God, not today”, I prayed.
“What the hell are you staring at Neil? Get a move on”
I didn’t dare breath. “Don’t tell me you forgot that we have the appointment at Anita Dongre’s place today.” Trying to push me out of the bed, she continued, “I swear I will fuckin’ kill you if someone else steals my wedding gown”
It was all I could do to not cry. Heaving a sigh of relief, I hugged her tight and kissed her on the forehead. As she slithered out of my grip, all angry in the face, I slowly removed the wedding band from my finger and slid it under the pillow.
PS: Featured image courtesy: Amelia Lyon