(This is the translated version of “Istriku dan Aku – Pada Saat Terakhir Kami”. For the original Indonesian version of this post, go to https://saritjiang.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/istriku-dan-aku-pada-saat-terakhir-kami/)
She snapped her head to my direction, then smiled regretfully.
“Well, just a little. It’s a sad story after all,” she showed me the book she was reading.
I sighed. How could I tell her that I had been awake since a few moments ago, that I had been watching her for a while? That I knew she wasn’t really reading that book? That I saw her wiped the tears that rolled down her cheek? That I knew I was the one she was crying for?
She stood up from her chair in front of the window, and moved toward me.
“How do you feel?” She smiled.
“Much better.” I also smiled.
She pulled a chair and sat down next to my bed. I reached out and touched her wrinkled cheek. She took my hand with her now wrinkled hands, and we held hands like a pair of love-drunk teens. I took a long time looking at her face, noticing the soft wrinkles that had begun to appear on the corner of her eyes and mouth, both of her eyes which were shining gently, her soothing smile, and finally my hands, which were now in her hands. My hands which, after many years of our togetherness, now had also begun to wrinkle.
“Why do you still love after all of – these things?” I asked her. Then I answered it by myself, “Is it because love is blind?” I wanted to laugh, but I was only able to croak hoarsely.
She smiled, and said, “No, my dear, love is not blind. Love is just so simple that it doesn’t care about any physical appearance or condition. Love makes us not give a damn whether he or she loves us in return or not, whether he or she is by our side or not, even if he or she has broken our heart.” She took a deep breath. “Love only makes us want to love that person more and more each day, always be right there for him or her, despite all the hurts and any other unimportant things. All is just because – just because we love that person. You see, it’s as simple as that.” She laughed. She laughed for me, and I kinda liked it.
“I know you will get through this – without me,” I told her softly. “You know I will always be there, wherever and whenever you need me. I will always be right there. I promise.”
She shook her head. “Don’t promise,” she said, “don’t make a promise about such abstract stuff.” I smiled, seeing how realistic she was.
We fell into silence, enjoying the quietness in which we had one another. The peaceful silence which made me hate that I had to leave this part of life with her in it.
“Do you think we will meet again, after – you know – ” I couldn’t finish my question, but I knew she would understand. And she understood indeed.
“Hey, I thought you would wait for me there?” she teased me, but her voice broke, and the corner of her lips quivered a little.
I chuckled. “Of course, Sweetheart, as long as I go upward instead of fall downward.” And we both giggled. I was glad I could finally bring back her laughter, even if it was only for a few seconds, even if I was not in my best condition.
“I love you.” I looked into her eyes. How I wanted to tell her those words over and over again, in this limited time of mine. If I could, I would have even asked for a little injury time, only to tell her how much I loved her, how special she was for me, and how much I enjoyed our years together.
She smiled, and it was so beautiful it made me smile automatically.
“I would be lonely without you,” she uttered.
Oh! How I wanted to cheer her up, tell her not to worry, that I knew she would be able to go on, that she could still remember me through our pictures, our memories, and especially through our children and grandchildren. But on the other hand, I knew she needn’t to be reminded of that. She already knew, and she was a tough woman. So then I stopped pretending to be tough and replied, “I would also be lonely without you.”
Being careful, I reached for her hands, held them in mine, and brought them to my lips. I kissed those wrinkled hands.
I suddenly felt so tired. I needed a rest. A long and peaceful rest. I hoped, next time I opened my eyes, she would still be right there, looking at me with eyes full of love, giving me those smiles which I liked so much. She would greet me joyfully, maybe even scold me, “Finally you’re awake; I have been waiting for you for so long,” and I would smile at her, just like every single day in our togetherness.
I was tired. So I slowly loosened my grip on her hands, looked at her big brown eyes, and smiled. Maybe for the last time.
And then I closed my eyes.
He closed his eyes. Five seconds had passed before I called his name, softly shook his body. But he ignored me in his peaceful slumber and stayed still. Five more seconds had passed before finally – with shaking hands – I encouraged myself to reach for his neck, looking for the carotid pulse that should had been there.
Five more seconds. There was only silence.
After what seemed like a year, I retreated my hands from his neck, then with both of my wrinkled hands, I reached his also wrinkled hands. Two pairs of wrinkled hands, holding each other, full of love. Warm.
I wiped away a single tear that rolled down my right cheek; a single drop I failed to hold. He would hate to see me cry.
I kissed his hands – for the last time.
I bend over to kiss his forehead – for the last time.
And then I kissed his lips – also for the last time.
Then I reached for the button beside his bed, and pressed it.