I have been thinking of you today, my love. It was an icy morning and as I lay in my bed I thought of you in yours. I could picture it so clearly. You were pale and even smaller than when I saw you last. There was not a wrinkle on your skin. I think your sleep is taking away the years we gained together and returning you to your childhood. Your hair was longer. Someone had plaited it and it hung like Rapunzel's over the rim of the bed, awaiting some tiny chivalrous knight to shimmy up it. I wondered who had plaited that bronze mass and envied their fingers.
The nurses think you are beautiful. They have told me so with great warmth in their voices. "She is beautiful, your wife. Those lips, that hair, those slender fingers." In many ways it is easier to speak to them than to friends. Friends are frightened by the busy, space-aged machinery you are lost in. They will not raise their voices above a whisper. "You will not wake her," I try to tell them.
If yelling and wailing could have raised you, love, I would have done that in those first two weeks: I screamed and howled until the doctors gave me a sedative for the sake of their own nerves. If urgent whisperings in your ear, soft tales of our courtship and daily routines, could have made you stir, you would have opened your eyes by the end of June. If silence, long, long hours of silent companionship could have roused you, I would be sitting beside you now, telling you stories, mesmerised by your slightest movement; your every flicker of expression. Feeling lucky.
I used to take friends to the café in the hospital's lobby in an attempt to get them to speak normally. They would cling to their lattes in desperation and I would see my own grief in their eyes. Silence lay like frozen continents between us. 'Tell me about the world', I wanted to implore. 'Does it still exist? Does France still lie across the channel from England? Is China still very large and Japan still very small? Does it rain outside of these windows? Do children fall over and cry and do mummies kiss them better? Do dogs still embarrass their owners by defecating in front of café windows for the entertainment of those seated behind the glass? Does night follow day or is it the other way around? Tell me about the little things: the paper clips, the snails, the buttons, the light bulbs which need changing and the shoes which need cleaning.'
This morning I awoke and heard your breath, syncopating mine. It was so soft I took a moment to recognise it.
I am far away from you, my love. I have to be. I needed to flee that white room. I have left you in the care of your mother and sister and my brother but the guilt still chases me. "Take a holiday," they said. Your sister packed my bags and drove me to the airport and kissed me goodbye. "You look tired, Beatrice. You need sun and air and time. Talk to people in cafés and bookshops. Don't forget how to talk. You used to do it so beautifully." I try to tell her that I grew tired of being the only one not afraid to speak in the white but my voice sticks in my throat so I just nod and take my ticket from her.
I have been thinking of you today, my love, as I do everyday. It has been a year and a half and you never leave my thoughts. If I think hard enough, if I listen to your breath half a world away, if I love only you and no one else and picture your plaited Rapunzel hair, will you come home to me?