The first thing he noticed when he woke up, were the flowers in the vase.
The seven different Carnations, at different stages of dying.
I was the second person to notice him stir. The first was the intern who’d fussed over him for the past two months. It was a marvel that would surely put her on the front foot in the eyes of her in-charge.
His parents would now come once in three days. They’d managed a small trip to Europe, in the midst of this. The number of greeting cards at his table had dwindled. His stitches had healed. Life had moved on in the time that had passed since he went into slumber.
Routine had come around.
Everyday, for a little over three years now, a new Carnation would replace a seven-day-old one.
Everyday, for a little over three years now, the allowed hours of visit – two hours – were abused thoroughly, pouring out stories, and walks down memory-lane. One way conversation.
The girl had black hair, and eyes that would look at him warmly.
She wore two rings on the chain around her neck.
She would sit close by him, hold his hand, bring it to her face, and let it move with her own, as she gesticulated. Occasionally, she would read to him. At times, she would put her head down by his hand, on the bed, and sniffle. Sometimes she’d stare at his set face, willing him to wake up and talk to her, explain his silence.
On other days, she would sit him up a little, set his hair, and smile at each of his steady, unchanging and pale features, absorbing their detail with a strange curiosity. A few times, her eyes would fall on his sleeping groin, and she’d blush, not daring to look at his face. Once, I saw her pray.
She would look up when she heard the tick-tock of heels, as his nurse, the intern or I, would come by for our routine check: for pulse, pupil dilation, and to update the charts.
Nobody else would disrupt her time with him. His parents, whenever they came by, would acknowledge her with a nod, and leave to settle the bills.
Outside of this room, I’d sometimes see her at the cafeteria drinking vending-machine coffee, and she’d looked transformed – withered, afraid.
And today, he woke up. And noticed the flowers.
He was silent for a long time. I assume he was groping at the disparity in his real time, and the luxury of its passage that his slumber had allowed him. He stared absently at the white wall in front, at his feet, or beyond the sliding doors.
I tried to add a few props to the vague three years that had passed. He smiled at the flowers, and shook his head. Five minutes more, and she’d be here.
She doesn’t know yet, right? he asked.
I smiled at him, and shook my head.
He mused about his accident, absently running his fingers up and down the chain of stitches along his right arm.
I was on my way to call off our engagement.