The Absence of Wings
Perspiration trickles down my cheek as I stumble down the footpath. Breath caught deep in my chest, I battle against the oppressive force surrounding me, engulfing my being. My eyes are squinted, light barely penetrating my view. I prefer it this way – less pain. In these moments, I regret moving from Hobart, where one becomes closely acquainted with an early morning drizzle, mist rising above the bay, awakening from slumber. Perth was a mistake – the flies alone are enough to drive you mad. They swarm me now, as if summoned by the sun.
Baggage claim the day I arrived all those months ago was chaotic. Body against body, breath to breath; inescapable. My eyes follow the carousel, desperately hoping to glimpse my tattered suitcase. I’ve been here for over twenty minutes, each minute more unbearable than the last. She’s already here, her red hair an unmistakable beacon beyond the terminal doors. Walking over, bag in hand, it feels like something is strangling me, a muscle tight as a noose around my throat, giving me away, an inaccessible sound escaping my lips. “I’m so sorry”.
The hospital now looms above me, the shadow of it’s concrete pylons shielding me from the heat. Ironic I suppose, that the place that brings me so much pain offers such relief. A nurse is there to greet me at the reception. She knows my name, why I’m here. When I reach her room I can hear the music before I even open the door. “Turn it off”. She doesn’t hear me, her ears filled with silence. The sun filters across the room, reflecting off the polished equipment, it’s sterile steel glinting, mocking the sombre mood in the room. I walk across the floor and grasp her shoulder, turning her face towards mine. “Turn it off” she reads, her eyes following my lips, desperately seeking the wisps of air that escape. Her face falls, my words a hammer to the nail of her proverbial coffin. Her eyes leave mine and drift across the room, swaying, as if watching a buoy float across the bay. I see it now, how she’s fading.
I’d been preparing myself for this for months, ever since her prognosis. I still see that appointment with startling clarity, as if no time had passed at all; Acute myeloid leukaemia. “Are you sure?” I speak softly, the words dying on my tongue. Kayla’s face remains impassive, her reaction masked by the dull sheen in her eyes, her head turning to face the wall. She doesn’t reply. I don’t expect her to, expect her to reply to the news of her sickening fate. Dr. Nichols stutters, his courage rapidly fading. As a general practitioner, I imagine he doesn’t have to do this often; warn people of their deaths. The beating drum hammering in my chest steals my breath away, leaves me gasping for air, drowning in the winds of the climate control.
“Turn if off”. She can’t hear me – of course she can’t. Part of a rare minority silenced by meningitis. She can partially hear, but the sounds escapes her ears as if freed from an eternal prison, desperate to flee. Her eyes...