“Maybe we should sell our house.”
“The house is sold, baby. We’ve discussed this.”
“We could sell our car too. I could walk to school.”
Of course it’s possible, I think – though the bank’s coming for the car next. I could work two jobs, take a loan on top of the one I have and we could continue organising our lives around waiting.
“You can’t. It’s too far.”
We’ve had so many conversations like this one, Nicky talking about why we should keep something, me explaining why we can’t. Dad’s dagger collection? Too dangerous. Dad’s digital camera? We need something less complicated.
“When he dies, will it hurt?”
“Nah,” I say. “The doctors press some buttons. He won’t know.”
He humpfs, impatient. “No I mean us. Will it hurt us a lot?”
Yes, I want to yell. There’s going to be a Great Big Gap where Dad once was and we’re going to spend ages trying to plug it so the chill doesn’t get it in. We’re going to try pillows and rolled up towels and faux leather sausage dogs filled with sand, and eventually, when nothing works, we’ll just let the cold blow all over us until we don’t notice anymore.
“I think so. But we’ll have each other.”
“It hurt when Cabbage died.” He thumps a pudgy fist against his stomach. “Right here. Came from the inside out.”
I squeeze his hand and together we watch him so still among the busyness of drips and pipes and machines counting things we cannot see.
I feel the note in my pocket.
It’s grubby and worn from months of touch; ragged from being thrown away too many times. Same word, thirteen lines in his familiar, twitchy scrawl.
And the ink has run in places.