Long hallways and big, open rooms painted white. Decor in muted greens and grays and blues. Windows – as many windows as possible. It’s all meant to be soothing, you’re sure, meant to elicit peace, meant to lull you, even if only momentarily, into forgetting. Unfortunately, no amount of peaceful grays and sunshine can make you forget you’re in a cancer hospital.
Even if your eyes were closed, you’d know it by the hushed whispers – a somber, reverent sound usually reserved for churches. You’d know it by the scrubs and the stark white lab coats, the face masks and the carefully wrapped heads. You’d know it by the sleeping forms, curled up in chairs, tired from early mornings and late nights and treatment and scans and scans and scans.
You’d know it from the way his smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes and he hides behind his phone – the screen a tiny electric shield designed to help him forget.
But you’d pretend to be okay. You’d pretend it didn’t bother you, that you didn’t want to throw his phone away and grab his hand and say TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL. You’d pretend you didn’t notice when he coughed, when his breathing hitched, when his walking slowed. You’d hide behind your own electric shield, behind the pages of a book, any book, behind all the words you want to say, but don’t know how and can’t, and even if you did, even if you did, it wouldn’t matter because he’d still have cancer and you couldn’t understand.
So you’d wait. You’d wait for hours in chairs of patterned greens and grays and blues, next to wide windows, in open rooms painted white. You’d wait in tiny rooms for the doctor to come in. You’d wait for news, wait for answers. You’d wait for the fear to creep in, for the anxiety to strangle you. You’d wait for the moment you could be alone to process and feel and stop pretending.
But mostly you’d hope. You’d hope because you love him. And that love would make you reach across the ocean of unspoken feelings that threatens to drown the both of you and squeeze his hand. That love would make him lay his head on your shoulder. That love would carry you home and into tomorrow and the next day and the one after that. And that love would always keep you hopeful. And if you ever started to lose hope, you’d close your eyes, bow your head, and pray.
And whether or not your prayers were answered, whether or not he was miraculously healed, you’d have today. You’d have each other. And really, in that moment, what else do you really need?