I pass through the hospital doors knowing it’ll be the last time.
On the elevator, I press the number three, watching it illuminate for the last time.
The doors open to the third floor and I smile at the nurse on duty, watching her expression as she pities me for the last time.
I pass the supply room and the chapel and the employee break room, all for the last time.
I continue down the hallway and keep my gaze forward and my heart brave as I tap lightly on his door, waiting to hear Adam invite me in for the very last time.
“Come in.” His voice is somehow still filled with hope, and I have no idea how.
He’s on his bed, lying on his back. When he sees me, he comforts me with his smile and lifts the blanket, inviting me to join him. The rail is already lowered, so I climb in beside him, wrap my arm over his chest, and lock our legs together. I bury my face into his neck, searching for his warmth, but I can’t find it.
He’s cold today.
He adjusts himself until we’re in our usual position with his left arm under me and his right arm over me, pulling me to him. It takes him a little more time to get comfortable than it usually does, and I notice his breathing increase with each small movement he makes.
I try not to notice these things, but it’s hard. I’m aware of his increased weakness, his slightly paler skin, the frailty in his voice. Every day during my allotted time with him, I can see that he’s slipping further away from me and there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing anyone can do but watch it happen.
We’ve known for six months that it would end this way. Of course we all prayed for a miracle, but this isn’t the kind of miracle that happens in real life.
My eyes close when Adam’s chilled lips meet my forehead. I’ve told myself I’m not going to cry. I know that’s impossible, but I can at least do everything I can to forestall the tears.
“I’m so sad,” he whispers.
His words are so out of line with his usual positivity, but it comforts me. Of course I don’t want him to be sad, but I need him to be sad with me right now. “Me too.”
Our visits over the last few weeks have mostly been filled with a lot of laughter and conversation, no matter how forced. I don’t want this visit to be any different, but knowing it’s our last makes it impossible to find anything to laugh about. Or talk about. I just want to cry with him and scream about how unfair this is for us, but that would tarnish this memory.
When the doctors in Portland said there was nothing more they could do for him, his parents decided to transfer him to a hospital in Dallas. Not because they were hoping for a miracle, but because their entire family lives in Texas, and they thought it would be better if he could be near his brother and everyone else who loved him. Adam had moved to Portland with his parents just two months before we began dating a year ago.
The only way Adam would agree to return to Texas was if they allowed me to come, too. It was a battle finally getting both sets of parents to agree, but Adam argued that he was the one dying, and he should be allowed to dictate who he’s with and what happens when that time comes.
It’s been five weeks now since I came to Dallas, and the two of us have run out of sympathy from both sets of parents. I was told I have to return to Portland immediately or my parents will be slapped with truancy charges. If it weren’t for that, his parents might have let me stay, but the last thing my parents need right now is legal issues.
My flight is today, and we’ve exhausted all other ideas for how I can convince them that I don’t need to be on that flight. I didn’t tell Adam this and I won’t, but last night after more pleas from me, his mother, Lydia, finally voiced her true opinion on the matter.
“You’re fifteen, Auburn. You think what you feel for him is real, but you’ll be over him in a month. Those of us who have loved him since the day he was born will have to suffer with his loss until the day we die. Those are the people he needs to be with right now.”
It’s a strange feeling when you know at fifteen that you just lived through the harshest words you’ll ever hear. I didn’t even know what to say to her. How can a fifteen-year-old girl defend her love when that love is dismissed by everyone? It’s impossible to defend yourself against inexperience and age. And maybe they’re right. Maybe we don’t know love like an adult knows love, but we sure as hell feel it. And right now, it feels imminently heartbreaking.
“How long before your flight?” Adam asks as his fingers delicately trace slow circles down my arm for the last time.
“Two hours. Your mother and Trey are downstairs waiting for me. She says we need to leave in ten minutes in order to make it on time.”
“Ten minutes,” he repeats softly. “That’s not enough time to share with you all the profound wisdom I’ve accrued while on my deathbed. I’ll need at least fifteen. Twenty, tops.”
I laugh what is probably the most pathetic, sad laugh to ever leave my mouth. We both hear the despair in it and he holds me tighter, but not much tighter. He has very little strength even compared to yesterday. His hand soothes my head and he presses his lips into my hair. “I want to thank you, Auburn,” he says quietly. “For so many things. But first, I want to thank you for being just as pissed off as I am.”
Again, I laugh. He always has jokes, even when he knows they’re his last.
“You have to be more specific, Adam, because I’m pissed off about a whole hell of a lot right now.”
He loosens his grip from around me and makes a tremendous effort to roll toward me so that we’re facing each other. One could argue that his eyes are hazel, but they aren’t. They are layers of greens and browns, touching but never blending, creating the most intense, defined pair of eyes that have ever looked in my direction. Eyes that were once the brightest part of him but are now too defeated by an untimely fate that is slowly draining the color right out of them.
“I’m referring specifically to how we’re both so pissed at Death for being such a greedy bastard. But I guess I’m also referring to our parents, for not understanding this. For not allowing me to have the one and only thing I want here with me.”
He’s right. I’m definitely pissed about both of those things. But we’ve been over it enough times in the last few days to know that we lost and they won. Right now I just want to focus on him and soak up every last ounce of his presence while I still have it.