That which we call a Rose
She was walking right alongside him, and she collapsed. The scene played on repeat in his mind a thousand times over. He caught her, him a goalkeeper with admirable reflex and quick reaction time. He looked at her, waiting for her to open her eyes and laugh, waiting to see if it’s one of her dramatic acts again.
She has terrible reaction time, way below average. “Experimentally proven,” she always said. They had a Physics lab in first year proving just that. And now she’s giving zero reaction. Nothing. He tried everything. He kissed her eyes the way he knew she likes it. He told her she’s beautiful, that he loves her now and he loves her tomorrow.. He told her what she wanted to hear. He realizes, now, that it’s not what she wanted to hear – it’s what she needed to.
Same scene again. They were walking to their fourth lecture today, on the other side of campus. “Carry me, Lan, I can’t walk anymore,” she joked, “Today’s been such a long day!” He rolled his eyes. My day is just as long as hers is, he thought. We’re just both equally tired, and now she’s whining, and I didn’t have the energy to roll with her.
She kept quiet. She’s always doing that. She’s probably ‘hurt’. She’s always saying that. Why does the slightest thing hurt her anyway? He haven’t got time for her antics. She’ll usually get over it in the class, she can’t stand not talking to him.
And then, she collapsed. Wilted. Like a dying stem of rose that she’s always requested from him until she stopped requesting. She always lets things go. She’s good at ‘adapting to my ways’, as she put it.
She was climbing the last flight of stairs, and she put her hand to her head, and then, she fell. Almost gracefully. She fell slowly. He caught her, he called her name. Someone called the school medic, and they waited together. He saw her dry, cracked lips. They were pale. He whole body giving off heat. He wanted to kiss her awake then, but he didn’t. The next thing he knew, they were in an ambulance, to the hospital.
“I feel sick again.”
“Late to class.. Headache.”
He barely replied to these texts from her when they came almost every day. He knew full well that she only wanted his attention, but she can’t keep doing this, he thought. It’s exhausting for both of them.
But now every single unreplied text comes haunting him. God, how did he miss all those? Why is he so stingy with attention? She’s the kind of girl who never asked for too much. Doesn’t take a lot to please her. He’s too lucky to have her in his life. When he’s sick, she came over to his place armed with hot soups and three days’ worth of microwavable food supply. Those were really delicious. And when she’s sick, he didn’t think much about it. How did she always keep on giving without taking? God, I love her, he thought.
He’s looking at her now, tubes here and there. Some sort of liquid dripping into her veins. He counts every drop from the tube. He watches her sleep. She looks so tiny and so fragile when she is not out doing things for him. Saving him. And now, how could he save her?
He’s looking at her now and recounting the many, many ways he had wronged her and not do her justice. He looks are her now and realizes how much she has had to put up with him over the four years that they were together. He realizes what she meant now, about her missing the early days of their relationship.
“You don’t sing to me anymore.”
“I miss your good morning texts.”
“Remember that picnic we had that summer?”
“How come you don’t call me honey anymore?”
And on and on and on. It really annoyed him. Why can’t she just move on from ‘the early days’?
And now he wants to give it all to her, and more. She deserves it all. That was how he won her, and that will be how he keeps her. But now he’s looking at her, and she’s not stirring, far from waking up, and he wonders if those dry lips will ever say his name again.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, the doctor waking him up. He didn’t even know how long he’s been asleep.
“You need to watch her more. Make her eat and sleep more. Eat the good stuff, not the occasional slice of cheese pizza.”
“What are you saying?”
“That you’re not taking care of her when she’s with you half the time. Am I wrong?”
“You’re not.. She’s alright?”
“Oh yes. She will be. Fatigue, lacking iron and nutrients, overworking her tiny body. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”
He looks at her now. She’s alright? She’s alright! She is going to be alright..
He whispers in her ears. “Rosie, honey, you can sit beside me when the world comes down..”
“If it doesn’t matter then just turn around,” she opened her eyes, squinting at the light. He shadowed over her, smiling.
“We don’t need our bags, and..” Her eyes pierced his, anger and sadness written all over.
“Your singing is hurting my brain.”
He squeezed her hand and she put up a fight, with all the might her weak body could muster. He sang to her, he pleaded with her, and Rosie let him be, eventually falling back to sleep with him stroking her hair.
Ah, dearest Rose. Always hurt, always sulking. It was all on him, this time, and he knew. He will win his Mona Lisa, his art of a girlfriend back.