They see me. I see them. But they don’t know.
The children fuss over presents. Relatives sit in armchairs at the periphery of the room. Chatting, drinking, dozing.
I hear them. But they don’t know.
The woman clears the table. She doesn’t look my way. No avoiding of eye contact, it’s just that she doesn’t look anymore.
The Queen appears on the TV. The children chatter among themselves, until they’re shushed by older voices. A film follows.
The dishwasher starts to gurgle in the kitchen. The woman returns, sits at the table, and pours herself some wine.
Later, the relatives say their goodbyes, embrace, and leave. The children fade away to their bedrooms to play with new toys, listen to new gadgets, try on new clothes.
There’s just the woman left with me now. Her figure is fuller, her skin no longer luminous. But even now, she is beautiful. I catch a sweet memory of the weekend at that country hotel. The first time we made love. The smell and taste of her body.
She smiles sadly at me, and approaches. She pulls my mask aside, and uses sterile wipes to clean around my mouth. She presses a button to recline me. I feel her kiss the top of my head.
She leaves the room, switching off the light, leaving me alone. I stare at the lights on the tree. And just like every other night, the rhythmic sounds of my ventilator will lull me to sleep. Eventually.