The orderly wheeled her elderly patient to the window. It was the same window from which he gazed yesterday, and the day before that, for almost as long as he could remember. She set the brake on his wheelchair and mindlessly placed a hand on his shoulder as she walked away. In that moment, he desperately wanted to place his hand on hers to assure her he was still there.
He had become a prisoner in his own body. Time had spared his mind but not his body. He was painfully aware of every moment as his own body betrayed him. Trapped in his cage of flesh and bone, all he could do was watch the world as it continued turning around him. His withered body reduced life to a spectator sport for him. If only he could communicate, he could at least talk to someone to pass the time. Instead, he gazed out the window at a world he no longer knew.
There were moments, however. Moments when she visited him. Those were the moments that kept him going. He wondered how much longer they would last. At first, the visits were warm, filled with love and compassion. Lately, however, they began to feel like more of a chore or obligation. Occasionally, she’d look in his eyes, and he imagined leaping from his chair and embracing her. Of course, that never happened. He wondered if she could see him in there. He definitely wasn’t here anymore. He remembered all the years they spent together, how he watched her change over the years. He reflected on all the missed opportunities, the moments that would never come again. He knew he couldn’t get them back, but trapped in his fleshy prison, he allowed himself the fantasy.
From the window, he could see her coming. He wondered if his heart was beating faster. The anticipation, like every day, was overwhelming. In a few short minutes, she would enter the doors, climb the stairs, and finally be there with him.
She approached his chair, released the brake, and wheeled him to a corner table. This was different. She’d never done this before. What was happening? Gently, she took his hand in hers, held it to her, and began to speak. “I don’t know if you can still hear me,” she said, “but I can’t come visit you anymore. You see, we’re moving. We can’t stay. I wish I could take you with us, but I just can’t. I’m so sorry. If you’re in there, I hope you understand.”
She wheeled him back to his window. Before she walked away, she placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. Silently, he screamed, “I’m here! Don’t go! Please!” As always, however, he made no sound. Soon, he saw her walk through the courtyard to her car. He knew he would never see her again. He thought more about his missed opportunities with her. He thought of the times when he should have been there but wasn’t. He thought of all the times he should have said, “I love you,” but didn’t. Those moments, while they were vivid in his mind, no longer existed. They were long gone.
Suddenly, he felt a tear roll down his cheek. Then another. Then another. He couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t wipe them away. His sorrow flowed freely down his face. In that sorrow, he had a vision. His chair would always be there. He was doomed to sit silently at that window, gazing forever at a world he was no longer part of. His prison was eternal. As tear after tear flowed down his cheek, he made himself a promise; he would shed a tear for every “I love you” not said.
His tears still flow.