He sat at the edge of the bed, almost perching. Once every few seconds he'd drag a lungful of cigarette smoke. He inhaled deep, then exhaled slowly, and then inhaled again almost immediately as if he was in a race with the embers. Who gets to the finishing line first wins, but will the high of winning be enough to cushion the fact that everything has ended? He looks oblivious to the fact.
He slowly turned his head to look at me. "My last one," he said, his addam's apple bobbing up and down.
I shrugged. He didn't have to tell me anything. First ciggie, last ciggie, what he ate for breakfast, where he was before he came here, what he would do when he leaves, it meant nothing. He could tell me all about the past 10 years and it would still be meaningless.
I kept looking at him, marveled at the fact that he looked fidgety. He's done this before, I am sure he has done this a million times yet he acted like a novice. Sweat has started to bead on his forehead and his lips were pulled back in a frown. He was about to say something, I sensed. I saw the flicker in his eyes, he was about to say something that might change the situation, and I for once didn't know if I wanted to hear them.
In slow motion, I saw his unusually pink lips open, slowly forming a word. I couldn't help but kept my gaze on them...
The hot ash at the end of his cigarette fell on his left hand. "Holy shit," he flustered, dusting off his hand before realizing that the hand holding the cigarette was pressed to the mattress and was starting to burn the covers.
"Shit shit shit!" this time it was more like a subdued roar, if there was such a thing. He jumped on the bed and started to stomp on the burn spot, leaving Doc Martens imprints on the once pristine bed cover.
"Look at what you made me do!"
He ran his hand through his silver-dusted hair. They never fail to amaze me, how his hair looked so...inviting. I remember when they were full, all mahogony and maroon with reddish highlights. That, combined with his rugged good looks, well, I have never seen a woman not swoon whenever he is in the same room. Some of them even blatantly cursed me because he never seemed to care about anyone else but me. It intrigued me but it sure as hell piqued those women.
The thing is, there was never anything sexual between us. Or if there was, if we were ever curious as to what would happen if there were, we've silently decided to let it pass. It wouldn't have worked out, anyway. Oh, I knew that he was a passionate man, he showed it through his craft. But I've known him for 20 years, spent 10 of them with him by my side. I knew him like the back of my hand, and him vice versa. There wouldn't be any mystery left to hold us together. There probably wouldn't be any sparks left after the initial blast to sustain the relationship and we'd only hate each other after that. No, that wouldn't do at all, so why risk it?
He walked to my side and grabbed a glass of water from the table. Downed it in a gulp, then crushed his stub in it. He skulk to the window, turned around and looked at me accusingly.
"Stop staring at me like that," he said, his temples twitching.
"Like you're about to pounce on me. Doing this is hard enough, don't go beggin' for more trouble," he said through gritted teeth.
I smiled softly and uncrossed my legs. "What could be more trouble than this?"
"I could do it slow, drag it until you beg me to release you from your misery. I could make it that you'd live forever with scars to vivid to erase. I could damage you and then leave you," he said, hands waving like a lunatic.
"Such drama, from a man so mighty like you," I smirked. I knew he hated it when I smirks, it made him feel left out. "Well look macho man, you have yourself a deal, and I expect you to uphold it. You either do it hard and fast, or you don't do it at all. I can get another man to do it but I called for you because I trust you. You've never chickened out, so don't start now."
He sat by the window sill, breathing heavily. I could see his nostrils flaring, I knew he was getting agitated. Somewhere across the street a group of people laughed, a taxi honked, and a baby cried, yet I heard his silent heartbeat paced faster and faster.
I closed my eyes. "I could do it myself, you know. It's pretty easy, you taught me well enough. You can sit there and watch."
He stood up. "Don't be ridiculous."
"I don't have much time, Axe. The cancer's eating me as we speak. God has decided that this is how I should be punished. Everything I have planned for, everything we have planned for has been ripped from our hands, just like that. I won't be able to retire with you, move to Belize or some island and open that crazy tack shack you wanted. I won't be able to find a man to settle down with, or see you walk the isle with a chick 20 years younger than you. I am going to suffer and then probably die in 2 months. Probably. Not will, not definitely, but probably. You hear me?"
I ripped the scarf from my head, exposing my bald crown. He flinched, and I could see tears forming in his eyes. He walked towards me and took one hand and held it between his palms.
I touched his cheek. He nudged my hand and rested his head on my shoulder. It was an awkward position but it felt right. I wondered why we never did this before. Why we never thought of sharing the pain every time the hurt became unbearable. Why did we chose solitude over comforting warmth? If there was ever a man in my life, it was him. He understood me like no one else does. He understood the tear in my heart, the splinter surging through my veins, wrecking havoc to what little strength I had left.
"I don't want to die like that, not knowing when and how. You promised, Axe. Keep your promise. You'd make me a happy woman," I whispered in his ears.
I could feel his tears seeping through my green shift. He looked up and cradled my head in his huge hands. "The problem with your plan, babe, is that we're in a hospital and we're in plain sight. Everyone can see us. That'll be a bit embarrassing, wouldn't it?"
He was trying to kid around but his smile was so weak it made me guilty... for a second or two. I shook my head to rid the doubting clouds off me. I had to think straight.
"You know what, let's do it right here, now. I sit, you stand, do what we gotta do and you can leave through the window. Nobody'd know you were here."
He stared hard at me. Then he stood up, scooped me in his arms and carried me to the bed. He deposited me gently before tugging of his hard boots and wrestling off his jacket.
"It's not gonna strangle you back, you know," I lightly laughed.
He shrugged and climbed onto the bed, all six feet four inches of him, careful not to crush me with his weight. He shifted so I was leaning back on him. I never felt better. He sighed, his breath warming my ear and memories flashed like a Rolodex spinning right in front of me -- the good times, even the bad ones and how we got through every single one of them together. That night when we made a blood pact, many many exciting days that followed, to the blasted argument that made him left me 10 years ago, to being in his arms again. I never really understood it, but he was a blessing to me.
He held me for what seemed like an eternity, and then turned my head towards him. "You ready?"
I wanted to say yes but it seemed like the word was stuck in my throat, so I nodded instead. He moved closer and touched my lips with his calloused fingers. I closed my eyes.
"I love you," he said, and before I could react, he pulled the trigger. The bullet went straight through my head and lodged itself in the metal headboard.
In a haze, from above the room, I saw myself limp and him stiff beside me, eyes glazed and covered in blood. The gunshot had alerted the nurses down the corridor and they were running towards my room. He chose to do it without his trusted silencer. I wondered why, until
two seconds later, he put the gun to his temple and fired it for a second time.
When the nurses came to my door, there was nothing they could do. We were both dead, our blood trickling from our heads, blossoming on the pillow. He had one hand on my waist. In the technicolour haze clouding my sight, we looked so serene. Like lovers embracing in the cold night, like an oil painting worthy of a gallery wall. Such tragedy, such beautiful tragedy.
"Worthy, indeed," I heard him behind me.
I spun around and there he was, in his dusty blue jeans, black boots and nothing else, just like he was when I first met him. I had on the blue cardigan and black jeans I got for my 17th birthday, with sneakers that were a little torn, hair disheveled, yet he looked at me like I was his angel hereafter.
"You scheming bastard, you were supposed to live!" I laughed. Although angry at him for taking his life, I wasn't able to contain my delight. He chose me over life. Ain't that something!
This time he was the one who smirked. "Well, I thought I'd throw a bonus in, eh? Thought it would be better to leave with a bang," he joined in the laugh and hugged me. "And besides, I couldn't possibly let you go through hell alone, can I?"
"The ever protective male. You're not my father, you know," I said jokingly, my hands weaving through his hair.
He looked at me with intense eyes. "Oh, I'm not and never will I ever want to be a father figure to you. It would be perverse of me to love you so," and pointed his case with a full kiss on the lips.
Below us, sirens bellowed through the night. Some of the nurses were crying while others stood still, mourning for the lady they have befriended, the one who kept waiting for her 'best friend' to come and was so happy when he did, they thought he would help her through what little time she had left with ease. Some would soon hate the man and prayed that he burned in hell, while some would understand the romantic notion of dying together with the one you love, however grim the circumstances were. He helped her, in a greater way than they could ever imagine.
"How come you've never told me this?"
He looked straight into my eyes. "I was scared. I left you because I couldn't bear the thought of one day dying in front of you. You love so passionately I was scared I'd scar you for life if I was ever killed in battle. So I left. Having you hate me was easier than seeing you suffer for the rest of your life. I 'm sorry it took me 10 years and 2 deaths to realize that you and I have been made for each other. No matter where we go, what we do, or whatever befalls us, we'll always be together."
I was lost for words. He was always a figure of confidence, a walking killing machine bereft of emotions, but as we stood in embrace I felt a floodgate of emotions hitting me. It must've taken him extraordinary strength to curb his feelings for me, to shield me away from what he thought would kill me.
Kill, killed, be killed. I've spend almost half my life doing deeds for the oppressed that my hands were permanently stained with blood of those who sinned, and in another corner of the earth, he did the same. It was only fitting that we'd come together after we ourselves were dead.
Such is the twisted way of god's chess play.
I held on to Axe as we faded into the light that beckoned us, and just before the unknown descended upon us, he whispered "I love you, Ty."
I've always prayed for every soul I sent to Him. They were damned, but they deserved a little mercy for what awaited them on judgement day. Death seems to solve things on earth, but promises hell for those who prematurely meets it.
Well, with him by my side, death wasn't that bad at all.