As I reached for the doorknob, he spoke.
I turned around to face him. Imprisoned within these walls for days, bound by ties whose existence I had no say in, I had become all too aware of the frustration that was seeping through my rapidly eroding patience. Night and day had melted into a continuous gelatinous mass that I waded through with leaden steps- slowly, laboriously. I had finally come through, to what I thought was the end of it. I needed air. Yet his iron grip on my will remained. It was enough to ground me in my tracks every time I stood up to go.
He reached out for me. I felt my skin shrink from his touch like a plastic bag shriveling in the heat of a flame. The door was less than an arm’s length away, but I remained standing where I was. He took hold of my shoulders and tried to steer me away.
“Don’t go, don’t leave me. We’ll watch a movie together, okay? And we’ll talk- we should talk. I miss our conversations. Just don’t go, not now.” His voice rose to a high pitch, slicing slivers off my patience.
How was I to explain that the lack of words between us was not what made me want to escape, if even for a few hours? I was grateful that he didn’t pour himself into my silences as well. His mere presence leached my will to live. I felt old and tired around him, trapped in the haze of the grey area between staying and leaving, between the nebulous idea of a right and a more concrete wrong.
“I need to go- you’ll manage on your own. You were fine before I came, weren’t you?”
My words barely mattered to him. He had convinced himself of his need for me, and there was nothing I could do to twist his thoughts around. I felt the tips of his thumbs digging into the soft space above my collarbones; his animal strength seemed at odds with his wheedling, his persistent, piteous begging for me to stay.
I felt my shoes lose their grip on the floor as he tried to drag me away from the door.
“Don’t go, please don’t go.”
His high-pitched whine chewed my nerves and gnawed at my resolve and made his pleading irresistible.
“It’s time- “
His knees buckled and I sank to the floor with him, leaving my unfinished sentence hovering in the air above us. I grasped his hands as he dissolved into tears, and stroked his hair as he quaked and sobbed and mumbled like a child.
“Let’s get you to bed and get you some tea, and we’ll watch a movie together. I’m not going anywhere.”
I stood up and gently pulled my father to his skeletal feet. He swayed as he stood, a tottering column of bones, the remaining tufts of his white hair clinging to his forehead like soggy snow.
I turned back and took a hold of the door key, locking the world outside behind me.