A Life Unseen

Oliver was fading away.

I looked at his face; eyes closed cheeks red, the simple rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. I took it all in and tried to commit it to memory. To snatch the moment and lock it away somewhere deep, dark and safe.

I could see the bright blue of my sleeve through the top his head. The skin was translucent in patches and occasional shifts in his pigment revealed hollow shapes like holes, offering glimpses of my lap. He wore a red striped vest with an embroidered dinosaur and this remained solid. It was the rest of him that slowly disappeared. I know it sounds crazy, and you wouldn’t be the first to say, but looking at my son was like watching a reflection on water; there, but not there. A fluid impermanence.

Of course, I had been to the doctor. I took him straight away when I first noticed his fingers thinning and the vague shape of a spoon visible through the meat of his hand.

The doctor had no answer. He told me the baby was fine and healthy and not unlike the hundreds of other babies he saw every week. He seemed a little nervous and smiled in all the wrong places as he spoke. It was no surprise when he raised my medication. Said I should rest. He looked at me over the top of his glasses as if sizing me up for a straight jacket.

If I’m honest, I expected it. Even my family don’t support me. They nod and smile and cluck affectionately, but as soon as I leave the room they start to talk.

“She always wanted a baby, poor dear.”

“Yes, I know I think she’s suffering tremendously. That husband of hers needs to pull his finger out.”

And so on. I shut the door and tried to block out the voices. I don’t need people. They take everything from you in the end. Even the well meaning ones, it’s just take, take, take until you having nothing left to give except anger and bitterness and then they aren’t interested anymore.

Oliver is waking up. It doesn’t look right because as he yawns the flesh around his mouth loses permanence and I can see the duvet cover. His eyes open and they are silky films over the background of my watch face. He looks up and smiles.

The tears start then. Big, warm droplets fall onto his transparent cheeks. Small pockets of water spreading to fill in the blanks as he fades from view. His dimples, the crease of his smile, it all stands out under the hot wash of my sorrow. A face etched in sadness.

I pull him close to me and hold him tight.

Until he is gone.


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