Gray paint was slowly peeling off the wall. I could hear the sound of desperate footsteps outside, on the too- trampled-on-floor. The high-pitched beeps were going off all around the room.  The smell of expired-looking food and chemical tornados were mating in the air.  They were all getting together to remind me of one thing and one thing only.

How little time we had left.

Beep.

“Is this really it?” I asked, closing my eyes.

I was lying on top of him, not wanting to let go. We had to enjoy every moment we had. And, right now, we were together. I tried to believe with all my power that that was the only thing we needed. That if we were together, we were happy.

“Yeah, I guess it is.” His voice sounded weak, but we both were trying to ignore it.

I felt the now-too-familiar warmth on my eyes, the tears threatening to come out again. But I was not going to cry. Not in front of him.

Beep.   

The air in the room was tight. It stood there, waiting calmly for everything to go down. It knew it didn’t have to wait that long, anyway. It was followed by a feeling of emptiness that would never go away: one of the many ghosts stuck here in this place.

Beep.

“Penny for your thoughts?” he whispered.

I smiled a bit. That had actually been the first thing he said to me, so many years ago. That question had been at the beginning of something so beautiful.

And now it was at its ending.

Beep.

“What am I going to do without you?” I blurted out, worried. “I’m not ready for this.”

I felt, more than saw, the sad smile on his lips. I knew him that well.

“Move on, of course. Maybe finally find the six-foot-tall basketball player you’d always wanted.”

I laughed. He also knew me that well.

“I was five! My dad was a basketball player; it was the only thing I knew about boys.”

I felt him as he slightly rose from his bed. His hand caressed my cheek lightly.

“See? With that beautiful laugh, how does any guy stand a chance?”

I closed my eyes at his touch and grinned. He always knew what to say to make me feel better. He was the perfect guy for me.

He was the love of my life.

And he was slowly fading away.

Beep.

I never understood why life was so unfair. Why some people stayed here for so long and why others didn’t. Since my mom died when I was young I tried to find an answer. Tried to look at the bright side of things and to search for the reason everything happened.

But I had no luck.

Beep.

 We’d been living in this hospital for almost two months already, and he wasn’t getting any better. How do you stand a chance against terminal cancer, anyway? We tried and we hoped, but we both knew there wasn’t much time left. In fact, a doctor said there was very little time left.

Beep.

So here we were: lying on his bed and waiting for the unstoppable. But, at least, we were together. And if we were together, we were happy. I was glad to be lying down next to him at the moment, hugging him softly as we spoke. Feeling all of him. Trying to do the impossible, to never forget his smell, his touch, his sound, his essence.

Beep.

“I’m going to miss you, you know,” I managed. “Who’s going to bring me breakfast in bed, now?”

I heard him laugh softly. “Is that the only reason you’re going to miss me?”

“Yeah,” I smiled, “it is.”

“I bet there are lots of guys out there who can bring you breakfast in bed.”

My smile faded now and I hugged him even tighter.

“No,” I whispered, “there’s not.”

Beep.

“You’re gonna find one, don’t worry”

My eyes filled with tears again.

Beep.

“No, I’m not. I’m not an easy person. I like my eggs done one special way and only one side of my toast burned. I’m complicated.” There was only one person in the world made to stand me and he was going away.

Beep.

“I know. That’s what I liked about you.

He always seemed so easygoing. He never complained about any of my demands and understood me even when I didn’t understand myself. He understood my need to check a glass before pouring something in it, or the fact that I didn’t like peanut butter or jam, unless they were in a PB&J sandwich. He always left me water in the refrigerator, and waited with me for our food to be completely cold before eating it. And he never lacked a smile.

Beep.

“Why?” I asked. I always wanted to know the answer. “Why would someone go through all that trouble for me? Why would someone even like to be with someone as complicated as me?”

“Because you made things interesting.”

I closed my eyes. I felt the first tears coming and I couldn’t control them. My barriers were slowly coming down and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to build them up again.

Beep.

“Please, don’t go.”

Beep. 

We stayed quiet for a while. Me crying and he lost in his thoughts. The only sound that was heard now was the beep of the machines. I could feel his hand trying to gently stroke my back, to try to reassure me. Of what? I’m sure neither of us knew. But we needed to be strong; to be there for each other. We needed to be together. If we were together, we were happy. I just lay there, with my head on his chest. Feeling the slow beating of his heart. In silence. Well, except for the . . .

Beep.

“Maybe you could try those dating apps everybody’s talking about,” he said, after a while. “I’ve heard Tinder is a hoot right now.”

I chuckled. He was always so happy. Always managing to make jokes, even in the worst of times.

“I don’t know how I’m going to meet new people,” I commented. He smiled.

“Yeah, you suck at starting conversations.” I turned my head to look at him, frowning.

“What?! You do! Remember when we met?”

I grinned back at him. Those smiles turned into soft giggling and then into laughter. We were laughing now. Not exactly a laughing-out-loud kind of thing, but we were together and we were happy. And for a moment, it looked as normal as it always had been. But then it all changed again.

He started coughing. His body started shaking. It wasn’t a big fit or anything, but enough to remind us both where we were.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

We fell silent again. I lay my head on him, lost in thought.

Beep.

“Will you wait for me? Up there . . . Wherever that is?”

“Of course I will, it wouldn’t be fun without you. Who else will I have there to carry after she wore high heels three times her size that hurt her feet, even after I told her it wasn’t a good idea?”

I managed a small smile, but the spell was kind of broken. But I didn’t want him to feel bad. I wanted him to feel great, to be happy. I really wanted to believe that if we were together, we were going to be happy. Even if everything that was happening around me didn’t make me feel that way.

Beep.

“At least you’ll be able to take care of Dom.”

He smiled softly. “Yeah. That sounds nice. I’ve missed the little guy.”

“He’s going to be happy to see you.”

He chuckled. “He’s going to be waiting for me to take him out to go pee, I’m sure. Or to give him a big cookie, even if the only trick he ever did was to lie on his back all day.”

I giggled.

“He’ll be barking like crazy. Demanding why we haven’t gone for him earlier. He hated being alone.”

“Well, I’ll be sure to tell him he’ll have to wait a long time for you. But, we’ll be waiting. Eager to see you when you finally visit.”

“I’ll be eager to see you, too.”

“I’ll make sure to teach him at least one more trick before that.”

We were both with sad smiles now, but at least they were smiles. We were together and we were going to be happy. Finding the perks made things easy, apparently. And Dom was definitely a perk.

He started coughing again, this time harder. His body shook uncontrollably and his face turned white. I was sure we had little time left. I noticed the gray paint on the wall behind him, slowly peeling. It looked like a race. To see who faded out first.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The doctors started coming into his room as the machines went crazy around him. But we didn’t care. I just held him tightly, and he held me back with all the force he could muster.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

It was just the two of us. Nothing else around us. Nothing but the broken promises and despair. But also the happy memories and the love. So many things unsaid between us. But we were together. We were happy. And we were spending these last moments as we wanted to.

“I don’t want you to go,” I managed to say. I was crying now, not caring about anything else.

Beep. Beep.

 “I know. I don’t want to go, either. I’ll miss you like crazy.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I felt him slowly fade away. His life force was peeling off, like the paint on the wall. We both knew what had to happen next.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

 He was too weak. Too weak to say or do anything else, but I wasn’t going to let go of him, wasn’t going to leave him alone.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I took his hand in mine and held it, as hard as I could.

As if by doing so he would stay with me forever.

As if by doing so, no one would be able to take him away from me.

But someone did.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. 

I don’t know who or why, but I could feel how it happened. I couldn’t see anything else except him, and couldn’t hear anything around us, but I felt it.

I felt it as it happened.

But I felt something else, too.

With his last breath, I felt his index finger rising up to do one last thing. He traced a heart on the top of my hand. And I knew what he meant by that; I understood him completely.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep . . .

Beeeeeeeeeeeep.

When he was finally gone, I let the doctors do their thing. I stood up and watched their process, though I really couldn’t care less. But I wasn’t going to leave him alone so fast.

After a while, I had to go out and start the paperwork. I stood there with nurses and doctors and people who tried to calm me down and told me what to sign and where.

But as I sat down for a second, trying to rest and catch a breath, I closed my eyes.

And I heard it.

I heard a faint laugh and a bark, right next to it.

And I could feel what was going on.

Maybe he was teaching him a new trick or just taking him out to pee.

But they were together.

And wouldn’t you know it: they were happy, too.

Abril Carpio is a third-year Film student at SVA.