the kiss we remember isn’t always the first.

Write about a kiss.
February 1 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

He lay on the mattress. On top of a piece of plastic and a sheet. He hated that plastic. Only reminded him of his infirm state of body. Most days he was lucid. However, he slipped in and out of consciousness. Felt confused, disoriented, illogical. An effect of the drugs. Only God knew how many chemicals coursed now through his body. Except the man, clear-thinking or otherwise, didn’t believe in God. So no one knew how many drugs to fight off the cancer were in his body. The doctors lost count.

He was a proud man. A smart man. A severely stoical man. His was a life of severe abuse. He had survived it. Or had he? Yes. He lived through it. Came out alive. But at what costs. Many many many. Too many. He wouldn’t talk about it. He probably didn’t even known himself how many.

He shifted slowly from his back to his right side. The plastic cover crinkled. It pained him, the slight movement as much as that sound. Yet another reminder of his infirm condition.

Life was draining from his body. Cancer was taking it all away. Aggressively. Inarguably. The man who had dictated life, its ways and means according to HIM to so many — his children, his wives, sometimes even friends and relatives of his wives’ families — was now being dictated to. Ironic. A turn of the tables. A taste of his own poison, so to speak. Just as he had dictated to and forced his will upon others, he was now being dictated to by forces stronger than he. By a disease that refused to surrender. An illness that marched through the whole of his body and mind.

The illness was brutal. A half-million soldiers under the command of a cruel general. It took no prisoners. The man himself was captive to forces greater than himself. Was at the mercy of all the rage inflicted on others through his lifetime. Especially those he loved.

“That’s more comfortable,” he thought, once he accomplished that shift from his back to his right side. A seemingly simple move of considerable exertion for the sick, the elderly and the immobile. Even the seemingly simplest of turns in bed taken for granted by most people can take 5 to 10 minutes. A turn or two can mark a major achievement in a day for the debilitated and the demented.

Gratitude for having at least some strength left to move one’s self on one’s own with no help from a nurse or doctor or partner or caretaker? Perhaps.

Gratitude for still being alive? Perhaps. But what if it’s accompanied by crushing pain. Debilitated drugged-up existence. Muscles atrophied by cancer. No recovery in sight now. Ever.

Is the cost of “staying alive” worth the costs? The enormous costs of doctor and hospital visits and drugs and more drugs and medical tests and studies. On and on and on the list of expenses. Just to “stay alive.”

“This is not life,” he said to himself. The initial comfort of lying on his right side slowly gave way to discomfort. Stiffness. Immobility. He was a man of mobility. He HATED this immobilization. More than anyone could understand except his daughter, one of his two, who was just like him. Had inherited the Mobile gene. Take away mobility. Motion. And life for those two was over.

He felt it through his morphined-up body and mind. At least now he was relaxing. Experiencing some streams of peace through the torrents of ravaging pain of the months, the agony of cancer eating away at him. And eating him alive from the inside out.

Yes. The streams of peace expanded within. Like air they felt. Like the soft rides along the airstreams. His mind had last-minute recollections. Flashes from the life he was leaving behind. He would miss his wife. He would miss his dog. He would miss riding the airstreams as he had countless occasions in an airplane he no longer had.

Except that he was gliding on those currents, the winds that he loved, when death came to him with a kiss.

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