He comes three, four times a week. Has done for years now. We all thought he’d get fed up after a while, the young ones often do, but not him.
He sits by her bedside for hours when he doesn’t have to go to work. Sometimes an older couple comes too, but they never stay long. None of the others ever have any visitors.
He’ll read to her, tell her the silly goings on of their friends (who never visit), play her music. On Sundays he reads her the newspaper cover to cover, because he says that when she wakes up she’ll have a better idea of all the things that have gone on while she’s been here.
He says he doesn’t want her to wake up confused, not knowing how things have changed. This way, he says, the changes will come as less of a shock.
Because he absolutely believes that she can hear him in there. He has to believe it, because without it, there isn’t anything else. You can see it in his eyes, see how much he loves her, feel his desperation for her to give him anything but that blank closed stare from the starched white of her hospital issue pillow.
But she never does. There’s just the hiss and bleep of the machines and the musical cadence of his voice in the empty, echoing silence of the ward.
Sometimes he talks about her to anyone who’ll listen, how they met, the day they got married, how blue her eyes would be if she could only open them again. He talks about the day she drove out in a storm and, in the disruption of the fierce wind and rain, her car ended up on the wrong side of the road, in the oncoming traffic.
But this doesn’t happen often, because he grudges any time that he’s not with her.
And we watch his life slip away from him as he lives it for both of them at her bedside, talking about the children and plans and adventures that they’d dreamed but never had. Another Christmas rolls past, a brief summer.
She doesn’t wake.
He tried everything at first. Played her music she loved and, when that didn’t work, he played her music she hated to rouse a reaction. He dug around in the back of her cupboards and brought her outfits to wear. He says she always hated green, especially the mint green of the hospital robes. The nurses humour him and dress her in soft pyjamas with bears printed on them.
Now he just talks to her like her unconsciousness is just something to politely ignore, like an unsightly blemish or wound. As if his demonstration of blind faith in her can somehow anchor her here and bring her back to him.
And meanwhile we wait with him, quietly, patiently, hoping that maybe, one day, we’ll catch a glimpse of those famously blue eyes for ourselves.