I go on to tell him that I knew the old woman who used to occupy this bed. He seems to be listening, so I start drawing from memory how, on my first visit here, she would hunch her shoulders over her empty hands, and lift her head to gape at me, and how her mouth would breathe slowly into the air:
Then the traveller in the dark... Thanks you for your tiny spark... He could not see... Which way to go... If you did not twinkle so...
I sing these words for him, with a voice that is thin and barely audible, just like hers used to be. And I hope that it brings to his mind the musical mobile I have seen, in the window back home, hung between one blind and another. I hope he can fall asleep now, dreaming of reaching up, of pulling that string, to make the plush animals turn around, and go flying overhead faster and faster till all is a blur, to the sound of that silvery note, which is chiming, chiming, chiming, as if to announce a moment of birth.
Afterwards, I cannot figure out for certain at what point my voice has trailed off, leaving me lost in a jumble of memories, fearful to open my eyes, fearful to glance at my watch, to figure out the moment, the exact moment when I have realized that I am alone.
All I know is that somewhere along its arc, the light has crawled across the wall and leapt onto their pillow, and it is resting there now, on his open eyelids.
It is a fairly strong light now, a glare that can blind you if you look directly into it, which strangely he seems to be doing. So I rise to my feet to pull the curtain shut, and then, in spite of myself, I glance at him. His chest barely rises.
He lays there, having wrapped himself in my mother’s arms, his eyelashes still somewhat aflutter, his hands still shivering slightly over his heart, his face pale, nearly blue, and I know that if I would leave him at this moment to go look for Martha, the care giver, it would be over. Dad would be gone by the time I rush back.
So I draw closer and stand there, behind the head of the bed, over my sleeping mother. From this angle, his ribs seem to move—but I think it is because of her body clinging to him, and because of her breathing, which is so deep and so peaceful. I lean over her arms to take his hands in mine, absorbing his shiver, taking it into my flesh, until finally it dies down.
And the light, growing even brighter, washes his face, till all that is left is a smile, frozen.