I follow Boris Rustin into hospital room 216. He said he hadn’t gone to visit in a couple weeks, and that he wanted some company, so I agreed. To this day, I’m still not sure why he decided to invite me, and why I even agreed to go with him, but in a strange way, I’m glad I decided to go… especially with Boris Rustin, of all people.
Boris is not a person who can be easily described in words. I suppose, if I didn’t know him, I would say he’s like an ancient artifact, a writing tablet made of clay. He’s been molded, used, and left out to harden. And his face is like an ancient writing that cannot be deciphered. If you believe eyes are the window to the soul, I’ve tried, but he holds his head specifically to avoid everyone’s gaze. So, if you want to try to look into the window in his eyes, be my guest. But as far as I’m concerned, he’s pretty much closed the blinds.
After we enter the hospital room, Boris sits down on the bed beside the person he is here to visit– his little brother, Caspian. Caspian had fallen very ill a couple months ago, and he seemed to just be getting worse. That day, when we go in, I see Caspian lying down in that hospital bed, his face white like printer paper, cold sweat staining his forehead and goosebumps running down his arms. He is even thinner than last time, almost all skin and bones now. On top of that, the hospital room is dark and depressing. All the blinds are shut and Caspian’s bed is tucked away in the corner. The only other things in the room besides the bed are all the machines they have him hooked up to, a couple chairs, and a TV that doesn’t turn on.
“Hey bro,” Boris speaks softly. We wait for a couple minutes, but Caspian doesn’t open his eyes or respond– I wonder if he even knows we are there.
Boris nudges Caspian.
“Hey, me and Gracie brought you some chips and horror movies. I thought maybe we could all watch together or something.” Boris tries to sound optimistic, but it’s obvious by his nervous laughter that his thoughts are anything but bright. And still, Caspian does not respond. He continues to lay there, motionless on his back, his eyes squeezed shut.
I rest my head on Boris’ shoulder and put my arm around him. The next thing I know, I wake up over an hour later. Boris is no longer beside me. He had opened the blinds, and is now sitting in front of the window, looking out. It’s pouring outside, the kind of rain that’s so intense that it feels like each drop is cutting into you, like a million tiny knives falling from the sky.
Boris is watching the droplets roll down the outside of the window, watching the wind blow the direction of the water. He watches the lightning flare off in the distance, and listens for the thunder. I haven’t seen him focus like this in a long time. I pull up my chair beside him and sit. His eyes continue to move up and down, watching the paths of as many droplets as possible. His face is so obviously saddened in a way I’ve never seen before. It is like the rain is making the hardened clay relic soft again.
“Do you ever think,” I am surprised by the vulnerability in his voice. “Maybe– we are the raindrops?”
Honestly, I can’t tell if he is joking or not. He sometimes makes fun on the “philosopher” -type people, but there is something in his manner, almost as though he seems to care about the raindrops, that strangely enough, stops me from laughing.
“What do you mean?” I nudge him on.
“Well,” he pauses before continuing. “The rain falls from the sky. It exists for a little while, falling and falling and staying the same, until suddenly, it just hits the ground and shatters. And then, it’s like–” He pauses, and looks over at me, like he is trying to read me. “It’s just– gone. Forever. And I was just thinking that–” He tilts his back back to glance at Caspian, but then stops himself.
“Never mind.” I reach out to touch him, but he moves away from me too fast. Getting up out of his chair, he picks up the bag of chips that had not been opened, and the movie that had never been watched.
He turns the doorknob and flings the door open. “Come on, G. Let’s go.” He speaks to me like a boss rather than a friend, and he walks out.
Without even saying goodbye to Caspian.
I never found out what Boris was going to say next when he was sitting there, watching the rain fall. Maybe he was trying to say that life is short, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. Or maybe he was trying to understand death for the first time, and how close and real that inevitable fate is for all of us. I tried asking him later, when he and I went to the cemetery together, and he was placing flowers down on the gravestone. He didn’t remember what he had said. Or, at least, he acted like he didn’t. He said the only thing he remembered was us three in the hospital together, on that day in January.
He remembered sitting at the window, watching the raindrops die.