When we split up, I told you your Steiff hyena was lost, but I lied. I can admit that now, now that it’s too late anyway.
I could tell you the reason I lied, but I don’t want you to mock me. And for you to maybe lose that last bit of respect that you have for me. That would be unbearable.
You really want to know why? Because you slept with that hyena. Close like lovers. And the hyena took your scent, like a thief in the night. Your fragrance. The smell that reminds me of home, of being safe and secure in your love. Of when the two of us were happy. And in love.
Rage and caffeine kept me going, but that hyena grounded me. When my heart was racing and I couldn’t sleep, I buried my face in that fake fur and breathed your scent. And my heart rate would go down. And I’d be able to catch some shut-eye. If only for a couple of hours, so I wouldn’t feel like an extra from The Walking Dead. A carcass shambling down the road to nowhere.
I hold your Steiff hyena in my hands, but I can’t hold back the tears that are dripping on the shiny hospital floor. My vision is blurred as I look at you, motionless in the hospital bed. The IV is connected to your left arm, so I stuff the toy hyena under your gown and clamp it under your right arm, so it can sleep next to you again. You don’t stir, dreaming too deeply for the monitor to register. I press a kiss on your forehead and stumble out of the ward.
I walk around aimlessly, remembering…
I sit behind you and take off your Chantelle bra. My hands cup your breasts, your nipples peeping out between my fingers. I kiss your neck and whisper, “Let me be your bra.”
You giggle and say, “I want to make coffee.”
“Nothing is stopping you.”
You look at me over your shoulder, a lock of hair over your right eye. I blow the lock away and kiss your cheek. You turn your head more so I can reach your soft mouth, and reach up your arms to pull my head closer. Your mouth tastes of green tea.
We get up together and slow dance into the kitchen, where you turn on my Pavoni. While the old lever espresso machine is building up steam, I hold your breasts while you fill two cups with hot water to preheat them, then fill the portafilter cups with freshly ground coffee.
“I assume you want a cappuccino, too?”
“I never say no.” I rub my nose behind your ear, breathing deep of your lovely scent. “I’ll be your bra ‘til the end of time.”
Complacency is a killer. I know now that I allowed complacency to lull my mind in taking you for granted.
It’s so cliché. Looking for treasure when the prize is standing right in front of me. I never meant to hurt you. Another cliché, but I mean it. Like you said, I’m like some battle-scarred tomcat who is never satisfied and only wants to fuck and fight. Except that I do feel remorse. And self-pity, I guess.
Why was I still the ‘In Case of Emergency’ number in your phone? Did you aim for us to get back together? Or did you just forget to change it?
I guess I’ll never know. The doctors told me not to expect you to be the same if you ever woke from your coma. They don’t call it ‘the sleep of death’ for nothing, I guess.
I know now that I do want you back. If only to hold you in my arms and smell your scent.
I find that I missed a phone call. The hospital called in the middle of the night. I feverishly call them back, biting a hangnail while they put me through to your ward.
“I’m sorry,” the nurse says. “She passed. We tried to reach you, but… “
I don’t hear the rest. The phone slides from my hand and hits the floor.
It’s almost evening as I enter the hospital and walk to the ward. Your bed is already occupied by another patient. A nurse recognizes me and takes me to Administration, where I can collect your stuff.
I sign papers, not even reading them. You have a donor codicil, so they can harvest your body. Give your organs to someone in need. I never thought about becoming a donor, selfish prick that I am.
The clerk gives me a box and I open it. I don’t care about any of the stuff, except for the toy hyena. I close my hand around the fur and cradle it to my chest, but when I nuzzle it, I don’t smell you. It has a hospital smell. I look up and the clerk looks apologetic.
“I’m sorry, but we had to disinfect the toy. We didn’t find it until an hour after her death. It’s protocol.”
“I understand,” I mumble. I nod at the clerk and walk out of the office, the hyena under my arm.
In the elevator, a mother stands behind a wheelchair with a young boy wearing casts around both legs.
The boy looks up at my tear-streaked face and says, “That’s a cool hyena.”
I squat down, so our eyes are level, then put the hyena in his lap.
“It’s the hyena of love,” I tell him. “If you fall in love, don’t ever become complacent, or the hyena will rip your heart out.”
He cradles the hyena in his arms and looks me in the eye. “Are you alright?”
“I’m far from alright,” I say as the elevator reaches ground floor and the doors swish open. “But I will be. Eventually.”
I step from the elevator and stalk out of the hospital.