We park in the grey, cavernous underground— $ 4.50 for two hours.
Taking the elevator to the main lobby, we walk into a space reminiscent of an Ikea entrance. Modern. Fashionable. With an elongated escalator transporting you up to where the real action happened.
The lobby is uncharacteristically cheerful, with windows two stories tall and the summer sun streaming happily in. A coffeeshop is embedded in the far left wall—its patrons are spattered around casual tables and chairs. The room is on the 5th floor of the North building. How do you know which way is North? We ask for directions, and a young volunteer offers to walk us there. Four minutes of casual conversation, and we are before another elevator. They leave us, and we wait for the car.
“How long has she been here?”
“Almost a week now.”
“What kind of cancer was it? Breast?”
“Yes, but it’s spread. They’re trying to find it.”
The elevator doors open.
Inside a hospital bed claims the space, hosting a still, grey woman.
Two men are with her. Hospital staff.
We stiffen, suddenly unsure. Sickness was now the prerequisite for entrance—neither of us were qualified.
One of the men makes an invitational gesture. We step in, circumventing the bed.
I try to find the least conspicuous place to rest my gaze. One of the men touches the woman’s arm, asking her a question. She shakes her head no. I’m surprised by her movement.
4th floor. Both men guide the bed out of the elevator. Now I am motionless.
5th floor. We walk towards palliative care. Inside it is quiet, idle. We pass the common area, and round the corner to find room 25.
First I see her hands, as I step through the doorframe. They look alarmingly small, like those of a young child. I wonder if they have always been so.
She is sitting in a chair beside her bed, enfolded in the fabric of her clothing. We pull in two chairs, positioning them adjacent to her.
For 45 minutes we talk about food. Various filipino desserts. The delicacies from White Spot. The dinner that was supposed to arrive 30 minutes ago. She smacks her lips together, lingering over each savoury thought. She groans out of unmet yearning. To contemplate our desires is both delight and sacrifice. And yet—yes. This is the most important thing. The right now. Who’s to say that it isn’t, when you are living for this moment.
And all this time, I keep looking at her face. How changed she is. How foreign. And I wonder if it is really her I am seeing.
This whole place—it exists in the jarring in-between. It can’t decide what to be. Because, it is everything we find mysterious. And her. She is the secret we all keep. The question we ponder. She is the inevitable. The magnificent. The ghastly. The beautiful. The wholly unknown. She is me, and I, her. And what binds us is nothing short of Love. It is that which will ultimately separate us. For now. While we are both yet living for the moment. Just visiting the spaces of our lives.