You interrupt my dreams, my violent dreams; the dreams that are my mind’s attempt at processing the violence my body has endured. I am sucked out of the image of a boy being murdered, and I am grateful.
I do not have the energy to open my eyes, but I know it is you stroking my arm. You touch me with a familiar uncertainty. You touch me with a question in your fingertips, ‘Does this hurt? I do hope not.’
Your skin is rough: worn from gardening, from jobs around the house, from picking at the bark on sticks you find on your morning walks in the park. The scratchiness prickles my arm, but I like your signature touch and rest in its tenderness.
I have had contact from many over recent days, but it has been the prod of a medic’s finger, the skimming of my chest with a stethoscope, the jab of a needle. Instead of this necessary invasion I have craved the gentle holding of my hand – a comfort in the fear. Now you are here, soothing the remnants of my anxieties with your presence, and the dancing of your hand on my arm as you struggle to find a bit of me that isn’t tied up in wires, and tubes, and needles.
I want to show you that I know you are here; to assure you that your touch is welcome. It takes almost more energy than I have, but when your hand reaches mine I hold onto your fingers for just a second.
‘Hello,’ you whisper, as if afraid of disturbing me.
I struggle to open my eyes, exhaustion tugging me back towards sleep, but I persist, and eventually manage to peel apart my heavy eyelids. Unable to focus, I see your blurred, frail form, and I smile the weakest of smiles.
‘Dad,’ I mouth, and curl my fingers around the sandpapery ends of yours once more.