The Piercing Cold
Thomas GibbsRedfern, NSW
Lenka searched the hospital room for something intriguing. Her father was asleep. He was in the kind of sleep that is painful to watch. His face was very pale, so much so that it drew attention to a large, yellow stain on the thin bed sheet that was ever so gently tucked under his chin. The air in the room was akin to the stink of an old, used bandaid. On the other side of the room there was a window from which the tops of trees could be seen. This window was never open. It was left closed for the reason that the cold air might intrude and cause a cold. Lenka’s father had late-stage emphysema.
During his first few weeks in hospital he had been able to talk. Now all he could manage was a long blink of the eyes to acknowledge Lenka’s presence, after which Lenka would nod to her father and converse with him. Her words reached him, but she could see that each one was like a time bomb that caused utter confusion in his mind. Her visits became longer and more frequent as it became clear to her that her father had little time left.
It was of no surprise that the cause of her father’s current condition was his smoking habit. Lenka’s face now seemed to mirror her father’s acceptance of death, as they looked at each other with caring eyes and relived the past through photography. She would bring to him family photo albums and deliver postcards from relatives. The bright colours seemed to weaken him as much as they gave him warmth. Her father looked at them with sad eyes that managed to somehow keep the sadness to themselves. A nurse was often called when the coughing could not be controlled with his daughter’s touch, and when specks of blood appeared on the bed sheet from as much as a sneeze.
Lenka felt empty inside but tried extremely hard for her father to inject herself with life during his dying days. He had not yet passed, but the memory of him was already taking its place and Lenka was unsure how to react. She was the only family he had. It was not yet confirmed that Lenka would be alone, but as she waited by his bedside one night she wept for him. The tears shed were just one form of release. Lenka reached into her pocket and raised a cigarette to her mouth. She walked over to the window, opened it slightly and blew chains of smoke into the cold air. When she turned around her father had awoken. She immediately disposed of the cigarette out the window and slammed it shut. The look in her father’s eyes was piercing, but it was the final rush of blood to his cheeks that caused her pain.