I shoved a pair of new pajamas into the drawer and closed it, turning around to face him.
He sat on the edge of the bed. A once tall and proud man, he was now withered and shrunken. His eyes accused me. Of what, he was no longer certain, but he was absolutely sure I was guilty.
He was right.
“This isn’t a cruise ship is it?” I shook my head. “I lost my wallet and haven’t got any money.” The anger in his voice was replaced by fear.
I patted his hand reassuringly. “It’s rehab, hon. You’ll be back home before you know it.” The lie burned my throat as I said it but it mollified him for the moment.
The roommate sat across the room watching our exchange silently from his wheelchair, wrapped in a plaid robe with white socks pulled up to his knees. His grizzly, stubbled face showed no sign of recognition or understanding but his eyes followed me suspiciously about the room.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I bent low, kissing the wrinkled forehead, and squeezing his hand. He smiled weakly.
I’d loved him. Once.
Now someone else was living in this body of his. There was distance between us that stretched much father than the few inches apparent to the casual observer. I felt nothing for this interloper, but still there were social expectations that had to be met, guilt that must be assuaged.
How often must I visit him to keep from being ostracized by friends and family?
Somehow I deserved this, I had no doubt, but he did not.
I understood now, I realized, as I walked down the corridor for the hundredth time. This must have been how Prometheus felt.