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Let's Paint A Memory
“This can be our mural.”
I couldn’t help but smile as he held my hand, guiding the blue-soaked paintbrush across the white wall. Holding me softly, his breath tickled its way across my neck. I started to giggle; I started to forget myself and actually laugh. Then, like a slap across the face, reality hit me again; just as it had been doing for the past two months. He must have noticed the resistance playing across my face - the all too familiar determination not to be happy.
“C’mon, we have to make this something beautiful,” he said, still guiding my hand across the wall.
I snorted. “We don’t even know how to paint, Jace.”
He smiled. “That’s only a tiny issue that we’ll overcome when we get to it.”
I turned to face him, a slight smile working its way across my face; sometimes it was almost impossible to remember to be sad when I was with him.
“Yeah, I think we’ve already gotten to it.” I mustered a smile, only for his sake. “Now, what are we going to do about it?”
Jace spun me around, putting us in our original position. Then, once again, he began to stroke the wall blue. I sighed, but let him have his way; if he wanted our mural to be blue, it could be blue. The rest of the room was still empty and white; tarps were scattered across the floor, even though they were little protection against Jace’s enthusiasm with what he liked to call, ‘free-form art’.
He leaned in towards me, stealing a kiss as his hand still brushed more color upon the wall. His dark hair blended with my light, and without any prior warning I felt like bursting into tears. Not because I disliked the color blue, or because Jace’s touch felt wrong, but because I knew that there would only be so many kisses left. They were numbered; everything was.
Jace gently lifted his face away from mine, exposing a confused expression. His left cheek glistened slightly, and I realized that I’d accidentally let my emotions spill over. Averting my eyes, I wiped my face with my hand.
“Please stop this; I want to see you happy, Leah. Not crying every time I touch you. I don’t want to remember you like this.”
I sighed, still looking intently upon the floor. I couldn’t begin to explain to him what it felt like to know that you were going to lose someone before it actually happened. You thought of it every time you looked into their eyes; you could see death looming there like a ghost, just inside the band of color. I knew he didn’t want to leave me anymore than I did, but he wasn’t going to have to live with it for the rest of his life. He would be somewhere better, and I would be stuck here without my shadow.
Jace shook his head. “No, you’re not.”
I paused, and then looked up into his eyes. “You’re right.” I ignored the tears that began streaming down my face; heat was rising within me. “I’m not sorry at all for crying, or for not being happy, or for being stubborn. I don’t get the luxury of dying when I lose you, Jace; I have to walk alone until I die alone. Do you know what that feels like?”
Jace gritted his teeth; he was trying not to cry. “No, I don’t, Leah. But do you know what it feels like to know how many months you have left to live? To know that no matter how healthy you eat or how much exercise you get, cancer is going to eat you alive by the age of twenty-three?” He started trembling as tears forced their way from his eyes, ignoring the resistance he was forcing against them. I opened my mouth to speak, but he abruptly sat on the floor, letting his emotions flow freely now; it seemed as though he lacked even have the will to stand up anymore.
I watched as Jace curled into the fetal position like a child, sobbing uncontrollably; and it was then that I learned how to force myself to stop crying. To grow up, to rise above myself and help the man I loved who was going through more than I could ever imagine; more than I could ever try to imagine. Because he wasn’t a child; he was hurting, aching, screaming on the inside; he was dying. I sat down on the floor beside him, still gripping the paintbrush in my hand. I mustered another faint smile as I put my arm comfortingly around him; lifting his head, he looked into my eyes, willing the tears to subside.
“Let’s get to work on that mural.”