It is early in the morning when I feel him near me, his presence always so distinct. He smells strongly of disinfectant and coffee, another long night in the emergency room. I open my eyes to peer up into his, to welcome him home, but there’s no one there. I take a deep breath, breathing in the last of his scent before it’s gone again. I know he was there, at least for a moment. I fall back into a sleep that is anything but peaceful.
Waking up in a flash of light, breath heavy, sweat dripping from my forehead, I catch myself before I fall out of the bed and make myself aware of my surroundings. I am in my room, everything is where it is supposed to be. I am not there. I am here. And he is gone.
I start getting ready for the day, going through the motions of taking a shower, washing my face, getting dressed, making breakfast, making sure I have everything I need, grabbing my keys and stepping out the door. I have this strange fear of being in a car. It’s better when I’m the one driving, but it always hits, only a moment when the car starts and then it flees. He’s there again with me. Sitting in the passenger seat, smiling, telling me I’ve got this. Put the car into reverse, back up slowly, switch it to drive, and pull out of the lot. Turn onto the street, the very busy street with rush hour traffic, and drive the ten minutes to school.
I keep my eyes on the road. I know he’ll say something if I don’t. It’s easier during the day. It’s harder at night. I pull into the garage on campus, park my car, and look over to the empty passenger seat. Was he ever really there? Is he ever really there?
That night, once I arrive back home, I turn on the kitchen light, ready to make myself something to eat, but I’m not the only one in the kitchen. He’s speaking to me, telling me to make sure I eat a good meal. No skipping out just because I had a hard day. Food is brain power, “and you have a lot of studying to do tonight.” I laugh. I turn to tell him to stop picking on me, but there’s no one behind me.
I wonder if any of it is real or if it’s just my mind playing games. But I like to think that he has simply become the invisible man. When the veil is thin, the veil that exists between life and death, he has the ability to cross over for a short period of time, and that’s when I know he’s still with me. I can’t see him, but I don’t need to. His spirit is strong and warm, and I know we’re both going to be okay.