In her hospital bed, we cuddled.
Bald, sick, tired, she drew the dress: elegant and strapless, straight lines, smooth surfaces, hard edges. She pointed to the veil. "Do you get it?" she asked. She considered a tiara. "But nothing too gaudy," she added.
And with the royal gel-pen, she traced the ring in her notebook: a solitary diamond, a silver band, a sliver of light wrapped around the metal.
Beneath the dress, she scribbled lists of colleges.
Then she said, "I want to be a mom."
A daughter? A son...?
"Is that okay?" she asked. "To be a mother?"
Silence in the room. Treatment chopped up her lips so they were cracked and dry.
"Are we going to go to college together?"
I nodded. "Yes," I told her. "We will go to college."
"And we're gonna get married?"
"Of course," I insisted, "we're gonna get married."
"And we're gonna have kids?"
She chewed her granite lips.
"Of course we'll have kids," I said.
Then I rose and she nodded and I kissed her forehead and she grimaced.
"I'll be back," I said.
And then I was pushing out the door. And then I was walking down the hall. And then she disappeared, and I didn't look back. I didn't wonder about her agency. I didn't wonder about who she really was underneath all that matter. I was just walking. And walking faster now. And now I was nearly jogging, though I wasn't sure where.
I coughed. The cough warped into a sputter. Take a deep breath, I told myself. Now, I said.
I saw the restroom at the end of the hall.
I was really going for it.
I reached out and-