Leonard laid in the bed, intubated. Phyllis thought he looked surprisingly calm sleeping with tubes coming out of everywhere. Everything would be…okay, she thought. Deep down she knew this would be the last meal she would prepare for her son. It was habit to feed her sick child, and now it was a gesture.
Phyllis had to squeeze a chair between all the medical equipment so she could sit next to Leo. The room was small, but it was private.The beeps and swooshes used to make her cringe each time, now they were a comfort. Leonard’s chest rose and fell, heavy and machine assisted.
She felt the tears well up in her eyes. She took a deep breath and blinked them back as she opened the Tupperware.
“I guess now it’s okay to tell you the secret ingredient.” Phyllis attempted a halfhearted laugh. “I was hoping to tell you when your first child was ill, but–but now is a good time.”
The air pump raised and lowered.
Phyllis’ voice went to a whisper, protecting a long family secret. “The key is a pinch of cayenne pepper.”
Minutes passed. They felt like an instant and a lifetime concurrently. The nurse stopped in and checked vitals and said something that could have been important. Phyllis couldn’t hear, she tried, but it wasn’t working. A heavy exhale escaped her lips, it didn’t matter. She held her son’s hand tight. She thought it felt warm and hoped he could feel it.
The soup had gone cold. Maybe it had been hours, Phyllis thought to herself.
“I love you so much, baby.” Her voice cracked. When was the last time she had something to drink? “I hope you get to see your father. I know he was so sad to know he wouldn’t watch you become the young man you would grow in to. Now it’s..it’s my turn to watch your grow. Please hug your sister for me, too.”
The sky was dark. The city lights illuminated the hospital room. Phyllis felt a drop on her outstretched arm. When she looked down, her forearm and lap were damp. When did I begin crying?, she thought. She squeezed Leo’s hand again, promising to never stop loving him.
The beep went long.