— Richard Siken

I had been very clear. We had a plan. I told them, at hospice, that we weren’t close, that she didn’t want me there at the end. It was her death. She had been preparing for it. She didn’t want anyone to get in her way. They weren’t convinced. I had relented twice, raced over when they said, She won’t make it through the night. Both times she recovered. It tickled her. I found it exhausting. I was on the floor of the guesthouse when they called the third time. I had fallen out of bed again and had decided to stay on the floor. She won’t make it through the night, they said. I can’t, I said. It was mostly true. I would have to find someone who could drive me there in the middle of the night, who could fit my wheelchair in their car. The hospice nurse called again. I tried to be polite. Her supervisor called a few minutes later. It’s bad. She’s struggling. I’m going to hold the phone to her ear. Tell her that she can let go. I hung up. I would not let them put me on the phone. She didn’t need my permission. There was no reason to slow her down or rush her. I didn’t want my voice in her head as she finished her business. It would be hard enough, without me talking over it. It was gross, how they wanted to be part of it, someone else’s story, how they wanted to be the compassionate survivors. I turned the ringer off. I couldn’t reach the counter so I left the phone on the floor. They kept calling, long into the night. Each time they did, the phone would buzz and shudder in the dark.

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