Claude doesn’t disturb the silence, giving Gilbert the chance to rest after a morning that has been a pure influx of people – family, friends, nurses and doctors. Everyone knows. Everyone knows the time has come. No one says goodbye, not out loud, but it’s obvious that everyone is preparing for an impending parting.
“Hey, you,” sounds Gilbert’s voice after a few moments, making Claude look up from his book. He’s studying for his bac. This summer, he’ll finally be done with school, but looking up at Gilbert – trapped in that hospital bed as he has been for weeks now, despite the spring sun that falls in through the windows, he doesn’t know what to do with himself once his exams are over. School has been like a dream. The reality is just too harsh. “Pass the water, will you?”
Claude smiles. Pours Gilbert a glass of water and holds it out for him to take, their fingers brushing when he does. His hand is shaking and when Claude lets his eyes run over his face, his lips look chapped from dehydration. While Gilbert drinks the water, Claude returns to his book, but can’t concentrate on the words – his mind constantly returning to the mental image of Gilbert’s dry lips. He thinks about the first time they kissed, more than a year ago now, at the back of one of Paris’ gay bars where Claude (still underage) wasn’t actually supposed to be… How soft his lips had been, then.
Things can change quickly, from one day to the next, but he knew that already, of course.
There’s a loud crash as glass splinters against the floor. “Shit,” Gilbert says. Then, at Claude’s questioning gaze: “Sorry, I dropped it. I’m having the shakes bad today.” On the floor, the glass has been reduced to a sea of broken shards and water. Getting out of his chair, Claude finally puts his book aside, realising that neither of them will get more rest anyway. Walks over to Gilbert’s bed and pushes the button that’ll call a nurse. To clean up the mess. They all like Gilbert anyway, they won’t make too much of a fuss about it.
“You’re lucky you’re their favourite or you’d have been in deep shit,” Claude tells him. It’s a joke, of course. It’s just a stupid glass of water. Just… a stupid glass of water, but the implications run so much deeper.
“Yeah, I suppose so -- God, I’m so tired, Claude.” With a sigh, Gilbert leans back in the bed, Claude quickly reaching out to fluff his pillow before he can place his head on it. Gilbert smiles, lies down and meets his eyes. When Claude makes to return to his seat, he grabs hold of his arm. It’s true. He really does have the shakes bad today, doesn’t he? Claude lifts his hand and covers Gilbert’s with his own. For a long time, they’re just standing like that, not quite holding hands, but close enough that it matters.
Claude’s voice is quiet when he speaks. “I guess you should sleep, then.” A nurse greets them as she enters, eyeing the broken glass on the floor and finding a pair of latex gloves before crouching down to pick up the shards. They both follow her movements, almost as if hypnotised. Gilbert’s grip on his upper arm tightens.
“Just a nap,” he answers, but doesn’t close his eyes. Gaze fixed on the nurse. Politely, she pretends not to listen to their conversation. Claude turns his face to look at Gilbert, looks at his hair that has grown shabby and long while he’s been in hospital, his red eyes and those chapped lips of his that no amounts of water will be able to wet at this point. “Don’t miss me too much while I’m gone, okay?”
“I’ll do my best.”
Everyone knows. That the time is now. Gilbert obviously does, too.