His face is pale against the flush of his cheeks. The red is rosy and perfect, like it was painted on. His eyelashes are long and fluttering. His hair is full of fever sweat and tussle. He takes no notice of me in the doorway. He notices only the nothingness and whatever dances upon the edge of distance. He is a few feet and a million miles away. He coughs. He sleeps. He is burning.
There are waking hours on the couch and the meeting of needs. Start the movie. Stir the soup. More fluids. Thermometers. Medicine. Tissue. Blankets. The movie is over. Start the movie. There are other things that I must do, and they are all ignored in equal fashion.
He escapes through sleep to sweet relief. This is when I should attend to matters that should be done, but I do not. I clean the room. I play soft music. I dump the tissues and restock accordingly. I hit reset and then I lean against the doorway and watch him breathe.
They say don’t get too close. They say that germs are best kept at bay. But I am a parent. I cannot sit on the dock armed with life preservers and gentle whistles. I wade chest-deep and let him float against me. His burn becomes my burn and I try to take it all. I want nothing more than to soak it all in and open my arms to a bay gone dry. I want to watch him run across rocks and starfish and so many sponges, free of fever and free of pain. The only sounds should be waves retreating and the lingerings of health and laughter.
But there is a difference between giving and sharing, and fevers read the fine print. I fear we will float out to sea upon a brown pleather raft, a foolish father and his somber son, with rosy red brushstrokes like stains on our faces.
The music is soft and the dance in the distance.