Mika walked back to his bed and the hospital cat leapt lightly onto his
pillow. The cat then edged to his belly and, digging into the blankets for
a foothold, both fell asleep. I did not keep his promise to stay away until
the next week. In fact I drove back that very night. I wanted to talk, apologize,
clarify. Through the crisscrossed window, I watched him breathing in his
sleep. The cat stretched and laid alongside him, yawned, then curled up
again. His face was buried in the cat's back. There was something helpless
I spent that afternoon in a nearby café eating buns. The fountain
made water patterns on the white tables. I wanted him to come out here with
me--to see it all. I bought him a bag of the buns filled with marzipan.
From the distance, the hospital looked like a fortress with its white block
exterior, its position upon the hill. Even the trees did not soften the
When I came back, I saw Mika was sitting on the edge of his bed, combing
his hair. He wore the pale red pyjamas that he had brought from home. The
comb he held was the small tortoiseshell that he had brought in Brussels.
He was looking at the opposite wall, patiently, as if he were listening
to it. Having finished combing his hair, he placed his comb on the small
stand. Hands folded, he waited. I knocked at this point.
He did not turn around but merely said, "Come in." I tried to
but he had locked the door. Finally he rose and walked to the door, removed
the wedge and then walked back to his bed. Mika felt uncomfortable. He held
out the bag.
"I bought these for you today." Mika did not even make the slightest
gesture of acknowledgement. "Mika, I went by a café that I thought
you would like. The buns were delicious and I thought I would buy you some.
They're quite good." He walked to the other side of the bed so that
he would be able to see Mika's face. "What is wrong?" he asked.
Mika said nothing but closed his eyes. There was nothing to speak of. He
pulled out the covers and slept. I sat in a chair for an hour then left.
Later, he woke up and opened the bag. A strong waft of chocolate filled
the room. He pulled out one bun. Too sticky. He put them back into the bag
and placed them in his drawer. Ants began to gather. Little red ants.
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