“If you could stop your heart for just one beat” Technically Till and his dog, really me and my dog.
If he could stop his heart for just one beat. If he could stop—
–breathing, he’d be back there with her, knees against the cold tile of the bathroom floor, the other dogs watching queringly from the barrier. She became his entire universe. His world became the sound of her breathing. It hadn’t been labored, like he might have anticipated. It’d been steady, an anchor, drawing him inward, drawing him downward like drowning. Thick, hale breaths sucked into a dying body.
Every part of her had worked up until the moment she’d died. She’d been afraid of the dark in her final hours. So he’d lit a candle and sat beside her as the whine winding through her breathing subsided and she lay her chin on his forearm and he crumbled overtop of her.
This is what the world felt like, when it ended. A steady, susurrus calm. Inhale, exhale, inhale… pause, until he thought she’d died right there with her head cradled in his arms. Exhale. He wished she’d died in that perfect moment. He wished she’d skipped the cold metal table and him wrapping her in a blanket and carrying her in to die. Inhale. He’d made her two promises: That if she waited, he would be there when she died; that they would see each other again. Exhale.
She’d died with her head resting so heavily on his forearm he just stood there for a long moment, unable to extract himself. Leaving her alone after that had been what the world felt like when it ended. Not because he was leaving her alone, but because he was leaving alone without her.