His thick cough shook me out of dreams and I tossed over, still aroused
from these sounds as common to me as creaking floors or running water. He
was more of a lurking shadow or some sullen, angry ghost than he was a breathing
life. His face was hollowed and gray. And with each waking cough, I wondered
if this was indeed his last.
We woke each morning the same. My long hair matted, I passed him, clenching
my bathrobe to my chest. I brought my toothbrush from its hiding place, an
assurance that he hadn't borrowed it while I slept (a precaution taken after
I found my last toothbrush wet and yellowed just days after he'd moved in).
Edging past a feces-stained toilet, I stepped into the shower. I kicked the
lump of gray hair out of the drain and, using my toe, slid it up the bathtub
wall. Later I slipped past him, hoping he wouldn't attempt his idea of small
talk, a barrage of accusations toward women or his contempt for doctors. I
grabbed my cereal and milk and retreated to the "office," a room consisting
of a table and boxes stacked against the wall, my personal belongings stored
and anxiously awaiting our departure.
Watters ER. Living With the Patient. JAMA. 2004;291(1):123. doi:10.1001/jama.291.1.123