The walkway to the main entrance was lined with a single row of chairs on either side along its length. He got there minutes after 6:00 pm just as the setting sun dipped behind the hilltops of bamboo bowing to the darkening pink skies left in its wake. Visiting hours were just about over but the steady stream of people, for the most part, looked like they themselves needed to be admitted through those very doors which they were hurriedly entering, anxious to check in on their loved ones.
He sat in the first spot he saw to his left that had a vacant seat and it creaked and rocked backward with his weight. He was probably in that same chair when his own father was admitted there some years back. Directly across from him sat a family with maybe six children playing amongst and distracting themselves - they had to - because the three adults in charge appeared too distraught to even consider engaging them.
He sent his aunt a WhatsApp message. She was just on a minute earlier it said. He called her. No response. He sent her an SMS. Nothing. Then he called her mother’s phone thinking his aunt would answer if she had it on her. Nope. So he did the next best thing. He sent a text asking her if she needed anything - coffee, tea, something to eat, whatever. And he waited.
She did call back after a bit and came outside to meet him. ”It's crowded in there” she explained. ”The doctor didn't see her as yet and the beds are so close together. So I can't answer my phone. It's down to 40% and I'm looking at these outlets and it's not appropriate to put it to charge.” She looked up at him, his expression bothered. ”Come for a hug.” He groaned. ”Don’t you know we’re huggers in this family?” She sent him home because there was nothing else he could do. He was instructed to fall asleep in front of the television as she had seen him do several times before. He was hesitant but she assured him that they both were okay and that she would call if anything. And she did. At 8:56 pm. While he was in front of the television, but not quite asleep.
He wasn't sure how to take the news. There was a measure of regret. He should have done more, made a larger effort, shifted his so-called priorities that suddenly didn't seem as important as he had made them out to be. So what now? He would be thankful, he decided. Because, for her, that would be enough. And maybe, he thought, in the end, that's all people should ever aspire to be in this life.