When people say ‘terminal’, I think of the airport.
I picture a wide check-in area with a high ceiling and glass walls, the staff in matching uniforms waiting to take my name and flight information, waiting to ask me if I packed my bags myself if I’m travelling alone.
I imagine the blank faces of passengers checking screens, families hugging one another with promises that this won’t be the last time. And I picture myself among them, my suitcase wheeling behind me so effortlessly on the highly polished floor that I might be floating as I check the screen for my destination.
I have to drag myself out of there and remember that that is not the type of terminal meant for me.
They’ve started to say ‘life-limiting’ instead now. ‘Children and young people with life-limiting conditions . . .’
The nurse says it gently as she explains that the hospital has started to offer a counselling service for young patients whose conditions are ‘terminal’. She falters, flushing red. ‘Sorry, I meant life-limiting.’ Would I like to sign up? I could have the counsellor come to my bed, or I could go to the special counselling room for teenagers. They have a TV in there now. The options seem endless, but the term is not new to me. I have spent many days at the airport. Years.
And still, I have not flown away.
I pause, watching the upside-down rubber watch pinned to her breast pocket. It swings as she breathes.
‘Would you like me to put your name down? The counsellor, Dawn, she really is lovely.’
‘Thank you, but no. I have my own form of therapy going on right now.’
She frowns and tilts her head to the side. ‘You do?’