He stood there looking confused. A game controller in one hand and a doctor kit in the other. I stood behind him and asked if he was into sexual role-playing. He choked and dropped the toys, embarrassed and surprised at my question. I laughed and told him the only time I had this hard of a time choosing between toys was because I couldn’t decide if I wanted speed or depth. His face turned such a bright color of red I thought he would pass out from embarrassment.
He told me he was trying to buy some toys for the kids in the cancer ward at his hospital. I immediately apologized and asked if he needed help. We spent the next hour walking up and down the toy aisles trying to find toys that were age-appropriate and easily disinfectable. After paying, he asked if I would mind helping him wrap the toys. He had that hot nerd thing going on, so I agreed.
I brought burgers and innuendos, and he brought the laughter. At the end of the night, my shoes were across the room and I was joking about him needing a Roomba to bring them to me when he leaned over to kiss me. It startled me and he said he wanted to taste my laughter.
I smiled and kissed him back, murmuring into his mouth that I wanted to taste his desperation. We met several times over the next couple of weeks. We had good food and lots of laughter and spent hours kissing and breathing each other in.
One day he walked me to his room and when he nervously unbuttoned my shirt, I knew he’d never done this before. I stilled his hands with mine, tested my mouth against his, and showed him how to touch me. The next morning, I woke up and watched the sunrise and caress his skin with its rays.
I left a note that said last night was amazing and I would remember him fondly, kissed his shoulder blade, and left.
Two weeks later I got a letter in the mail from him saying that he had gotten sick and couldn’t deliver the presents this year. I was the only one he could trust to do it. His neighbor would let me in.
At the hospital, the kids asked about him and got a sad look in their eyes when I said he was sick. Afterward, I mentioned it in passing to one of the nurses. She gave me the same look and walked me down the hall to another room.
My heart stopped when I saw him lying in the hospital bed. The nurse said the cancer was too aggressive this time, but there was no one to sit with him. He had no family. I took up vigil in the chair next to his bed. I held his fragile hand and remembered how the sun reflected on his skin that morning.
Two days later, he died. He never woke up, but I hoped he knew I was there. I hoped he knew he wasn’t alone. I sat in the chair holding his lifeless hand for hours until I heard the children singing Silent Night in the lobby. A tear ran down my face, and I was grateful for the gift he gave me.
It was a bittersweet Christmas that year.