I smelled her in the car park next to the buildings and on that small patch of grass I gingerly walked across to get to her. But when they opened the door I smelled her more.
On Monday she was in a sterile ward.
On Tuesday we were laughing: "I though I was going to die," she said. I smiled back at her, but the grin was all for me.
On Wednesday her bed was empty. Pulled up and folded down into sharp edges. "TB and HIV is a killer combination," the doctor said.
And on Thursday I smelled her as I walked across the grass that kept my car from the mortuary. Before they opened the door I smelled her, and she smelled sweet in that way that bodies do when decomposition is delicate, held in check by cold.
But when they opened the door, the air became thick with the sickly smell of loss. Even then I didn't understand she was dead.
Prompted by Death: A Self-Portrait (Wellcome Collection), assembled by Richard Harris, a former antique print dealer based in Chicago, US.