This article examines the ways in which Colm Tóibín's The Blackwater Lightship carefully negotiates media discourses on HIV/AIDS and the genre of the AIDS narrative in order to shed new light on the physical and emotional experience of being a family caregiver. The novel elevates the otherwise mundane bed to the status of a symbol that reflects a myriad of unspoken social relations and shows how the daily life of the caregiver challenges their ideals, stretches emotional limits, and heightens interdependency. In reading the complex semiotics of the bedside in the novel, this article reveals the emotional costs of illness. In place of the biomedical focus on cellular decay and tissue damage, interactions at the bedside foreground the social realm of plans abandoned and abilities impaired. As The Blackwater Lightship reveals, bedsides are both real and imagined places of intimacy, care, and connection that are nevertheless fraught and weighted with meaning; they are the site of the complex emotional commitments that bind caregivers and patients together and provide spaces for intimacy, vulnerability, and reflection.