The Waiting Room

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I paced the floor of the hospital. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I had long since memorized the number of tiles on the path I was walking. Forty two and a half tiles. I stared at the vending machine. Pepsi brand. Six sodas. $1.50 each. Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi, Regular Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Code Red, Mountain Dew Livewire. I turned around and walked over forty two and a half tiles, past three doorways, until I came to a white wall with a painting of flowers. Then I would walk back to the vending machine. Forty two and a half tiles.

There were others in here. They sat on overstuffed, pinstripe chairs, flipping through glossy magazines set on tables. A few stood and walked around like me. Some watched the TV with blank, unseeing eyes. We don’t know each other, but as we sit in silent vigil we find that we connect. There is a reason for all of us to be sitting in a room with white walls, a soda machine, pinstripe chairs, flower paintings, and mindless TV that is forty two and a half tiles by one hundred and three.

The nurse walked in and every head looked up, some with fear and others with hope. She looked at all the faces, so similar yet so different, before stopping at mine. She locked her eyes with mine before looking away and motioning for me to follow her. The others waiting all breathed a sigh of relief and took up their mundane tasks again. I walked across forty two and a half tiles and followed the nurse out the farthest door.

The nurse led me to the ICU where the one I was waiting for was lying on a hospital bed. The nurse patted my arm before turning and leaving me. I stared down at my shoes, refusing to look up at the broken figure that was my girlfriend.

“Hey,” she said in a raspy voice, “Come here? Please?”

I risked a glance up and saw her looking at me with hopeful eyes. Wires and tubes were sticking out of her body and connected to machines and bags of lifesaving liquid. A steady blip of the monitors confirmed that she was alive. I reached out and took her frail, white hand in my own. Weakly she pulled me closer.

I remembered how strong she used to be. She could pull me along for miles. She was able to give piggy backs to all the neighborhood kids, laughing and running and jumping and screaming with them in the sunlight of fading summer.

“How do I look?” she pulled me out of my reverie. I looked at her smiling face and I can’t help but smile as well. Despite everything that she’s been through she can still find strength to smile.

“You look beautiful,” I said, sitting down in the chair, not letting go of her hand.

She laughed. It was soft and harsh. I missed those days when her laugh would rise above any other sound. Loud and clear. Echoing in the clear spring air after a rainstorm.

“Don’t lie to me,” she said, “I look horrible.”

I stared at her. Her hair was tangled and thin. Her skin was pale white. Her bright eyes were bloodshot. Her lips were cracked.

But I could still see the girl I fell in love with. When her hair was long, thick, and shimmering. When she had skin golden from the sun. When her eyes were bright and shone with happiness. When her lips were full and smiling.

“I love you,” she said softly, “I love you so much.”

I could feel the tears pricking the corners of my eyes. I tightened my grip on her hand as her voice faded away into a whisper. Her heart monitor blipped steadily. She looked up at me with her hopeful eyes again. I leaned over so I could whisper into her ear.

“I love you too,” I whispered, “More than you know.”

She squeezed my hand softly, her fingers barely causing any pressure. She closed her eyes one last time and let out her final breath.

The monitor stopped beeping.

Her heart had stopped pumping.

Her life had ceased to exist.

I stood up and placed her cold, white hand on her chest, leaning over to kiss her forehead- not yet cold with death. Tears slowly slid down my cheeks and dripped from my chin to the shiny white floor. I turned around and walked back to the waiting room.

Nurses and doctors walked around me, going about their duty as I slowly dragged myself back to the pinstriped chairs. I wished that I could remember the days we spent together. The summer days in the parks, the winter days in our backyards making snow angels, the parties during the school year. Days that I never thought I would forget are hard to recall.

I only know that it happened. Whether I remember them or not I know it happened. At least it happened.

I entered the waiting room, next to the painting of flower across forty two and a half tiles from the vending machine. I took a deep breath as more tears streaked down my face.

I turned to walk to the Pepsi machine again. I started to walk but I fell to the ground. Tears long unshed began flowing freely from my eyes as I began to sob and scream.

I had watched her die. In my arms. There was nothing I could do except watch, helplessly, as she passed on.

I curled in on myself, clutching my legs as I huddled into a quivering, crying mass. I screamed into myself, shouting for all the world to hear. The other occupants stared at me, but none of them made a move as I choked on tears.

I cried for all the memories I couldn’t remember. I cried for all the memories we didn’t have time to make. I cried because she left and I couldn’t do anything.

I cried and cried and cried until there were no tears left in me. Then I cried some more. I cried until my head was pounding and my heart was aching. I cried until my voice was gone and my eyes were bloodshot.

I stood up and began my pacing again, waiting for them to come out again and tell me what had happened when I held her hand.

Forty two and a half tiles. Pepsi brand soda machine. Six sodas. $1.50 each. Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi, Regular Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Code Red, Mountain Dew Livewire.

Forty two and a half tiles.

I had only made it to tile twenty seven.

Created: Feb 06, 2011


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