Year 10: The beeping machines marked every passing second as another moment lost for Carole Warren. Her chest rose and fell in an automatic sort of way, controlled solely by another machine connected to her fragile body. The accident Carole had been in, had done her the worse possible injustice–allowed her to live in a dead shell.

As John walked into her  hospital room, he passed his sleeping father. There was a car magazine on the floor by his feet.

John found the brush beside her bed and began stroking the long brown strands of hair that had already started looking like a brillo pad. The routine hadn’t changed in eleven months: school, hospital, and sleep. When he finished brushing her hair, he started to clean her room, discarding food wrappers–anything to forget why this day was so important.

Eleven months and Carole hadn’t changed at all. The doctors had given his dad a pile of papers that sat on the counter untouched for months. Today, they were placed in a file at the hands of Carole’s doctors. Already, several tubes had been removed from her body. The rest would be gone within minutes.

Carole’s pale face was thinner than John wished to remember. Her body had withered until her skin hung loosely on her fragile bones. She was so still. So peaceful.

But she wasn’t peaceful. She was trapped. That was why John had pushed those papers at his dad last week. It had been too long. Everyday, John wished he could place his hands upon his mom and heal the wounds that ran too deep. It wasn’t fair.

The nurse came in first. With a clipboard in her hand, she began moving amongst the machines, writing things down. The doctor came in next.

Dan stirred in his seat, eyes wide. His hands clutched at those of his wife as if the doctors had come in for him and not her.

The doctor spoke, but nothing made sense. Tears streamed his father’s face. John didn’t know what to do. Should he be standing? Sitting? Holding his mom’s hand? Touching her face or her hair? No one was telling him what he should be doing and so he stood to the right of the bed, opposite his dad, stiff and numb. He nodded in a timely manner so that the doctors knew he was listening even if he wasn’t. One, two, nod, one, two, nod…

His breath hitched in his throat. He leaned against the bed for support. The doctor unplugged the first device and the steady beeps turned into one long whine until it turned off altogether. Her chest stopped rising and falling. John reached for her hand. Had it already begun to cool?

With a sigh, all of the forced air left her body.

Both the doctor and the nurse left the room. Dan stifled his sobs into his wife, but she made no move to comfort him.

John leaned forward, touching his mom’s mouth and then kissing her lightly on her cheek.

He left the room and no one moved to stop him.

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