I sat in the driver’s seat of my car in the parking lot of Springfield Medical Emergency and stared straight ahead. The rain was beginning to get heavier on the windshield making all of the other cars’ lights that were on, entering or exiting, seem to dance around and flicker more like candles or glowing orbs than headlights or brake lights. I had just made a dozen phone calls explaining what had happened and where I was and some just to hear a person say “it’s going to be fine.” I calmed myself down enough that I finally felt safe putting the car into reverse and backing out to make the drive to Dartmouth.
Then a thought occurred to me: the dog.
I was supposed to be at Mike’s house, taking care of
our my dog, which meant at that very moment, she was probably hungry and desperately had to pee. I had to go to his house first.
I think overall, that was the worst part of my drive that night. I didn’t have enough time to think my thoughts through before I would be overcome by so many more upon entering his front door, a front door that had been mine just a week prior. I had to walk by the bedroom we had shared and I had to look around and see everything that had become my life over the past three years. I had to see all of these things and know, there was a chance that neither me- nor Mike- might live their again. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to just ignore it and head straight up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical… but I couldn’t and so with shaky hand I drove back to the house.
When I walked in, I was overcome with a sense of nausea. He hadn’t changed anything around. In every place I had taken one of my things and brought it to my new home, there was now a clean spot surrounded by dust that had yet to begin to fill my place. It was exactly the same, and at that moment, I’m not sure if I felt comforted by that or scared by that. Maybe a bit of both. I let another wave of tears flood over the stream that had been permanently trickling down my face since the tears began. I had to remind myself once more, this wasn’t the worst day of my life… yet.
I let the dog out and filled her bowl with food. I began rifling through Mike’s dressers for his favorite clothes since the outfit he had been wearing was cut off once he was in the first ambulance. I grabbed him ten pairs of socks because his feet stunk if he didn’t change them every three hours. I grabbed his slippers. I wrote Mike a letter and stuck it on the fridge, knowing that it was my way of saying, he was coming home. I let the dog back in. I loaded up the car with Mike’s stuff and I started to drive once more.
I should begin by saying that I get really bad driving anxiety. I used to get anxious over a bunch of things, but now it has centered around when I am behind the wheel and driving in bad weather or driving to a place unfamiliar to me. I was contending with both. The rain came down in buckets so bad at times it was hard to see and I had never driven to Dartmouth before. I wanted so badly not to have to drive there. I wanted so badly for it not even to be real. I sat in the car, stream of tears still being fed by the ducts of my eyes, and told myself out loud, “You can do this, Becki. You can do all of this.”
The whole hour and fifteen minute trip was one of the shortest and longest of my life. Mainly because my mind was going crazy, zig-zagging from this thought to that, but there were two predominate things that echoed in my brain most.
Who do I pray to? I wanted desperately to pray and believe my prayers would be answered, but who does one pray to when they don’t believe in God? (Dear God that I don’t believe in…) I’ll admit, I prayed anyway. I just chose not to address anyone, and I realized that the very situation I was in was why people believed in God to begin with. When there is nothing you can do, no reason to help explain, people need to turn to someone. They throw the blame on whoever, usually not the right person (in this case, myself), and they look for a reason, any reason, and someone that can help better explain that reason. But when one does not believe in God or heaven or any of those comforting things, there is no comfort; just a pit of helplessness that turns your stomach into a rock. I could do nothing, not even pray. I had not thought of that when I decided to be an atheist. I had not thought of who I could ask for help when no one I knew on Earth could.
Then of course, I thought of me and Mike. A lot. I thought of how we really didn’t have that bad of a relationship; not compared to the rest of the relationships I saw day in and day out. What did we fight over? Stupid shit. Why was I sometimes so blind to see how selfish I was? I didn’t know. Why is it that people get so self-absorbed that they don’t realize they are just as much at fault when something goes awry as the other person involved? More selfishness. Who could ever be as wonderful as Mike? No one. Why did I not love Mike? I did. I was just too dumb to see it. I was too dumb to see a lot of things.
I wondered if Mike would be angry to see me once he woke up, considering. And then, I knew he wouldn’t be. I knew he’d want to see me before anyone else. That was the first thing to make me smile since the phone call about the accident.
It’s funny, because on that dark, cold, stormy ride, for the first time in my life, I thought maybe there is a reason. I felt as if I was seeing more clearly than I had in a while, regardless of all the uncertainty that surrounded the situation. Suddenly, I knew, that not one thing, person, place, or instance, could ever really hurt me as much as this, and that is a powerful feeling. It’s a feeling I’m going to carry every time someone or something tries to hurt me. They can’t. It’s that simple. The realization that the only person with enough power to do so was Mike hit hard, and then the realization that he would never intentionally do anything like that swooped in and relieved me of some of the worry.
As soon as I began to see signs for the hospital, I mentally patted myself on the back for a drive well done. I had done it. And not once did the panic rise up in my chest and try to overcome my goal. I didn’t get lost either. Tears still stained my face, and many more would, but I had gotten this far.
The parking lot was nearly empty, I thought, for such a large hospital.
I ran into the building and people gave me awkward sideways glances. I must have looked frazzled, lost, with eyes burning red and puffy. In the center of hallways that went in every direction was a kiosk with out-of-place umbrellas looming above it- maybe to shade the receptionists from the feeling of gloom that I felt beating down on me. No one was there. I paced around it a few times looking for any sign that could direct me anywhere. Finally, I saw the sign for emergency and followed the arrows until I came to a desk that did in fact, have someone at it. For the third time that night, I told a stranger who I was and who I was there to see.
I waited for about fifteen minutes, burning a path in the carpet as I walked around and around the chairs that were put there for me to wait in. I couldn’t sit. Who can sit at a time like this? A couple sat in two of them complaining that the hospital didn’t offer complimentary donuts. I wanted to punch them. Who complains about donuts at a time like this? Suddenly, a cute- real cute- girl with black, square framed glasses, and thick chestnut brown hair pulled back into a wavy ponytail, came out of a wing that was behind closed doors and said my name as a question: “Becki?” I nodded.
She was hot. For some reason, this made me instantly like her. She reminded me of a movie star only playing the role of nurse; maybe one of George Clooney’s young intern flings on ER. I made a mental note to tell Mike about her when he woke up: your first nurse was smokin’! …and she totally saw your penis like one hundred times. We would both laugh.
“So, all of his vitals are back to normal,” she began as she lead me past stretchers and people and rooms with doors closed and rooms with doors open and curtains that tried to block people’s pain. “We still have him in an induced coma, but all signs point to that if we take him out of it, he would breath on his own. The problem we’re having is that whenever he wakes up, he gets very combative. It took six guys to hold him down last time. He’s very strong, did you know that?” She looked over and slightly back at me. I thought of all the times we had arm wrestled and my arm pretty much flopped to a loss. I would then always count off on one hand all of the ways he cheated. He’d just laugh.
“Yes. I did know that,” I stated. I walked with her a bit further until we came to a room with a giant entryway. She turned around and stopped me.
“Let me just make sure you can go in. It should be soon, if not now.” She smiled.
“Thank you so much,” I blurted. “I really admire what everyone is doing. It must be the hardest job.” I was uncharacteristically awkward. Words were just fumbling from my mouth.
“Thank you,” she responded with a sad smile, “but your job is the hardest of all.” With that, she turned and walked through the giant entryway and behind one of many sterile curtains. A moment later, she came back out and motioned me in. I followed.
And there he was again lying on a bed, shackled by every limb, with tubes cocooning every part of his body and then spreading outward to different machines that were all foreign to me. His eyes were even more colors since the last time I had seen him just a few hours ago. A quick pain spread through my chest and into my head, and then back down to my stomach that couldn’t decide whether it was hungry or wanted to throw up.
I walked up to him and grabbed his hand.
There he was- the only person in the world with the power to hurt me- powerless and yet more powerful than ever.
(To be continued again…)