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Apple Juice

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  I thought it was the iridescent lights that drained these tainted teal curtains of their color. It’s actually the time I’ve spent staring at them that’s done the job.

  I shift uncomfortably in my chair again, the cushions no longer plush under my weight. If I had the opportunity, I’d take the first cab home. However, she’s here and immobile. The cab fare wouldn’t be worth it if she weren’t coming with me, anyways.

  I shift my focus to the heart monitor attached to her in a mangled coil of wires. I stare at the LED lights and make a game of them. The beeping noise gives me a steady rhythm to work with and I start playing songs in my head that fall in sync with the peaks and troughs. This is the most entertained I’ve been for the last few hours.

  The curtain rings scratch against the rod and my game stops.

  “Excuse me,” the nurse says as she walks in. “Would you like some water? Apple juice?”

  “No…thanks. I’d appreciate an extra pillow, though, if you don’t mind,” I say. I really hope she doesn’t.

  “No problem, sir.”

  The curtains close again. I look down at my hands – they’re clammy and shaking. I’ll blame it on the lack of a sweater in this refrigerator of a room. If I press my hands hard enough together, the shaking stops, but my palms get too sweaty and lose their grip. I need to have more control.

  I hear the curtain move again.

  “Here you are,”she says handing me the pillow. “Anything else, sir?”

  “I’m good…thank you.” I say, taking it. She starts walking out.

  “Wait,” I say. She turns to look at me. “I’ve been waiting here for a while-” I clear my throat. “And they haven’t updated me on anything.” There’s a pause.

  “I’ll see what I can find out, sir.”

  When the nurse closes the curtain again, I turn to look at her. Her curly hair mirrors the mess of tubes that have become a part of her for the moment. Her lip is entwined with stitches and the right side of her face is abraded. It’s such an ugly thing for someone so beautiful. I just wish she were less stubborn.

  I get up to sit on the pillow the nurse brought me. I almost feel comfortable, except when I position myself, I’m looking at her again. The monitor skips and I choke on my breath for a second before it readjusts itself.

  I look at her hand now, her wedding ring untarnished. I lean in closer to inspect it. I’ve made a habit of this, looking at it every so often. I notice a small diamond missing from the band and I start to wonder how long it has been since I’ve last looked at it. I make a mental note to fix it later.

  The clock face reads 10:04 P.M. now. I haven’t eaten since we got here and I regret not asking the nurse for the apple juice. I’ll ask her for two when she comes back. Amelia loves apple juice.

  “Damn, Amelia…”, I say out loud. I’m fiddling with her Yankees shirt and I notice a tear in the fabric and some dry blood. I pick out a couple bits of glass and flick them onto the floor. Her favorite shirt is ruined now, too.

  I feel my chest tightening and my nose flare. My brows furrow and I try to stop myself, but I feel warm tears spill over down my cheeks. I’m trying my best to stay silent, but it’s too abrupt. I press the shirt against my face and sob.

  I yell in my thoughts. I am angry because I am crying, because she did this to herself, because if she could have bit her tongue for once, I would not have to see her like this. I hate that she’s done this to me. I hate that she is here and not beside me, comfortably entangled in our bed sheets instead of tubes and wires. I hate that I am staring at these ugly curtains and not the walls of our small, cluttered apartment. I hate that instead of feeling the warmth of her hand in my palm, I feel my own and there is no warmth. I want to be anywhere but here – with her.

  I wipe my face with the shirt and throw it on the chair next to me. I try to clear my throat, but my effort is too weak. I look at her, shake my head, and look back down at my hands. I am trying to compose myself now.

  I think back to this morning. I woke up to see half her face dug into the pillow, her hair like a halo around her head. I woke her up so that we could catch the Early Bird Special at Padoca Café. I wonder had we woken up later, would we be in this cold, dead room.

  The curtain opens again and I face a new nurse.

  “I’m here to change her IV and draw some blood,” she tells me.

  “Okay,” I say. I look away. I hate needles. “Would you bring me some apple juice, please?” I ask when she is done.

  “Sure,” she says. She leaves.

  I look at her again. I grab the shirt and get up from my seat, this time standing over her. I want to see her full face for a minute. Change the view.

  “Here,” I say, placing the shirt over her hospital gown. “I’ll get you a new one. I know it’s not the same, but I don’t think this one’s getting fixed.” I look at the blood on the shirt and resist the tears pushing against my eyes.

  “Why are you doing this to me, Amelia?” My voice cracks. “I don’t want to be here.  I don’t want to look at you. But I can’t help it,” I manage.

  I don’t want to entertain the thought, but I still have not heard from the nurse on her condition. What if…?

  The tears are forcing themselves harder, but I refuse. Instead I speak in forceful, angry breaths.

  “I couldn’t save you – no, I didn’t save you. I let this happen to you. I was wrong. Amelia, you are the one thing in this room that hasn’t lost its severity from the amount of time I’ve spent looking at it.” I’ve lost the strength I had to fight back my tears.

“I am so angry at myself for doing this to you. This is my fault. This is my fault. I wish I had shown you my love more often than my temper. I wish I could have lived up to my promises, been the man you deserve. I can’t make it up to you. I’m sorry.”

  I hold her face in my hands and kiss her forehead with every bit of strength I have left. I sob again and taste the salt between her skin and my lips.

  The curtain screeches against the metal again and I look at the nurse. She is holding two bottles of apple juice.




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