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Tainted Memories and Useless Goodbyes

By , Teaneck, NJ
Anxiousness flooded me. I wasn’t sure if I could do this, if I was ready. But there was no going back so I needed to be ready. The marble and gold colored hallway surprised me, seeming nicer then a hospital should be. A woman behind the desk smiled at us as we passed. A poor-you-smile now that I think about it all this time later. The hallway led into an equally handsome grey room. I watched the fountain for something to do. Watching the water come out and being sucked back in only to spurt out again. I must have stopped walking because I found my father’s hand on my back pushing me forwards. I guess I wanted to stop and stall. To slow this all down. To make it not true. My father knocked twice on the big white door and pushed it open. I took a deep breath and stepped inside.
I think my heart stopped beating when I first saw you. I know that’s cliché but I think it’s true. I knew ahead of time what state you were in but I couldn’t believe it. I expected your usual soft greeting of “Hi, Lauren.” I could hear you say it in my mind, hear the words come from your mouth. But you didn’t say anything. I looked away and I was ashamed with myself for doing that, for not being able to look you in the eyes. I was placed in a chair at the foot of your bed, a cold white one. I looked out the window needing something to focus on, something else to focus on. I spent a good part of an hour looking at the cars pass by. Because if I didn’t I would find myself looking at you, staring at you. Your eyes looked up towards nothing. Your mouth open and covered by an oxygen mask. Your chest visibly rose and crashed with each breath you took. Your fingers were swollen and a sickly blue color. Your frame skinner then usual was outlined by a white blanket that was tucked into your sides.
I eventually dragged my eyes over to you and I wished I hadn’t. It hurt to look at you, to really look at you. It felt as if all the air had left the room. My chest tightened, my throat screaming out in pain. I studied you wanting never to forget. I wanted more than ever to reach out and hold you. To stroke your hand and tell you, you would get better. I needed you to get better. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. In that moment I didn’t recognize you anymore and that made me want to cry. But I didn’t. I wouldn’t cry until I was alone that night and many, many other nights to come.
It was hard for me to look at the stranger lying there. I needed to see you as you had been. As the man who I had grown up loving. I thought back to the one strong memory I had. It was Chanukah and you had given me a book. I remember the wrapping had been red. You had such a smile on, pleased with what you had given me. I tried to paint that face over the one you now wore. I didn’t like that I did that. You were always such a proud person, you wouldn’t like me seeing you this way. Needing to picture you at a different time in order to be able to look at you. I wondered if you and your blank eyes knew I was there. If your mind was at work or if you were sitting there idly. Could you feel what was happening to you? Could you feel yourself dying?
All too soon they decided it was time for me to leave. I wanted to say no, to stay with you all day but that was not an option. I was told to say goodbye to you. But I felt embarrassed talking to no one so I whispered it as I laid my hand on yours. Your skin felt so cold and foreign not like a hand should feel. In my mind I was hugging you and crying on your shoulder telling you I loved you. Talking to you like I wouldn’t be seeing you for a while. In reality I just stepped away from the bed and moved towards the door. My father stood at your other side telling you it was time for me to go. He spoke his words loudly repeating them, trying to make sure you heard. I thought I heard a raspy sound escape from your mouth. Like you were trying to speak but couldn’t. Your eyes shut and tears drifted from them. This pained me more than anything. Your tears became arrows piercing my heart. I hated to think this meant you knew what was coming but I couldn’t help it. As I was ushered out the door I heard my father trying to calm you, soothe you by assuring I would return. I was told you had never ever cried when someone left before. I wasn’t expecting that. I felt you’re hurt, I don’t know if that makes sense but I did. I understood you in that moment that you were calling out to me. Trying to reach me and feeling so frustrated that you weren’t able to say what you wanted in words. I wanted to go back to your room and speak for you. To say everything I knew you wanted to. To tell you I would remember you forever and nothing would change that. I wanted to say I was sorry for not being by your side more as you grew sicker. As silly as it seems, I wanted to apologize for making you cry. You didn’t deserve to feel sadness after all you had been through. I wanted to tell you I would miss you and would be thinking of you. What I really wanted to tell you more than anything was the one thing that always felt unsaid, I love you.
As I think back to that day, I felt regret for not saying anything to you at all.





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