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Pulse is such a comforting idea, and it always will be to me. Sometimes it isn't there, but it will always come back. The next time you're lying somewhere, just remember the pulse that's keeping you alive, going off and on for eternity. It was such a terrible thing in my mother's hand.
Her smooth, tiny hand, loosely gripping mine in her sleep, had a very faint pulse. I kept cursing the driver over and over in my head. I swore I would find him and give him the retribution he deserved, but I lost that hatred gradually. It was 6 o'clock when she woke up the first time. She tilted her head over to the left and stared. I think she was looking at me through her matted hair and I fixed the bandage on her forehead, but she kept staring. It felt like my face was miles from hers and I could feel her slipping from her path. When our eyes eventually met, she felt incredibly distant. It wasn't like the awkward meeting of long-lost children. It wasn't a heart-warming reunion, and it felt terrible. I had been the closest local relative.
It was probably my most painful phone call ever. I can still recall it almost perfectly.
"Can I please speak with Paul Breyer?"
"I have some bad news for you, sir."
"Who is this?"
"I'm Doctor Andrew Fletcher. Your mother was in a car accident, son."
"Yes. We'd like you to come down here and be with her."
"Is it serious?"
"Well I don't have the liberty to discu-"
"Is it serious?!"
"Did you hear me?"
"Yes, but please just come down here, Paul. Will you do that for her?"
"...Of course. I'll be right there."
She didn't speak the entire night. There was a woman in the room down the hall, screaming. I looked at my mother and imagined the same noise, rolling around her head, haunting her. Even when she woke up, her pulse was still faint. The highs were still lower and the lows were almost silent. The nurses came in and arranged the sheets and the doctors came in and wrote things. Doctor Fletcher came in and described my mother's problem to me for a few minutes. She had been hit crossing the street. She was thrown for a few feet, and the driver kept going. Witnesses called 9-1-1 and she had gotten to the hospital quickly. She was in critical condition, and only faintly holding on. He left and my mother was still awake. At 7 o'clock, she fell asleep, and I went out for a quick walk.
I noticed the leaves in the trees and felt the pulse I knew they had. The pulse of the cars in traffic, the clouds and the empty sky. I noticed the windows, open and closed, lit and dark. I walked for a few miles, and reached the edge of town. There were some homeless men, lying beneath trees, and I stopped walking. For such abused people, they looked awfully peaceful in their sleep. It's the kind of peace you only understand after hardship. My mother wore the same look when I got back to her room. The woman down the hall was still screaming as I passed by her. The nurses were still walking the halls, and doctors were following them. And nobody was smiling, laughing, or talking.
I sat down in the leather chair near her bed, and took her hand. She pulled it back in her slumber, and I crossed my hands in my lap. The chair seemed colder, and the lights seemed dimmer at 10 o'clock.
I woke up at 6 the next day. There was a robin tapping on the window. It seemed so driven, so intent on getting in the window. I tapped on the glass to greet it and it flew away. I watched it glide into its nest, to its children, mate and shelter. I went back to my chair and the woman's screaming had intensified. I fell back asleep with my mother's hand in mine.
I had a terrible dream that began the end of my day. My mother was lying under three blankets in her room, talking to my father. I was peering through the door as my mother smiled over her tears. I can remember what my father was asking her. He was always so calm with the worst situations.
"You're asking for that?"
"I'd really like it. After everything I've seen and done-"
"But you mean so much to the boys, Andrea."
"They have you, David."
"Well they need you much more."
"I need this though! It's gotten too painful to bear. Look at this."
I looked away right then. I could see my father's face, drawn in concern. He went away for a while after that, and when he opened the door, I woke up.
Her hand was limp in mine and mine was limp in the cold morning air. The doctors and nurses knocked on the door and entered. They flowed in like the pulse I had admired and everything ran smoothly from there. I was asked to leave the room and I stood up, frozen, and exited the room. There was a sweet silence in the hallway and I leaned against the door down the hall. The mother held her child with such a certain and warm smile, I couldn't help but grin. I thought of the pulse, the deaths and births, all so close together, so connected. When she kissed him on the forehead, I felt like I must have been too, 32 years earlier, in some other pulsating hospital.
As I left the hospital, I felt all those reassuring pulses, just part of the trade. Every door I closed in my departure, was just another door being opened for hopeful parents, gamblers, hunters, foragers, saints and sinners, and it wasn't so bad. Every train that left the station, every horse that left the starting line, would reach another station, would finish another race. As I hailed the cab to my apartment, his apartment, his son's apartment, the sun had a nice pulse to it. The light and shade as the cab ran down the street, the red and green lights again, so lovely in their electronic symphony. I thought of the lives and the deaths, so abundant in our world. I thought of all the honorable living done throughout the ages, all the admirable dying done throughout our times, and all the justice still to be done. I thought of my mother, at some sort of peace. Finally, as I laid my head against my arm and dozed off on the long ride home, I felt my pulse. And I suppose we've all got a long ride home, a long trek through harsh conditions, but we'll always have our pulse.