White Walls

June 4, 2010
I walk down the spotless hospital corridor, hearing only the occasional beeping of machines telling nurses their patients are still alive. As each open door goes by, I see empty beds. I looked in one door and see the frail outline of a back curled into the fetal position; surely in a drug induced sleep. Still walking, I come to a room labeled “525- Frasier”. This is the only door that has been closed. A shiny silver knob is the only adornment on the door, unlike the other doors with pictures or food charts. The gray door looks heavy and impenetrable so I walk back down the corridor. Nurses who pass me by don’t even glance up from their clipboards. I even waved at one; she continued scribbling notes.

The waiting room is nice enough. It’s cozy enough to make you feel at home but large enough for grieving families to console one another. Small couches are placed neatly around the room while colorful pictures line the walls. Why anyone would want a circus picture above their head while waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery is a mystery to me. I glare at the clown in the picture. His smiling face is a testament to everything I can no longer express. How wonderful it must be to have a smile literally painted on your face, hiding what you really feel. I run my fingers through my hair, or try to. I cannot feel the short wispy tufts that my daughter used to affectionately refer to as “duck fuzz”.

I’m suddenly angry. My daughter, my wife, everything I held dear to me had been lifted out of my reach, but still within my sight. The life I nurtured and formed into happiness was being taken from me. I wouldn’t let them go without a fight. In the silence of the waiting room, I scream at the top of my useless lungs. No nurses come running. No echoes rang off the walls. I’m still alone trying hopelessly to be noticed. I’m alone in limbo. Now I’m no longer angry. Now I’m desperate.

Even though I don’t feel my feet slapping against the tiles I know I’m running because the gray doors are passing quickly on all sides. I turn my head from side to side, running, looking for the one room with a closed door. Suddenly I find myself at the large gray door. It’s still closed. My name is still on the plate next to the room number. I try with every ounce of will I have to grasp the knob of the door. My hand cannot hold the metal. I pound the door with my lifeless hands. No one opens the door even though I know people are in the room. I can hear the sobs. Or maybe I hear my own sobs as a sink slowly to the perfectly cleaned tiles. After a while, I hear clicks. Soft, slow clicks coming from the practical heels of a night-shift nurse. My hopes rekindle and almost burst my heart with longing as she walks towards my door. I scramble to my feet, unnoticed by her. I sob in gratitude as she opens the door and I see my loved ones gathered around a small bed.

Their backs are too me, but the grief is apparent by their hunched backs and wracking sobs. I follow the nurse, merely a shadow in the world of the living. As the nurse pulls back the curtain, I see myself. I’m alive. Barely; but I’m alive. I try to gather my wife’s mouse-brown hair in my hands. It doesn’t even stir against my finger tips. My daughter looks so small; so weak; so old. I want to wrap my arms around her and chase away the hurt, but I’m the reason the pain is there. Afraid of what might happen, I turn to my body. I also look old, but only because of the tubes and machines attached to me. With each puff of the machine, my chest rises and falls giving me the appearance of life. I reach out and touch my hand. There is no shock of light reuniting my spirit and body. Only the steady rhythmic beat of the machine that’s keeping me alive.

A doctor walks in. He looks young, maybe thirty or so. After receiving a nod from the nurse, he crosses over to my body. The sobs coming from my loved ones are now wails. The doctor starts taking tubes from my body. I panic. I try to tackle the doctor, plead with him; do anything to let him know part of me is still alive. He cannot hear me. The machine beeps one last time, leaving my body to fend for itself. My heart beat falters. It gives one last pump and then I watch myself die.

I climb onto the bed and lay in what must be the inside of my body. My wife and daughter cry over my lifeless body as the doctors respectfully leave. I cry too. I cry until I feel myself falling into a somewhat sleeping trance that only comes from complete exhaustion. My wife and daughter seem far away from me now, as does the hospital room with its white walls. I reach one more time for their hands, but fail to connect. I close my eyes involuntarily, falling deeper into the trance. I fight the darkness, treasuring every second I see my family. I close my eyes one last time and fall into the deepest sleep of all; death.

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