We Can Try

December 20, 2011
The lone man sat, shadows playing upon his face, casting a darkness across him like no other. With his hands clenched before him, inaudible prayers escaped his lips, each one sent off with dreams of a better day. His breathing shallow; his posture tense. He raised his heavy head and stared intently at the once vibrant room, his eyes desperate for a shimmer of hope, a hope of a future that was to never be. Something horrid robbed this man of his optimism, drained him of his will and left the remains of a father with a broken family out to dry. His gaze dropped to the floor once again, his mind only to be soothed by the ticking of his watch, the only thread that remained from the past.

His memories jumped, back, back to a time when things were bight and alive, everything teeming with life. He smiled, and looked to his side to catch a glimpse of his wife, the proud women she was. Her hands tired from her daily labors in the world of business, her world. She returned the smile and moved to continue with dinner, something rare for her. Soon the familiar pounding of feet would be heard, as the stairs were trampled by the eager fleeting feet of children. He relaxed and sat back into the worn leather recliner, his fingers tracing the familiar grain. His thoughts began to take shape as he stared out the windowpane. He listened to the soft pitter-patter of the rain as his body slowly relaxed into the soft chair. The ticking of his watch slowly dragged sleeps heavy wool over his mind. If only he knew the perils to come.

His memories leaped forward again, forcing his mind’s eye to follow. A cold gray room came forth. His wife seated next to him, her hands in constant motion in an attempt to ward off the fear and anxiety that plagued her now. Her thoughts raced as her mind began to crumble beneath her worst fears. A soft whisper began to emanate from her pale lips but was interrupted by a tall reserved man in a slim white coat, a controlled smile drifting on his emotionless face. His small black horn-rimmed glasses hid the spider like veins streaking from his eyes. Wrinkles dominated his forehead, matching the movement of his eyebrows, seeming to rise and fall in little peaks and valleys, each one a burden of his stress. His face grew grave and serious while his tone easily matched. “Ma'am”, his voice stuttered in apprehension, “It’s what we thought.” The room grew tense and heavy as the women started at the man in the small, black horn-rimmed glasses, her eyes inspecting him as if he were a mere apparition. She dully noted the small gray tufts of hair on his head, the sweat mark spreading from beneath his arm, his pen idly sitting in his breast pocket. The stain right above his pen. Of course, it could have been a sauce of some sort but no, her mind would rather imagine it to be the blood of a ill-fated patient of his. The ticking of her husbands watch forced mind back to reality as the man’s words resonated throughout her head. Immediately her head fell low, her gaze slipping to the floor. Big tears rolled down her worn face and splashed silently down, only accompanied by the sound of soft sobbing. The men nervously shifted in place, not quite knowing how to deal with this assailant. Their paternal instincts failed them; There was nothing to lash out at, to strike, to remove. They were powerless. So they shifted, nervously in their seats. And prayed. Small hopeful dreams of a better day. The man in the white coat bent forward, a jerky motion, his black horned-rimmed glasses dangerously teetering on the bridge of his nose, an action seemingly out of place, and handed the woman a tissue.

The memories became a never ending cycle, white coat blurring into white coat. Small black horn-rimmed glass shifted to clear blue eyes; blue eyes slowly formed into black beads peering out from behind another pair of small horn-rimmed glasses.Continually shifting from one scene to another seemingly reminiscent of a bad move without an ending. Another white coat, this one plump and short. Medical jargon flew out of his meaty little throat, the veins bulging ever so slightly when he began to strain for air, ending each sentence prematurely for breath. His meaningless words crafted an air of pseudo-intellectuals and desperate men who have no answers. Oh, he’d seen it before, hundreds of times. It’s common. Always has been. It’s nothing all that scary. You can make it. We can try. He knew what they were thinking. He always knew because they all thought the same thing. He would simply dodge their question because in reality, he couldn’t answer it. He couldn’t answer the only question on all of their minds. The one that would end their fear and anxiety and sooth their troubled hearts. Careful sidestep. Medical Jargon. Relaxing phrases. Cue his meticulously practiced smile. Yes. This was the plan, always has been. The woman's tired face slowly rose. Her gaze falling upon the white coat, the white coat with a handful of faces. Time and time again her lips would whisper the same phrase, the same five words that she had to ask herself every day. The same five words that she never had an answer too. “Am I going to die?” and the white coat would always look right past her, directly above her head, in attempt to give her gift of his attention, but never attempted to bring his eyes to hers, to witness the pain and fear they held within. He’d smile, that terrible evil smile, and whisper back, “We don’t quite know. But were going to try.”

Her hand gripped his as they both began the solemn march towards the surgery ward. Their minds raced, each one asking the same few questions. They exchanged a flurry of quick soft words, each one trying to convey their love to one another but not crudely stating it as it could be the last words exchanged between them. Her family hid in the shadows of the waiting room to avoid causing further strife and turmoil within her, the elderly clinging onto the young boys in vain, a confused and scared look playing upon their faces. The woman was slowly escorted through the heavy white doors, where she caught glimpses of familiar white coats. White coats with white masks. She could not find her voice as she was laid down on a cold steel table. A table that had always been there carry the weight of countless others. A table that could carry her to her final place. Her mind jerked back to reality, back to the cold, gray, room, where her arms were carefully yet strategically strapped into place. The panic within her began to crest as a eerily benign mask was placed over her mouth. In and out. Just in and out. You’re doing great. Just breathe. She could feel the tension drain out her body as her conscious slowly slipped from her with each breath. All she saw was a flurry of masks, white masks, each with a different face. As the remains of her conscious slipped away into the anesthetic, her final thought was of her son’s birthday. He was turning twelve this January. She couldn’t miss that for the world. She would be there. She would try. They would try.

The man was strongly pulled from his memories as a loud crash in the adjoining room echoed throughout the house. He rose, his heavy frame only heavier with stress and the sadness that embraced his body. He lumbered out into the kitchen, his eyes searching for the culprit behind the crash. His eyes found his wife, her body slumped against the porcelain sink, large glistening tears streaming down her face. She held what once was a glass, the shattered remains scattered about the floor. His eyes returned to the sink, the white porcelain broken by small red rivers. His gaze immediately shifted back to her, searching for the source of the blood. Tiny rivulets ran down her arm, each one blazing its own twisted trail. His gaze followed hers and found the freezer door open, the ice tray pulled forward, waiting for someone to reach in for a cube. “It’s too cold. I couldn't hold it. It burnt and I dropped it. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You don’t need me here...” She sobbed through closed teeth, her frame rattling with each sobbing breath. “Why... Why... Why me.” Her voice faltered each time, her tone growing more and more desperate. Her eyes looked up at his and searched his for answers. The man knelled, gently lifting the remains of the glass out of he hands and placed them near her.

“We tried. We still are. We can’t stop now.” the man whispered in a broken tone. A soft scuffling on the stairs. His head automatically jerked towards the sound, his eyes full of anguish and fear. His gaze fell upon two small boys, their tiny hands wrapped around the white banister. The oldest had his arm wrapped around his brother. Small tears silently streamed down their faces as they witnessed the commotion down below.

“Is mommy going to be alright dad?” The oldest one shouted down, his emotions getting the best of him.

“Yeah son, she’s going to be just fine. Don’t you worry.” He said with a smile. That terrible smile. The ticking of his watch was the only sound left to be heard by the family of four.





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