There were a thousand stories I wanted to tell.
There were a millions things I wanted to say. I never had the chance to. I wished I could’ve been able to tell him anything.
There was the story of how my teacher drove away with the gas pump still in her car. She was crazy, but I loved her. She would do anything to make her students pay attention in class, and that included telling really embarrassing stories. She had great stories about her life to tell. I didn’t get to tell him that.
I wanted to tell him that I’d been waiting for months to play “Zelda: The Windwaker” at his house again. I needed to beat level five. I didn’t get to tell him ever.
I wanted to tell him how hard it was sleeping in the guest room when I slept over at his house because it had no fan and I got hot during the night. I never got to tell him.
I wanted, with all of my heart, to thank him for giving me his wonderful talent of making art and spreading kindness. The words never touched his ears.
I wanted to ask him why he ever started smoking. Why did he stop? I wanted to pry at why he didn’t stop sooner. I didn’t get the chance to.
I wanted to tell him, for the first time and the last time, that I loved him. Silence and Nothing.
The room was loud with those awful respiratory machines, except today their pumping sounds were a lot slower. They matched to each inhalation. In...Out...In...Out...
I was afraid to show any emotion. How was I supposed to react? What was I supposed to do? Should I be crying? I didn’t feel like crying or talking or smiling or laughing or anything. I didn’t know how to behave when a person you loved was balancing on the line of life and death like a tightrope, just a few brick walls away from you. That was mostly why I kept myself buried in a fantasy world inside my book, occasionally sipping on my Sprite or accidentally making eye contact with one of uncles or aunts.
It wasn’t the first time my Grandfather had been to the hospital In fact, it was the second time that year. The first time was when he was on vacation in Denver, and my dad almost had to fly out to see him, but he got better very quickly. But that Wednesday afternoon, on the way to Liberty Hospital, I knew something was different this time.
“Nicole we’re going to go see Papa. Do you want to come too?” My Mom smiled reassuringly at me.
Slowly, I nodded, curiosity winning me over.
There are only two times relatives will form a protective circle around a bed: one time is when they are “oohing” and “ahhing” over a newborn baby. The other time is when someone they love is on their deathbed. There was no baby in this room. There was no baby in the next room. Or the next.
“I’ll see you later.”
Those were the last words he ever said to me. He was sitting at the old kitchen counter with a bright smile surrounded by the tubes of the oxygen tank like tentacles. I now wonder if those respiring machines are the cause of sucking the life out of people’s souls. Perhaps the oxygen in the tanks are filled with carbon poison. They only carry a little bit in them though, to make the dying excruciatingly slow. They all seem to carry an evil aura around with them, like the black plague. Sometimes I wish they were the cause of death, mostly because I hated the idea that a plant rolled tightly in paper was destroying the lives of so many people.
Clutching “Inkheart” against my chest, my mother, and I walked through the automatic doors of the hospital. The heater rushed over us, tainted with the sour, anti-bacterial stench all hospitals have. It was too bright, too loud, too slow, too fast, too smooth, and too clean, yet covered with germs here. I wanted out. The three floor elevator ride said otherwise. And so did the room packed full with my relatives. Most of them I knew, several I didn’t; my introvert skills kicked into autopilot. I soon found myself sitting at a wooden table hunched over, trying in vain to read that newly discovered piece of magical literature. The room was too distracting though because of its oddities. Everyone in this room, save my cousin--who was still extremely young--knew why we were here. Yet, they were eating food out of coolers, talking in loud voices, and laughing. Of all the absurd things that could be happening in this room, laughing was something I wasn’t prepared for. This was not a time to laugh.
When I got back to the room, I drew a self portrait, wanting to show my Grandfather how good my artwork is and to make him proud of me and my talent I had got from him. On the back of the paper I wrote, “with all my love, to Papa” and left it on the table that night.
The next day my Mom brought me home from school. She told me the worst. Papa had died at 11:30 that morning.
Immediately, the tears flowed like a backed up stream. They were never ending. I bawled then, and I sobbed at the visitation ceremony, but I never shed a tear at the funeral. It was my first one. By then I was numb by everything left unsaid and devastated by the idea that I would go to my Grandparent’s house and just see my Grandmother there. I was also in shock that not once did I ever see my Father or my Grandmother bat an eyelash in remorse. They were like machines, immune to devastation, while my mother and aunts and cousin sobbed into tissue after tissue long into the reception.
I was mostly numb because I never once said “I love you” to him. And now he was gone. There was nothing I could say to him now. There was no way to bring him back.
Now, I say something when something needs to be said. I learned the hard way to not hide my emotions behind bars and concrete cells. What's the point of living if you never experience or indulge in your emotions, both good and bad. I learned that death is just another part of life, and I’m okay that it exists now, because the ones that love us don’t actually leave us. They still exist in our memories and hearts and thoughts. I still may struggle with speaking my mind, but if I feel it’s important then I will say something about it, especially if the something is a simple and clear “I love you”. Cigarettes may kill you from the outside-in, but ideas left unsaid will kill you from the inside-out.