# The Way You Don’t Exist

December 19, 2010
I saw you just 12 hours ago. The light outside was fading as I held your hand, feeling the veins pulse timidly, as though they were afraid to declare your survival as permanent.

It was almost eight. We had a polite conversation, pretending that we could not hear the frantic countdown of your last hours. You asked what I was doing over the weekend, as though it were one of our monthly phone calls. The comfortable distance that separated us through the telephone had been broken, yet I maintained the same polite tone.

“I'm taking the SATs tomorrow,” I said.

“You should go home,” you said. “Rest up. You're a smart girl, but you still need to sleep.”

I didn't want to leave. I wanted to say that a test wasn't as important as sitting with my grandfather who was dying. That I could hear the clock ticking faster with every breath you took on borrowed time.

I wanted to decipher you more than I wanted to find the correct answer on the test. I wanted to find the mystery behind those calloused hands and grizzled brow. I wanted to find the man behind a life in the military, on the front page of the newspaper, and on the forefront of technology in the 20th century.

Last night, as I pulled on my coat, you told me to put everything I had into the test. To forget that my dying grandfather even existed in this New York hospital room. To strike the view of Fifth Avenue, the way the dusk settled on the feet of the stoic residential buildings that line the hospital like sentinels.

Now, I sit in my chair in the back of an unfamiliar classroom. The proctor is reading the directions while the test-takers tap number two pencils, nervously click calculators, and throw their eyes to the clock.

I am to take this test forgetting that you exist. My mind will be filled solely with test-taking tips and verb tenses and the proper way to simplify a fraction. I will focus on the elimination of A, B, C, or D. I will fight my way up the percentiles, not thinking of the tears I fought back driving home last night.

After reading the directions, the proctor gives a smile of encouragement. “Watch the clock,” she offers. “Time will run out before you know it.”

She doesn't have to remind me. I have you. The ticking of the clock grows panicked as you lie in a hospital bed, watching the sun rise over Manhattan for the last time.

This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s .