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I could feel his hand holding mine. I could feel him rubbing my cold, stiff fingers. I heard him whisper in my ear, "I love you." He sniffed, "I love you. So very much." He started to cry again, and I wished so badly that I could hold him in an everlasting embrace. That I could brush away the tears that I knew were stepping on his old, wrinkled face, though I could not see. I wished that I could tell him how much I loved him too. I heard him sobbing, and I wished that this pain would cease to consume our lives.
As the beeping machine breathed for me, I could smell the odor of the sterilized hospital room; soap and latex on the inside, urine from the hallway behind the door. I wished that he would press the rose up against my cheek, like he had before. His desperate attempt to wake me had smelled so sweet.
Just then, the door opened, letting the wretched smell back in. And I knew it was another doctor. There was always another one to replace the last.
"Hello Mr. Rosfed. My name is Dr. Relds, and I'm here to fill in for your usual doctor until he gets back from vacation." My new doctor was a female, that much I could tell from the voice. "Okay", she continued. "Let's see here..." I couldn't tell what was going on, but I assumed she was looking over patient information, since she wasn't touching me, or messing with the beeping machine. "What's your relationship to the patient, Mr. Rosfed? Is she your daughter?"
Oh no. I thought. Not this again.
"No", he said. I could hear the sadness in his voice, and wished now more than ever that I could comfort him. I could hear the shakiness in his sigh. "She's my wife. We've been together for almost four years now." I knew that he was swallowing back his tears, I could hear it in his voice.
"Oh, I'm sorry, my mistake." Said the doctor hastily, but somewhat dismissive. "It says here in her records that she is twenty-two, is that correct?"
"Yeah", he said. I could tell that he was looking at me when he said it because I could feel his warm breath run across my face, and I could smell the mint from his sugar-free gum.
"Well -" the doctor took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly, almost painfully. "-it says here that she's been in a vegetative state for over two weeks now", the doctor said gently. "Have you made a decision on what you want to do?"
"You mean, do I want to kill her?" He asked resentfully, his question sounding more like a statement.
I heard the doctor take another deep breath. "Well, the thing is Mr. Rosfed, I've seen a lot of patients in a vegetative state, and too many loved ones who just-" she paused, "-can't let go." She sounded as if she had recited this a thousand times to a thousand different people; all in pain, and all in conflict. I wanted her to go away. "I assume that we've run all the tests we can, since she's been here so long." She waited for him to correct her, but he didn't. Because it was true. "I'm sorry, but odds are she'll never wake up, let alone be the same person that she was before." She paused yet again, "actually, I don't even think it's possible for her to wake up. I'm not saying that she's not still in there, because there is a small chance that she is. But I think that if she were going to wake up, it would've already happened."
By now he was crying, his weeping almost shaking the room. "No, no!" He shouted. "I can't just give up on her. No, not now! I know she's in there, I can see it in her eyes!" I could tell that he had stood up during his outrage, but he sat back down and started to cry again.
"I'll leave you to make the decision, but you must make it soon. We can't keep her here like this forever." I heard the door squeak slowly, until it hit the frame and closed, and I knew that she had left. I couldn't believe how cold she was. Her iciness still lingered in the room, and if I could shiver, I would've. The room stayed quiet except for the beeping machine; replacing silence with slow, steady beeps.
He took my hand again. "Come on, Baby, I know you're still in there. Please come back to me", he sobbed, "please, just come back."
My heart was breaking inside, and I wanted so badly to come back to him, but I didn't know how, and I couldn't find the strength.
He stood up then, I could hear his chair squeak, and I could feel the absence of his hand as he stood. I was pretty sure I knew what he was going to do next.
Sure enough, a few seconds later, the lifeless hospital room was filled with a beautiful melody, loud enough, I was sure, to be heard all the way down the hall outside the room. I recognized the song, and a rush of memories flooded through my mind. He returned to my side, and again took my hand.
"Remember this song, Honey?" He whispered, though his voice was not as soothing, instead it was saturated with desperation. "We used to dance to this song all the time." He sounded almost as if he were asking a question. I hated for him to be in so much pain. I loved him so much... I just wished that I could regain consciousness, and return to him.
He waited a few minutes after the music had already stopped playing, and without any notion from me that I could hear him, he started to cry again. Loudly.
"Oh!" He choked, sobbing. "This is all my fault! This wouldn't have happened to you if I'd kept a better eye on you. If I'd only see you falling, I could've caught you. I could've caught you!" He wailed. I could hear him very clearly, but I knew that he thought that I couldn't.
He sat there with me for what seemed like hours, holding my hand. The whole time, he didn't say a word. I knew then that he had lost hope.
Someone walked through the door, I could hear their slow footsteps, and I recognized the voice to be the same doctor. "How are we all doing in here?" She asked, sounding as if she expected a reply of 'She's back to life, it's a miracle! Praise the Lord Jesus Christ, Hallelujah!' I already hated her.
"Do you really think it would be what's best for her?" I heard him ask, squeezing my hand gently. "Do you think by pulling the plug I'd be ending her pain?" He asked hopefully, wanting another opinion, wanting someone else to make the decision.
"It's really not my place to say, Mr. Rosfed," Replied the doctor, her tone of voice very professional. The objective sweetness that clung to her voice was beginning to get very irritating.
"What would you do? If you were in my place?" I could feel him turn to look at her as he spoke. Though he still held my hand, he now felt distant.
She hesitated, and I thought for a moment that I had actually inhaled the intensity in the air as the beeping machine kept its steady pace.
"Mr. Rosfed", she started finally, the false sweetness in her voice, fallen. "You know that we would never have asked you to make this decision if she had any other family." Then suddenly, but smoothly the sweetness returned to her voice. "I know this is hard, but I'm in no position to tell you what I think you should do. Do what you think is best, just don't waste your life trying to save her. I don't think that that's what she'd want. She'd want you to be happy, and to move on."
I couldn't tell what was going on, but there was a pause before he started crying once again. He had never been a crier until now, and I was starting to feel guilty for not being able to wake up. He made me feel like I should have tried harder. I just... couldn't move.
"I love you", I heard him whisper again in my ear. "I'm so sorry. I love you." I heard him sniff, then he spoke again, but I knew he wasn't talking to me. "Okay", he said, coldly. "Unplug her."
That's weird, I thought. He's not crying anymore. Maybe unplugging me really will help him. I was a bit disappointed that he didn't have a harder time making the decision. But how long did I honestly think he would keep me, plugged into this beeping machine? As a vegetable.
"Are you sure?" Asked the doctor. I assumed that he nodded his head because he didn't answer. Instead, the doctor said, "okay, I'll be back with a nurse, and a few forms you'll have to sign before we can take her off of the life-support."
I heard footsteps and the door close. Then I heard him move closer to me, and I could feel the heat of his breath on my ear. Then, in a voice so quiet that I wasn't sure if I could trust my own ears, he whispered, "Aren't I a good actor, Honey?" I could of sworn I heard him laugh, very quietly.
Why would he joke like this? I thought. I'm about to die. This isn't like him. He must really have no faith left that I'm in here for him to joke like that .I waited for him to correct what I heard. I knew it wasn't right. He loved me...
"Sorry. Well if you're still in there, anyway." He sighed, and I was relieved to hear him say that. "I really did love you, you know." There was a short pause where I tried to decipher what he was trying to say to me. "I just love money more." He said, then I knew that I heard him laughing.
What? I thought. What's he talking about, what money? He couldn't have- my thoughts were cut short by the sound of him crying, again. But this time he cried I didn't hear sadness. Instead I heard so much falseness, something I should have detected a long time ago. Now his crying just sounded like a big joke, and I was the punch-line.
Still crying, he managed to whisper between breaths "I've got a boat-load of insurance on you, Baby. You are going to make me rich." Now his crying almost sounded like laughing in my ears, and any doubt that I had before had been wiped away by his last statement. I was so focused on what I could do to wake up, that a lot more time went by than I had expected. I hadn't even realized that the doctor had come back into the room, until I heard her speak.
"Are you almost done with those forms, Mr. Rosfed?" She asked, and I started to panic.
"Yeah, I'm done", I heard him whimper. "It's just such a hard decision to make." I was screaming inside and I wished that the whole hospital could hear me. What he was doing wasn't right, and there was no one to stop him. I could hear him sobbing, sobbing, sobbing! I tried to concentrate. I tried just to move my fingers or toes- that's all it would take!
"Okay Mr. Rosfed, we have the nurse hear." I heard the doctor say. But I was no longer focused on what the doctor was saying, I needed to wake up. "Are you ready?"
No! I thought.
"Yes." He said. "I'm ready", he paused. "We're ready." He gripped my hand and I tried to move it. I felt his hand why couldn't I move mine? I needed just a little more time...
"Okay." Said the doctor. "On the count of three."
"I love you", he cried. "I love you. So very much."
No! I thought again.
"Three", counted the doctor.
He cried harder.
"Two", she said again.
No, stop, I'm still here! I thought, though I couldn't speak. He gripped my hand tighter, and I wanted so badly to pull away. Somebody stop him!
"One", said the doctor grimly.
I made one last effort to move, but I felt her pull the plug. I couldn't breathe. Then, for one moment, I couldn't hear the beeping machine.