The Fifth of July

Bang, pop, whoosh. Sizzle, snap, crack. Fizz, hiss, BOOM. BOOM.

BOOM.

In a haze, after the initial phone call, she rushed to be by his side. She had tunnel vision getting there – she couldn’t think, see, feel anything else. Nothing else registered, none of her surroundings, nothing at all.

All she thought was – I need to hurry. I need to hurry. I need to hurry.

After the doctor had delivered the news, she stood there, stunned. In her peripheral, she could see the colors exploding in the sky just outside the large window next to his bed, and it registered in her that it was the 4th. She could feel the rumbling vibration of each detonation. She could feel.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

Once she arrived home, though she’d despirately needed the sleep, there was very little. She tossed and turned, and tossed and turned. Finally giving in to it, she got up early, dressed and returned to him.

As she walked down the stark, institutional green hall, each step bringing her closer to seeing with her own eyes what had been conveyed to her in words the day before, the weight of those words sunk like quicksand to the pit of her stomach.

Today, she was acutely aware of the clinical smell surrounding her, the smell of sickness, the stench of sadness filling first her lungs, then permeating outward, finding an unwelcome home in her veins, thick like sludge, coursing and thumping.

She could hear the cries of sorrow in the bated breath wafting from some of the doors she passed. She could taste its metallic tang on the tip of her tongue. And as she arrived at the doorway of the room to which she needed to enter, she felt it in her bones, in her marrow. When she opened the door, she became its embodiment.

The few steps to the bed took her years. She passed herself snuggled on his lap as he read to her for the millionth time, Put Me in the Zoo.

She watched as she sat between he and her mother on the yellow paisley couch, as they tried to explain why they would no longer be a family.

She saw the desperation on his face as he finally allowed her to call her mother, but would not yet let her go home to her, still.

She remembered tearing open the Christmas wrap to see the purple down coat she’d wanted so badly, the yolk-only egg sandwiches on Sunday mornings, and stove-popped popcorn with a rented movie on their every-other Saturday nights.

She saw his suntanned, orange-tinted left arm that was darker than the rest of him from hanging out his truck window, his splashing in the pool and volleyball in the summer, and helping her step-brother with homework at the kitchen table while he looked on drinking Pepsi from a two liter bottle.

She remembered the wishing she belonged, that she fit with them differently, more.

The coughing, she remembered the coughing that just kept getting worse, the constant handkerchiefs in his pockets and on the end table with his Winstons next to his chair, the red-faced breathlessness and the wheezing. And the fear in his eyes.

She remembered the devastating, life-altering heartbreak and the disappearing and the wondering, the worry and the doubt. The reconnecting and the doctors and the testing.

And finally, the hope. The hope which had fizzled away the night before with every sizzle and crack, hiss and bang and pop.

Standing next to the impersonal-feeling bed, she gripped the cold, stark metal of the railing with both hands, trying to take in all that she saw. The blinking and the beeping in the semi-darkness, the machine whose trepidus noise filled the room.

Suck, push, suck, push. SUCK. PUSH.

Eerily loud and unwelcome, it was reminiscent of the sounds heard outside the window the night before.

Her eyes ran the length of the shiny metal pole on which the machine was mounted, down to the swiveling wheels which allowed it to be maneuvered to where it was needed. She noticed the simple black cord which extended to the wall.

How could such an ordinary-looking plug hold life in the balance?

Letting loose her grip a bit, she became deftly aware of her own breath, in and out, of her own heart beating, ga-gong, ga-gong, so loudly in her chest that it rang in her ears.

Reaching out, she rested her hand on his chest, feeling the unfamiliar, robotic rise and fall. She felt the cool absence, the force of what would not be.

And then she looked up, nodded her head, and closing her water-filled eyes, she felt with the length of her fingers, with the lifeline in the palm of her hand. With her very soul.

The robotic gave way to an arhythmic slowing:

Rise..fall….rise…..fall…….rise……..fall.

Fall.

Beneath her palm there was only stillness. In the tips of her fingers, there was only the thump of her own heartbeat, the trembling cry of her core.

BOOM.

And he was gone.

-photo found on Pixabay free photos 

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