By Michael Kimball
My legs felt heavy and sleepy when I tried to stand up to walk out of her hospital room. I stumbled a couple of steps forward toward my wife. I had to stop and hold myself up over her hospital bed with my arms. My back tingled and spasmed. I couldn't feel the back of my head.
I waited until I had enough breath to talk. I leaned over her in her hospital bed and whispered into her ear. I told her to wait for me to come back to see her. I kissed each of her eyelids and touched her hair and her ear and her cheek.
I walked along the side and the foot of her hospital bed with my arm holding onto the edge of it to help hold me up. I straightened my back up and held my head up. I walked away from her hospital bed, past the empty hospital bed, to the doorway and out of her hospital room.
I stopped outside the doorway. The hallway was so much brighter than her hospital room was that I had to close my eyes. I turned around to look back inside her hospital room at her, but it was already too dark inside there for me to see my wife anymore.
I walked away down the hallway, got on the elevator going down, and went down to the hospital lobby. I got my legs back under me and walked through the sliding glass doors and out into the parking lot. I had parked our car under one of those tall lamps out in the parking lot, but it had been so many days since then that I couldn't remember where or which one.
I looked up at the different lamps and watched the insects that were flying around the lights up there. I walked from lamp to lamp through the parking lot until I found our car. I opened the car door up and started to get inside, but my body wouldn't bend enough for me to get into it. I held myself up with the car door and sat down sideways into our car. I backed myself into the driver's seat and lifted my legs up into our car with the rest of me. I was too tired to drive and I was almost out of gas, but I thought I had enough to get me back home.
I tried to drive home, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. I kept falling asleep and then waking up afraid. I kept pulling over to the curb to sleep, but I could never sleep once our car was parked there. I would start driving back home again. I would pull back out into the street and then wake up blocks later. There seemed to be two grooves worn down into the street that seemed to keep the left set of tires and the right set of tires rolling me back toward home. I didn't even need to hold onto the steering wheel and I was almost back home.
I drove by the front of our house and saw that I had left all the lights at the front of our house on. It made me think of the lights on my wife's machines inside her hospital room and it made it look as if somebody were at home and living inside our house.
I drove around to the side of our house, drove back up the driveway, and parked our car there. I had left the front door and the back door open too. I walked into our house and down the hallway and into our bedroom. Our bed was still unmade and the shape of my wife was still marked out in the pillows and the blankets and the sheets.
I walked up and down the hallway and through the rooms of our house – our bedroom, the bathroom, the spare bedroom, the guestroom, the other bathroom, the study, the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room – but I knew that I wasn't going to find my wife inside any of those rooms.
I didn't know what to do without her there at home with me. I held onto my head, but my hair was dirty and it was slick. My skin itched too and my clothes felt sticky on my skin and kind of hard. I took my clothes off and let them fall down my body and into a pile of dirty laundry around me.
I walked into the bathroom, turned the hot water and the cold water in the shower on, got into the shower, and pulled the shower curtain along the length of the bathtub. The water hurt and the shower made me tired. My skin tingled and my back spasmed some more.
I needed to go to sleep. I wanted to lie down in bed with my wife and go back to sleep with her so that both of us could wake up again. I fixed the pillow on her side of our bed. I fixed the sheets and the blankets and pulled them up over where she would have been sleeping if she would have been there with me.
I got into my side of our bed and lay my head down and my cheek deep into the pillow. I turned over so that I was facing her part of our bed. I reached my arm out to hold onto the place where she usually was.
It was still nighttime outside when I woke up. I couldn't remember where I was in the dark. I rolled over and looked at my wife's empty side of our bed and I remembered her hospital bed.
I turned the bedside light on the bedside table on and looked at the date on my watch. I had been asleep for too long. I called the hospital up with the telephone on the bedside table, but my wife hadn't died or woken up yet.
I got up out of bed and went into the kitchen. I wanted to eat until I was so full that the food pushed how I felt out of my stomach. I opened the refrigerator door up, but there was so much food inside the refrigerator that had gotten old and started to rot. The blood had drained out of a package of steaks and turned the meat a gray color. The milk was lumpy and sour and had this crusty skin floating on it. The bread had a spotty mold growing on its crust and the vegetables in the crisper had gotten soft and lost their color too.
I closed the refrigerator door and filled a water glass up from the faucet tap, but even the water tasted old and flat. I put the water glass down into the kitchen sink and saw the bananas on the countertop. They had brown age spots on them and little flies flying around them, but I couldn't throw any of that rotten food away. I didn't want my wife to die.
I wanted to go back to the hospital. I wanted to be with her even if she couldn't be with me. I pulled two suitcases out of the closet and laid them out on our bed. I packed one suitcase up for her and the other one up for me. We didn't live that far away from the hospital, but we were both going to be away from home for a while. I packed up my toiletry bag up, along with enough days of clothes for me to change into until she got better or died.
I packed clothes up for her too — nightgowns and a housecoat, slippers and almost her whole drawer of underclothes. I packed clothes up that she could wear out of the hospital too. I packed the things on her bedside table up — an alarm clock, a reading lamp, the book she was reading, her reading glasses, and her glass for water. I packed her make-up kit up, which had the things for her to fix her hair up with inside it — a hand mirror, her good hairbrush, and a can of hairspray.
I packed her pillow up along with a blanket from our bed. I cut flowers from the front garden and put them in water so that they looked as if they were still alive. I started our car up and drove everything that I had with me back to her.