I must have blacked out. When I open my eyes, I’m staring at my knees. They are covered by a brand new, clean hospital gown reaching to mid-calf. I’m sitting on the edge, the very edge, of a hospital bed in the recovery room. A nurse is turned away with her back to me. She fiddles with the monitor and runs her hand along the tubes that braid their way toward my head. My other head.
I hop down and look at myself lying on the bed. So pale. Still not breathing on my own. I sigh and then wonder how I can sigh. My senses seem sharper. I can read the fine print on a label across the room. I hear the two-beat thuds of a keyboard beyond the door. How can I hear individual letters being typed sporadically? The sickly scent of antiseptic cuts through the faint whiffs I get of the nurse’s mouthwash, deodorant, and hand sanitizer. She turns and looks at me—well, through me, I guess.
“How ya doing, Jessica?” she whispers as she adjusts all the paraphernalia attached to me. “Keep on fighting, sweetie. You’re gonna pull through.”
Well, that’s encouraging. Her words warm me. In fact, I feel warm all over. My feet no longer beg for socks; some ugly green footies are serving my toes very well. Huh. I touch my abdomen. No pain. I check for blood. No blood. There’s a pocket, though, and something is sticking out. A paper. Maybe a lab report? Or discharge papers?
Or love note?
Silly me. I try to pull the paper out, but it’s part of the pocket, stuck or glued.
“Hang in there, Jessica,” the nurse says. I get distracted for an instant and suddenly there’s no pocket on the gown. Of course not. Now I’m not certain I ever saw a pocket or a piece of paper. Those super sharp sensations I experienced a moment before flee as I watch the nurse squirt something into my IV line. I move toward the door and scoot out behind her when she leaves.
I wander around a while trying to figure out where my family might be. I am oddly calm, not fighting for life, or panicking. The hallways seem dreary and lifeless. The early evening light spoons dimpled shadows on the walls near the windowed waiting room. It’s empty. I take the stairs and search floor by floor. All the waiting rooms are vacant. By accident I find Keith’s room, but he’s sound asleep. I try twice but I can’t get into his head.
The last place I look is the main floor waiting room. It’s kind of noisy, but there’s a “grief room” in the corner. The door is shut and a sliding sign says “occupied.” Hoping I’m invisible to whoever is inside I will myself through the door. Easy.
I’m shocked. Rashanda. With Tyler. Not who I was expecting to find hidden away in a grieving room.
In each other’s arms.
The tiny room has a love seat and two chairs. They are cuddled together on the love seat. Rashanda’s head is on Tyler’s shoulder, his arm around her, and his other hand holding one of hers. Cozy. I don’t know why I should feel the least little twinge of jealousy, but I do. They’re obviously very comfortable. So comfortable that they have dozed off. I get it. They haven’t slept much the last couple of days. This is traumatic for them. Still . . . this is . . . off.