She nods her head, then I step back and shut the door, jogging over to my side. As I drive, I look over at her watching a bird fly above, her eyes following its every movement.
She watches the bird so intently she doesn’t even realize I’ve stopped the truck and I’m opening her door. Her eyes look at me, glazed over, almost as if she isn’t there. Almost as if her body is closing herself off from the sadness and horror she is about to witness. “You’re going to be okay,” I assure her as I raise my baseball cap to run my hands through my hair.
“What’s going on?” She finally finds the words to ask. The question pleading for me to tell her it’s all a mistake, but I don’t answer. I grab her hand and walk inside the revolving door to the emergency room. We walk silently down the corridor, her hand squeezing mine now. She looks up at me, asking one more question. “Is it Mom? Dad?” I can’t answer her; my heart beating for her can’t give in to the answer. I’m afraid I won’t be strong enough for her. I’m afraid that my grief from ten years ago is going to surface, and she doesn’t need that right now.[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
Her eyes go back to the floor, and her question is answered when my parents step forward. My mother has tears running down her cheeks, and my father has his arm around her shoulders. They are standing next to the nurses’ station. She looks back at me in horror. “Is it Nanny?”
I don’t answer because Crystal comes out from behind the nurses’ station in her everyday uniform of blue scrubs and Crocs, wearing a stethoscope around her neck.
Hailey takes one glance at her face, and her feet stop in their tracks. I look back at her, trying to lead her to them, but she doesn’t move; nothing moves except her knees when they start to give out and the most horrendous cry of pain comes out of her. I don’t get to her in time before her knees hit the floor and she’s on all fours. The look she gives all of us lets us know she knows; she knows that somewhere in this busy hospital emergency room, her husband lies dead.
Crystal rushes to her as she holds her in her arms, the tears soaking into her blue scrubs. I bend to pick her up, my body cocooning hers. I carry her to the white fucking room no family ever wants to step foot into. The room where the walls are stark white and not one picture hangs on them. Where four chairs line one side with a single chair facing it. The room where you go, and in five seconds or less, they tell you that your loved one who you prayed for, who you tried to make promises for is gone. That nothing you could have done or said would have changed the outcome.
Crystal gets up, and I go to her, pulling her to my side. “What the fuck happened?”
“It was a head-on collision,” she says in a low voice, hoping that no one really hears us. “He was DOA.” I close my eyes, the pounding forming behind my eyes is almost too much to bear.
“Where is he?” Hailey’s soft voice finally says. My father turns to her, trying to tell her something, but she snaps, “I need to see him.” I know from her tone that it isn’t a request, it’s a demand. She needs to see him with her own eyes; she needs to see that this isn’t just a dream. She needs to sit by his side and hold his cold hand for her to know he isn’t coming back. She needs to sit there beside his body that will slowly start changing color while she asks the only question she can ask, “Why?” I look down at my feet as the memories from ten years ago try to enter my mind, but I block them. This isn’t the time. I look up and hear Crystal try to tell her that whatever picture she has of Eric, she doesn’t want one of him lying on that bed.
I look past her and see two officers approaching. Frank and Landon come in, and I see it right away, the brown fucking bag. I groan inwardly as I think about the fireman on the scene who collected the things and handed it to them. The last of whatever remains of the victim. I don’t have to listen to the speech that Frank gives because it’s almost the same speech we tell the fire victim’s family who waits on the scene. “I’m sorry for your loss.” What a crock of shit. I lean against the wall, putting my head back. I need a fucking drink.