Yep, it’s finally here! I’m so excited that this project is actually still progressing, though at a snail’s pace. =) I did want to make a quick disclaimer before you read the fifth chapter. There is a spot in this chapter…and come to think of it, in other chapters, too….where the name of God is included. I promise, I do this very cautiously and only in particular settings because I don’t want to take God’s name in vain, even in a book…so. Be reassured that, if God is referenced, it is because the character is actually speaking to or about God. Hope that makes sense. Enjoy!
The Foolish and the Weak 5.0
The surgeon blinked enigmatically and ruffled the thin ring of fluffy hair that crowned his face. He breathed heavily, like a man under great strain…or like a man released from great strain.
Maybe maybe maybe
Brian reached for Jenn’s hand instinctively and together they waited for the heavy folds of tension hanging over the room to shiver and split. “And…?”
Don’t hesitate. Don’t whisper. Just say it, say it out loud so that it hurts like it should.
(say you love me, brian.
say that your heart broke when you left me…say that there is still time for us, my love, and that maybe it will be ok)
God grant this maybe.
The surgeon drew a worn hand over his face before he spoke. “I’m very sorry,” he said, his voice cracking and plunging like an echo off a canyon wall. “We did all we could. But your son…he died on the operating table. We couldn’t bring him back. I’m very sorry for your loss.”
Loss…loss, the sound of the word twirling softly around the room in delicate tornado dances.
The pain was physical and intense, so intense that for a moment there was absolutely nothing within the cage of his ribs. He had expected it to hurt, but not like this, not so bad that it was all he could do not to throw up from sheer pain. They say the truth will set you free, but God, if this is truth…
(what is truth)
truth is a harsh and cruel god.
He could feel himself blacking out from the pain. The room was looping over and over like a damaged video, swirling in grotesque blotches of color. Strange how a white room could have so many colors…
(red black red black red black…and now, whenever he closed his eyes, that was all he saw – emergency flashers in the dark.)
red black red black…
“Brian…?” Jenn’s voice filled the void in his chest and his heart thudded. He hadn’t noticed that, for a moment, it had stopped completely. Slowly the colors thinned like a veil, and through them he could see Jenn’s face. “Brian…?” she whispered his name again. Her eyes had the baffled look of a child betrayed for the first time. Not comprehending. Not crying. Just faded, wilted, like a flower snapped from its stem.
Brian steadied himself against the row of plastic chairs and pulled Jenn close. Now the pain was blunted, crushing rather than piercing. A few minutes more, he knew, it would be gone completely, and in its place would be deadness, warm and enveloping.
After the pain comes the anesthesia.
If life was as kind as the dentist, the anesthesia would come first.
He was numb. He couldn’t feel her head against his chest, couldn’t feel her trembling under his touch. So he enveloped her with someone else’s arms, comforted her with a voice that was not his own, because, just now, he did not have the strength to do anything else.
Nothing you can do for him in there, Mike had said…go in and be strong for your wife, Mike had said. Nothing is an ugly word, as ugly as black.
“Mr. Tracy…I’m sorry to bother you, but will you step over here for a moment?” The colorful dotted scrubs couldn’t mask the whiteness of the girl’s face, the anguish in her eyes. In this strange limbo state of emotion, Brian could feel for her, though he could not feel for himself. Not anymore. Not yet.
But he could remember his first week on the job. They had responded to a gruesome accident…there had been a child, a baby, only two years old….
It had taken seven years for that image to leave his nightmares.
“Mr. Tracy…?” the girl said again, hesitantly. Shame flushed her cheeks. That, too, Brian remembered – the clinging shame of intruding on the family’s grief. He wished, perfunctorily, that he could do something to reassure her.
“I’m so sorry…but…um…your wife really should come, too. If…if you want, I can keep an eye on your little boy while you’re gone…”
Jenn’s sudden and swift response caught Brian off guard. “No. No, he’ll stay with us.”
Brian could see the plea in her eyes and he knew the unreasoning terror behind it.
I know, my love. I feel it too.
Christian stays with us.
So he turned and picked up his son, and together he and Jenn followed the girl in the polka-dotted scrubs down the hallway.
Decades passed before the nightmare was over, long aching hours full of strange and horrible things. On TV it never showed this part: the impersonal, practical, nauseating details that followed. It always cut to the grieving family at home.
Real life wasn’t that easy.
In real life they didn’t let you just go home and try to grieve. There were papers, questions, merciless decisions to somehow be accomplished, and, meanwhile, a fog kept drifting…
(In, out, over, around…sometimes it surrounded him like the sea and he found himself drowning in it, half-tempted to never emerge. And sometimes it faded suddenly, cruelly, so that that it was like losing her all over again.)
See, I know how this goes. But I don’t know how I am supposed to get through it again.
I don’t know if I want to.
When it was all over, Brian and Jenn and Christian walked out in the twinkling night. The rain had come early and so even in the dark everything was clean and sparkling and dewy.
They were three.