by Elin Molin
The first time I visited her, she couldn’t speak. I couldn’t either, but it wasn’t the same. She was physically unable to, and I could if I had the words and the guts to do so. I wrote on a daily basis, but that didn’t matter right there and then. I was unable to find anything to say.
The sight in front of me scarred me forever. All I saw was her in a bed. The bed was white, a normal bed in a hospital. There was nothing peculiar to make that one different from any other, yet it was like I couldn’t imagine anything worse to see her in. It was hard to explain, but it was like the bed was bad in some odd, unknown way.
I wasn’t quite sure what the others expected for me to make out of the picture I saw. I wanted to scream, but I was afraid to. She was older than me; there was a thirty years age-gap. That didn’t stop my urge to protect her from myself. My heartbeat rose. Snow fell outside. I wished it would do the same in the room, because then I would be able to focus on something other than the growing knot in my stomach.
There were tubes, many of them. They weren’t what scared me the most. What scared me was that it was her in that bed. It was really her. When I had found out what happened, I couldn’t believe that it was the Nora I’d come to care for. Instead I pretended that it was someone else. It seemed impossible how the worst of fates happened to the sweetest person I knew.
Life was unfair, I knew that already, but I had never thought of it as that bad. It was worse than anyone who hadn’t experience cruelty could imagine.
“Hello,” I whispered. My voice broke at the end of the word.
My dad grabbed my hand. He knew I needed something to hold on to, and he gave it to me. I couldn’t help it but to notice how sweaty my hand was. I’m sure dad felt it too. He didn’t comment on it. It wouldn’t have been the right time to do so.
She blinked. It didn’t matter what colour her eyes were, which I still don’t remember, but they were as beautiful as I remembered.
Her husband was next to her. His tired eyes looked at me. They were red and puffy, like he had cried before we arrived. He was in a terrible need of a good night’s sleep. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t gotten that since what happened.
“I’m glad you could come,” he said. I wanted to answer, but I didn’t. I couldn’t make my voice heard. It seemed impossible.
Dad however did. “Of course we did,” dad answered. He spoke what I wanted to say. “You know we had to, Dave. We had to come, especially since we knew what happened.”
Nora and Dave’s daughter was nowhere to be seen. It was for the best. The one and a half year old didn’t deserve what happened to her mother.
I took in the sight I saw, and regretted not taking a glass of water before our visit. My father had offered me it in case the visit would be rough for me. I hadn’t taken it because of the nerves. I had been too nervous to accept it.
The white room smelled like hand disinfection. A nurse walked by with a bottle filled with it. They cleaned up a bed behind a curtain in the same room as her. A man had died there no more than half an hour earlier. Nora had been in the room at the time. I was glad at least I hadn’t. I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle it as well as Nora and her husband did.
I felt nauseous, like I sometimes felt in the car or on a boat, but this was different. It wasn’t seasickness; it was something more. I felt like I cared more than I should, like my care for her would eventually end up being my death. There was no other way that I could explain it. Colourful dots played in front of my eyes, but I chose to ignore them.
“Are you okay?” dad asked. His voice was as vulnerable as I felt; he could make himself speak even when I couldn’t. I could not. I had to pull myself together. This wasn’t an okay way to act.
She nodded, and shifted her focus to the husband. He gave her a notebook and a pen. It appeared that the left side of her body was paralyzed, whereas the other one, she could move. She wrote something down and used only her right side to do so, luckily she was right-handed. She then signed for us to come closer.
Her husband showed us two chairs in which we would spend some time by her bed. They were the most uncomfortable chairs I’d ever been seated in.
She held up the notebook. It read: Hi. I’m okay.
It was enough to throw me off guard. I had tried to think of a way to deal with anything that would happen, but I hadn’t thought of something as simple as her explaining how she was.
I didn’t want her to need to tell us anything. We should be able to understand without using words. Unfortunately we didn’t. It scared me. If I had not seen something like that coming, how would I ever deal with the rest of the visit I considered to be a nightmare.
“This is all shitty.” The words that left dad’s mouth were true, but harsh. I didn’t want to hear it. Dad was the kind of person who spoke what he felt. That day was no exception.
I hugged my dad’s hand, which I still kept locked in with mine. My desperate tries to blink the tears away didn’t prevent them from entering my eyes. My bottom lip started to shake. I didn’t want her to see me break down. I wanted to save her that. I bit the shaking lip. It tasted the iron-y taste blood has.
Dad hugged it back. He understood, and talked to Nora and her husband. I observed as I tried to pull it together. It did not seem to be possible. My heart was shattered in too many pieces. Some of my classmates would have called me a pussy if they would’ve known how I felt then, and maybe they were right.
I needed a new strategy. I started to ignore my feelings rather than dealing with them. It worked better and quicker.
“How’s your kid doing?” It appeared to be another one of the questions dad asked, even to me it did. It took a few seconds and three pair of eyes turned against me to understand that it wasn’t dad who had spoken. It was me.
She answered, but I couldn’t seem to catch what she said; since I was in shock my own voice had been the one to ask the question.
The discussion kept going, and the new strategy seemed to work, until the end. Dad and I stood up to say goodbye.
My stomach cramped. It wasn’t because of the knot that had grown bigger over our visit. It felt different and worse. It felt like my stomach was turned inside out and upside down. The pain made me want to vomit, but I did not do that. The dancing colours doubled, and then they doubled again. My ears exploded with a high-pitched sound. It blocked everything else. The shapes in front of my eyes changed from bright to dark in colour.
There were even more of them as dad went to hug her. The sound grew unbearable, and my knees got weak. It was like my legs weren’t strong enough to carry me. I fell, to what I expected was the ground, but that was not what it felt like. The ground was so far away that I could’ve sworn I fell miles down through open air.
All was black.
The first time I visited her, she couldn’t speak. I couldn’t either, but it wasn’t the same. I passed out because of it. The second time I visited her, she still couldn’t speak. Then I started to talk.