It was odd, having a hospital bed in the house, a morphine drip-bag next to it, attached to a metal stand. I especially hated the head-brace with the four clamps, and the way the four prongs actually entered the flesh of your skull. The memory of that spring morning is like a frozen painting in my head, like a song that you not only know every note of, but is also a selection from the soundtrack to your life – inescapable, like weather or family bloodline or disease carried by mosquitos.
I awoke to the smell of a decomposing body. Realizing I had missed the chance to say goodbye, I cautiously entered your room and kissed your cheek, then returned to my own bedroom. The paramedics arrived, and because my bedroom door was open I could see them file past as they walked down the hall and into your room. I listened to the sounds of a lifeless body being wrestled onto a gurney, then watched them pass again with you in front of my doorway. The gurney banged against the wall twice and I winced. I don’t know why I winced, I don’t suppose it mattered that it hit the wall. That was the last time I saw you, unless you count ashes in an urn.
Twenty-five years and still trying to heal. That particular morning I wandered out and caught the bus to go to school, didn’t know what else to do, I guess. My history teacher saw me in the hallway and said I had to go home. He was normally a hard-ass, but that day I could see tenderness on his face.
Of course, when we say all we want is to be left alone, what we mean is we don’t want to be left alone.