Monday, April 27, 2009

the accident

(I wrote this earlier on the day I received my own phone call)

“Today is the day.”

She’d tried not to think about it, to stay busy. She had a pile of magazines to flip through, painted her toe nails, but strangely it was cleaning that she was drawn to. She sorted out the pantry, sorted out the laundry, for some reason sorting things engrossed her now, it was mind numbing, just what she needed. The thought of that was actually kind of funny. Of all the things to bring her relief from the waves of anxiety, that cleaning would do it was practically hilarious, so not typical of her. Graham might even think it was funny if he were there, might even crack a smile or make a joke. Maybe she should have told him after all. But of course, that would open doors she preferred to keep closed. At least for now.

Still, whenever Kate had a lull in those mundane household activities, that sentence popped right back in her head again. “Today is the day.” Today she would find out what the lumps in her breast were, the results from the biopsy would be available some time today. There’d be a call. A stranger, someone she didn’t know would be on the phone and would give her some sort of news.

She already knew what they weren’t. They weren’t simple cysts, they weren’t simple anything. They were definitely something. The mammogram and ultrasound had disproved they’re being nothing. But the type of something they could be was so variable as to make one’s head spin. The biopsy results would answer some, perhaps even all her questions. Or it could end up merely creating more questions. But in some way today would either be a beginning or an ending, it would change her entire life or it would go on as before, all would be decided for her in practically an instant. That huge difference would be determined for her by a voice at the other end of the phone.

The waiting was the hardest part. It was agony. Time for the mind to go to every dark corner; to explore every black hole. But perhaps the worst part was no one stopped her from going there. No one said she was over reacting, that it was nothing, she was being silly, letting her imagination run wild. That’s what she usually heard when she worried. In fact, people often seemed annoyed at her when she was anxious, like her worry was a source of irritation, a bother. She was, after all, a ninny as her mother tagged her, someone who over reacted. That label she new well, she wore so often that it almost felt comfortable. She half wished someone would call her that now.

But this time no one got annoyed with her for crying, no one told her to get a hold of herself. No one said she was over reacting. And that was what scared her the most. Because there’d only been one other time in her entire life when that had happened, when no one told her she was being a ninny, and the results then had been worse than unthinkable.

That night, that awful night when she and Graham had realized as the sirens screamed that Ethan wasn’t in the house, that he’d slipped out into the darkness, her first instinct was to run towards the sound. As she flung open the door she immediately thought any second Graham would tell her to stop being such an idiot, not to go running out into the night aimlessly. But he didn’t. He was right beside her. In fact he quickly passed her, outrunning her easily, his long legs covered more ground faster than she could. Did he look back to see if she was keeping up? She couldn’t remember now.

As she watched him race ahead and reach the main road at end of their peaceful little street the flashing lights of police cars and ambulances cast weird light patterns, a dancing red and orange glow against his rapid moving form. A police officer tried to stop him but Graham threw him aside like he was a rag doll and disappeared amongst the closely crowded emergency vehicles. As Kate herself finally got closer, another officer grabbed her but she wasn’t so strong as Graham. The man held her with all his might and after struggling for a moment she collapsed in his arms, unable to catch her breath, her chest pounding in a surreal rhythm with the flashing lights.

She barely remembered getting to the hospital, that same police officer drove her, or was it another one? Graham had been driven too but they weren’t taken in the same car together. Why was that? In all these years that small nuance hadn’t occurred to her until just now.

It wasn’t because he rode in the ambulance with Ethan; she knew that. Kate had thought that at first and was heartbroken, angry even. A child as young as Ethan should have his mother near him if he’s hurt…it’s the mother that comforts, that soothes, why would they let Graham go instead of her? But later she found out a police officer had brought Graham too, he’d not been allowed in the ambulance. That was even worse. Ethan had been alone, with strangers. Just like he’d been alone in the dark on the street, just like he’d been alone by the front door waiting for his father to come home.

Only later did Kate grow to understand that Ethan was already gone when they’d reached the accident scene, that it was merely a formality, a valiant production to make sure every last possible effort was made before pronouncing him dead. The wait for news then seemed insufferable but now Kate wondered how long it had really been…an hour perhaps, surely not much more.

Graham had looked so pale, so grim, so vulnerable as they sat waiting. She’d never seen him like that and never would again. Kate had been afraid to look at him too long, let alone to speak to him; afraid just the sound of her voice or the feel of her gaze would push him over the edge. She kept thinking of his mother’s story about how the loss of her siblings, that final loss of the baby Nolan, had been what did Deirdre’s father in, it had caused his death in her opinion. Had he been a strong man before that, Kate wondered, or was he weak like her?

Eventually the burning question in Kate’s throat could be contained no more and she had to break the silence, had to chance shattering Graham’s fragile, contained grip. But the question came out of her mouth wrong; it wasn’t what she really wanted to know.

“Did you see him, did you get to see him?”

His answer was terse, choked, short, “Yes.” And with that he stood up and walked away a few feet, waving his hand as if to say, “no more”.

What Kate really wanted to know was, “Did Ethan see you, did he know you were there?” For some reason her brain wouldn’t let her ask that, her lips couldn’t form those specific words. Later she found out the definitive answer, the impossibility of her hope that her son had known at least one of his parents was there with him.

The phone rang and Kate snapped back to the present. She stared at it a moment and let it ring one more time, then slowly reached for the receiver.

Today is the day.

1 comment:

Mervat said...

I hope you continue to write and express. I am constantly amazed that what we read here are your first drafts. You truly are a talented writer and communicator.