- Those closest will leave
- Be quick to take offense
- Smiles are transitory
- Friends even more so
- Hold back screams
- The heart always races at times like this
- An exploding heart doesn’t kill
- Dreams of safety do not materialize
- There are no answers
- You can’t disappear
- Over-sensitivity and hyper-vigilance must be permanent
- Punching a mattress is the best stress reliever
- Avoiding others is not recommended but ofttimes is advisable
- Hands over the ears will not stop the voices and the pain
- Covering your eyes does not stop you from seeing
- Sometimes a primal scream is all you can do
Inside the white room with assorted tubes, bags, and electronic panels, several machines whir and beep at regular and irregular intervals. It was thirty minutes after shift change, and she would not see a nurse for another hour.
She curled her hand, then wove her arm through the side rails of her father’s hospital bed; caught herself and pulled back. She decided to press one of the buttons on the control panel. Might as well raise his head and back a little. No point letting the blood pool or whatever the hell it does.
She leaned back in the godawful hospital chair that gave her a headache and closed her eyes.
Her father had taught her to be assertive—she learned to never display her temper, but, once on the offensive, stay there. In life, defense loses.
Years earlier on a Saturday morning, she went with him to his law firm— the firm he founded—and discovered files missing, books gone, desks and chairs absent, divan cushions scattered on the floor, and a note scribbled across a ripped piece of cardboard. Her father froze, momentarily recovered, and asked her to wait in the hallway a moment. When she heard him tell a client he was having the furniture and rugs cleaned—she learned to hide her fear.
That morning her father paced, his right hand clenched and his left pressed against his mouth. He walked out of his office side door into the men’s’ restroom. After what to a child seemed forever, he emerged rigid but smiling—she learned how fleeting friends are.
The morning her father left their house with the beautiful furniture, playroom, and piano room, he told her he was in a hurry. I’ve got a hearing this morning. She found out later that was the morning when the Sheriff executed a search warrant of his offices—she learned of the façade necessary to walk outside the front door each morning.
When she witnessed her mother and father’s shouts, recriminations, and accusations—she learned how to take offense early and often.
On Father’s Day when she was seven, after he had just been told by her mother she planned to get a divorce, her father hugged her. She would have to leave her school, her piano, and her cats—she learned that promises and loyalty are merely words.
When her father walked past a homeless mother and her daughter, and, later, when he neglected to give comfort to a homeless man who had sought shelter on an icy, twelve-degree, night—she learned avoidance and neglect.
When she discovered he had almost laid waste to his life one evening in an abandoned shed in southeastern Nebraska with a shotgun in his mouth—she learned that terror hits even heroes.
And two days ago, when he finally told her of his diagnosis—the same diagnosis his mother, father, and grandfathers for three generations had died from—she learned mortality.
But tonight, in this hospital room, its bitter, artificial odors, and the rattling sound of her father’s hollow breath—she learned life is fleeting and heartache is permanent.