You barely gave me time to breathe.
I’m not sure if that phrase can be considered crude humor. I didn’t intend it as such but the irony is not lost on me.
That day that you stopped breathing, I’ll never forget it.
It was surprisingly mild for Mississippi in April. I was wearing that white button down shirt with the blue flowers. I haven’t worn it since. It will forever be the shirt I wore on the day you died. I don’t want to wear it anymore, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of it either. I had my blue jacket on over the shirt. I was already upset. We were leaving that day, I had missed too much school and dad had missed too much work. He had told me the night before that we would go to the hospital one last time before we left but at the last minute that morning he had tried to change his mind. When he said we weren’t going back I got that panicked constriction in my chest that I’d felt so often that week. I wasn’t ready to let you go and say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to leave your side even though I wasn’t sure if you even knew I was there. I kept thinking that I hadn’t kissed you the night before because I thought we would be back. I had to give you one last kiss. I got angry and I cried until he let up and agreed to stop by quickly.
We parked in front of the hospital this time instead of in the parking garage since we weren’t staying long. I stepped out onto the ground. One of the things I most love about Mississippi is the way the dirt is always sort of sandy, like you never quite leave the beach even when you have. It made me think of playing on the beach with you and of riding through the farm on your four wheeler, sandy dirt spewing up around us. Thinking of you this way, long before all of this filled me with a sort of melancholy sadness. A half smile played across my lips. I led the way through the main doors, past the gift shop, around the corner, and up the elevator. I paused not quite knowing the way to your new room. In a way, I was glad you were out of the ICU with its dimly lit waiting room. The ICU was on the same floor as the labor and delivery. I thought it was strange how the hallway became dimmer and the waiting rooms more gloomy as you neared the ICU, as if highlighting the contrast between life and death. It seemed it should be the other way around, the people down the hall were already happy.
They had only transferred you because you were dying. I knew that. I thought I had accepted it. We walked past the nurse’s station toward your new room. As we neared, I knew something was wrong, I felt it in the air. My chest tightened again. I walked faster, almost sprinting down the white tiled hallway. I flung open the door and stopped. Ash was sitting on your bed holding you and crying loudly as I stood frozen in the doorway. “He passed about a minute ago,” someone informed us. I don’t remember who because I was staring at your face. It wasn’t you, it couldn’t be. I don’t know when I started to cry but I was crying. I was a minute too late. Too late to hold your hand, too late to kiss your forehead the way you had so often kissed mine.
I cried so much my contacts went blurry.
A few hours later we left. I knew we wouldn’t be back. As we pulled away I looked back at everything we were leaving trying my best to cry noiselessly in the backseat. I stared out the window trying to memorize the place I had always loved so much. It didn’t seem the same without you. Everything was blurry and undefined, maybe because of the crying or maybe because my eyes couldn’t quite focus. The only thing I could see clearly was your empty face. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t you. In some capacity I know it was you, but it wasn’t who you are, or were. The horizon slowly melted together and faded into the darkness as we drove on and on. We were driving home but I felt empty. Home felt like what we were leaving behind. Home felt like something I could never get back now. It felt like sitting in your kitchen eating ice cream or watching you sing that silly song the kids loved. The hollow feeling in my stomach didn’t hurt, it was worse than hurt.
It was the kind of pain that is dull and aching and never ending. It was a blurry kind of pain. Just like everything else in the world without you. Blurry.