Someone told me once that it’s instinctual to protect our minds as it is our bodies. I don’t think anyone else agrees with this more than I do. I see it every day. I see the shelter, that fragile web of safety and distance that Lane has built around himself, though I usually try to disregard it.
But it’s all too visible as it comes crumbling down.
He starts to say something, then falters.
“I think you should go,” he says quickly after several long minutes of internal conflict.
His words sting me unintentionally and worry sets in, “Did I say something wrong?”
“No, just, please. Just… please. Please go.”
“Do you need anything? I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
“Sadie! Please!” Lane gasps, drawing in a breath and holding it after these words until I pick up my purse from the chair and begin to back out of the room. When I reach the threshold he resumes breathing. His blind eyes stare straight ahead.
It takes me a moment to find the will to leave his room.
“Lane,” I whimper very softly to myself. But I shut the door. I tell Teresa I am leaving, and then I go home.
* * *
“Mommy!” Samantha squeals.
“Baby!” I call out in similar pitch, as is our usual greeting. Wispy brown hair flying over her shoulders as she rushes to the front door, she flings herself against my legs and hugs me as tightly as she can.
“I told you I’d be back soon,” I say with a laugh, hanging my bag on the banister and scooping her up into my arms. She giggles like crazy when I spider my fingers up her sides and across her stomach. A kiss on the nose finishes our afternoon ritual and I place her down so that she can run to tell my mother I’m home.
“Gramma! Mommy’s home!”
She is sitting on the couch folding laundry and separating it into different piles. Oldies are playing on the radio and she looks up with a warm smile.
“There you are, Sadie. I was sure Little Miss Samantha here was going to burst before you got back. She’s been talking about the Z-O-O all day.” Mom looks at her and she makes the connection. Excitement shows all over her face.
“Of course, the zoo!” I reply, and seize her again, flopping into armchair and smother her in kisses so that she can barely “Mommy, stop!” through the laughter. Her face is red and her eyes sparkle when I finally stop. She gives me the same smile I sometimes see on Lane’s face. For an instant I begin to worry about him again. But then Samantha throws her arms around my neck with the kind of love that is so pure and full and unquestioning, that it can only come from a child; and I realize I have to leave my worries at the hospital.
Samantha and I have a zoo to go to.