The pretty blonde nurse at the desk seemed surprised to see him. That wasn't strange, considering he hadn't come to see his mother in a while. He had talked to her on the phone a few times, but only a few. What was strange, though, was that this nurse knew his name. David was good at remembering faces, but hers didn't register. David shoved the thought out of his mind.
"Yes," David said subtly, reaching into his back pocket for ID.
The woman took in a breath. "That won't be necessary."
David looked at her.
She smiled sweetly. "Your mother is probably in-"
"How did you know who I was?" David asked, frowning. He could only hold off his paranoia for so long.
The woman said nothing for a moment. Her cheeks reddened. "I guess I never forget a pretty face."
David's frown vanished, as did his suspicions. "Alright. So where did you say she is?"
"Well," she began. She stopped. She made a tsk sound and then looked up at the ceiling. "She's probably in her room," she said thoughtfully. "That's-"
"I know where it is," David cut in.
The nurse hesitated. "Are you-"
David leaned on the desk. "Anytime my mother is moved to a different room, Jesse tells me."
The woman frowned and shifted her gaze to the ground. She was probably confused as to who Jesse was, but David wasn't going to help her. She must have remembered because her frown receded. "Well, is there anything else I can help you with?"
She looked up, but David was already gone.
Guilt squeezed David's neck tightly as he neared his mother's room. Why hadn't he come to see his mother sooner? He knew the answer, but he was ashamed of it.
He knew she didn't have long.
David sighed as he stopped at the door. Something told him that the moment he entered the room, he'd regret it, but regardless, he knew he had to. He took one last deep breath before placing his hand on the door knob. He turned it. Slowly and carefully, he opened the door. The smell of sick people rushed to meet him as he poked his head through the door.
Then he saw her, sleeping, curled up on a hospital bed. His mother. His mother who he hadn't seen in months.
And she looked terrible.
She was only in her mid-forties, but she looked as though she was in her late seventies. She was covered in wrinkles and skin blemishes from head to toe. For a moment, David thought he had entered a morgue.
Her roommate, who sat at the farther end of the room, looked much healthier than David's mother. This irritated David. He felt like maybe the doctors were taking better care of the roommate than of his mother.
He stared at his mother in silence for a few minutes. He tried to drain out the guilt, but it only replenished itself.
Suddenly, his mother's eyes fluttered open.
David's eyes widened. Fear shot up his spine. He felt as though he should run, but he stayed put. In fact, he froze.
His mother didn't look at him. She probably didn't even notice him standing there, still as a statue in the middle of the room.
"Hello, mother," David said quietly.
When his mom's eyes met his, he felt like melting. Why was he so afraid of his mother? This wasn't just guilt. It was something else. Something from his past was haunting him, but it was only a whisper. A vapor in the wind.
His mom stared blankly at him. She looked as though she recognized him, but wasn't too sure why he was here. She said nothing.
David gulped. "How are you doing?"
She frowned slightly. "What are you doing here?"
David was surprised at the question. So his mother didn't want him here. David knew this was a mistake. His gaze fell downward to the ground.
"What are you doing here, David?" his mom repeated, sitting up.
David looked at her. "I came here to check on you," he said venomously. "But I can see I made a mistake."
He turned to go for the door.
"Wait," she snapped.
David stopped, his hand on the knob.
"Sit down," she ordered.
David sighed raspily. He turned and sat down in a chair by the hospital bed.
"You didn't come to 'check on me'," his mother said accusingly.
David glowered. "Yes, I did."
She stared at him thoughtfully while David kept his gaze fixed on the checkered floor. "Why didn't you come to see me earlier?"
David said nothing.
There was silence for a few moments.
"That's what it is then," she said quietly.
He looked at her.
She turned her head away from him.
The ticking of the clock on the nightstand was louder than it should have been. It was the loudest sound in the room at the moment. Not that there was any competition.
"David, pretending like you don't care doesn't mean it isn't happening."
"I'm not pretending that I don't care."
"Then what are you doing?"
David shrugged. "I'm not sure."
She sighed. "I think you're trying to run away."
"Run away from what?"
"The bad things in your life."
David looked away. Most of the bad things in his life could be traced back to his mother. But she probably already knew that.
"Talk to me, David," she said quietly.
David didn't look at her.
"David," she pleaded. "Please."
Her begging only made it worse. He didn't want to talk to her anymore. He just wanted to get out of this room. But he felt trapped. If he left, he knew that he'd force himself to come back and apologize. If he stayed, however, he may say something terrible.
Like the truth.
David brought himself to look at his mother, and was shocked when he saw tears streaming down her cheeks. He had never seen her cry before. His heart softened. He turned away his face.
"I'm sorry, David," she said shakily, burying her face in her hands. "I'm so sorry."
David swallowed deeply and said nothing.
"I'm sorry for all the things I did. And for all the things I didn't do. And I know you have no inclination to forgive me, but please just tell me that you hear me!"
David wanted to speak, but his jaw was sealed shut.
She sniffed and let out a quiet sob.
David looked at her. "I hear you."
She looked at him hopefully. "Does this mean---"
"I can never forgive you for the things you put me through," David snarled. "My life is a living hell and the only person I can find to blame is you!"
There was silence. Yet David felt as though he was going to go deaf.
"If you think that a half-baked, superficial apology is going to get me to forgive you, then you've got another thing coming!"
"Then what do I have to do, David?!" his mother screamed.
"Give me the life I deserve!"
David's heart raced as his anger started to ease.
His mother stared desperately at him, her eyes bloodshot from crying. Her lip quivered, but she said nothing. David looked at the ground.
"David, I'm sorry---"
"Save it for somebody who cares."
David turned and headed for the door. It opened. A nurse stepped in, looking a little frantic. David assumed that he had heard the loud argument.
"I was just leaving," David barked. He pushed past him into the hall and walked in a forcibly calm manner towards the stairs.
Relief washed over him. He was finally out of that room.
But then came regret.
And then came sadness.
But the tears never came.