The panic I’d felt earlier did not go away- did not even decrease- as the moments dragged by. I tried to keep my thoughts out, but somehow they wormed their way in, clouding my already foggy mind with a shadow of fear that blotted out whatever glimmer of hope I’d been holding onto. I had never felt a fear as great as it in my life.
At some point, Cordelia came in to see me, to stroke my hand gently and talk to me. I enjoyed spending time with Cordelia, because she didn’t sit there and apologize to me for things, didn’t cry, didn’t do any of the things every other person did when they saw me. She simply talked to me. She told me about the weather or the people she could see out of the window. And she read, too, from her Bible, which I found that I surprisingly enjoyed.
“‘Love is patient, love is kind,’” Cordelia quoted. It was my favorite passage, and sometimes I almost thought that Cordelia could sense that, for she read it a lot. “‘It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not-’”
Cordelia did not get a chance to finish the line, because at that exact moment the door flew open, slamming hard against the wall behind it.
“Griffin!” Cordelia hissed, letting my hand drop. I was sure that Cordelia had more to say, but something must have been terribly wrong, because there was the scraping of the chair as she stood up and went to him, probably to embrace him. More than ever I longed to be able to simply open my eyes, to see what was going on in the world around me.
Griffin’s hysterical sobs echoed off the walls, filling the room as he full-out bawled. The need I felt to reach out to him was unbearable.
And then they left, Cordelia no doubt leading him out of the room to a more appropriate place for his outburst. And I was left in utter confusion, desperate for answers that no one was going to give me.
Cordelia led me by the hand to a slightly secluded area, where she silently commanded me to sit down. I obeyed without hesitation, stumbling back into the chair. My tears blinded me; I let my head fall into my hands.
Cordelia said nothing, allowing me to do what I needed to- cry. She waited patiently until I was ready to speak to her.
I took a long, slow breath to calm myself. “Cordelia,” I mumbled. “Cordelia, they’re going to pull the life support.”
As soon as the words left my lips, I was hurled back into a fit of hysterics. Because once I’d spoken them, I knew that they were real. They weren’t just another image from a nightmare; they were reality.
Cordelia reached over and put a hand on my forearm. “Griffin,” she murmured, “you knew there was a chance. You knew that it was a possibility that she wouldn’t wake up.”
I wanted so badly to lash out at Cordelia, to scream at her for remaining so calm and logical when all I wanted to do was stop the clock and reverse the events of the last two months.
“Was I so wrong for clinging to that sliver of hope?” I asked her through my tears.
Cordelia shook her head. “Griffin, we are never wrong for believing in something. We are never wrong for having faith in something. But things don’t always work out, Griffin. And we have to accept that too.”
I let her words register with my mind. “So I’m just supposed to let go? To let them go through with this? To kill her?” I’d finally gotten my crying under control, although two small streams of tears still trickled down my face.
Cordelia lifted her hand from my arm, taking my own shaking hand in hers instead. “You will never let her go,” Cordelia told me firmly. “When you love someone like that, there’s so possible way to ever let them go. She will live on forever in your memories and in your heart. But, Griffin, she’s suffering too.”
I kept my face blank and emotionless as Cordelia stood up. She stared at me for a moment before turning and starting towards the hall.
“Cordelia,” I called after her. At first she kept on walking, and I worried that perhaps she hadn’t heard me. But when she turned around and her green eyes met my own, a fire burned deep within them, and I knew that I didn’t even need to ask the question that had been forming behind my lips. From her gaze, I was absolutely positive that she, somehow, already knew what I was going to ask her.
“There is only one thing you can do, Griffin,” she said as she turned away yet again, leaving me alone in the cold, dark, empty waiting room.
My mother and father were both in the room, both holding my hands, neither saying a word. The utter silence frightened me. It was obvious that something was terribly wrong, but I hadn’t the slightest idea what it could possibly be.
More than anything I wished that Griffin would come back. He would explain everything to me, promise me that it would all be alright, just like he always did.
When the door opened, I wished with every ounce of my being that it would be Griffin that was crossing into the room.
“Arielle’s due for another check-up.” It wasn’t, of course. It was only Dr. Landry. Another bit of silence followed his words. My mother let out a broken sigh.
“It won’t be necessary,” she whispered. Her words were forced.
Dr. Landry spoke again, his tone soft and even. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
Their words made no sense to me, but I knew that, whatever they meant, I didn’t like them. The entire atmosphere had shifted, becoming tense and anxious.
“What other choice is there?” My father asked. I’d never heard him sound so distraught. “She can’t go on like this. This isn’t living. We’re doing it for her.”
“Many people don’t understand how hard it is on the comatose patient,” Dr. Landry said gravely. “I think that you’re doing the right thing for Arielle.” He paused for a moment. “I’ll give you two some time with her, then. Maybe tomorrow?”
My mom let out a tiny sniffle. “I suppose the sooner the better. If you give me too long, I’ll change my mind.” She let go of my hand, then, and rose to her feet, following the doctor out of the room.
After a few stifling minutes alone with my dad, he finally spoke. “I’m really sorry, Baby Girl. I wish I knew what to say to you. I wish there was some way that I could- I don’t know, make it all better.” He let out a small, empty laugh. “I remember when you were a little kid, and I used to kiss you and make it all better. Too bad that wont work now.”
I was sure that I was about to burst into tears- I almost longed to burst into tears and let flow all of the loneliness and sorrow and rage and every other emotion I’d been holding inside for as long as I could remember.
“I love you, Arielle. I really don’t know what else to say, except that I love you.”
When my father raised my hand up to his lips, kissed it, and then left the room, I was even more confused than before. Had he just said… goodbye? He hadn’t even once discussed ever going back to California; perhaps there was an emergency with Julia? My mind raced with questions that I would never know the answers to. Not if I was to spend the rest of my fragile eternity trapped in this never-ending darkness.
I mulled over these questions until I felt the presence of my mother beside me once again. Instead of taking her usual seat in the chair beside the bed, she slowly crawled onto the bed and lay down right next to me, wrapping her arms around my body.
She did not speak, she did not cry, she did not make a sound. But instead we just lay there, savoring the moment. And eventually I allowed myself to stop thinking, and I willingly let the darkness take me again.
I did not go home with Cordelia that night. I spent most of it pacing the waiting room, and the other part attempting to fall asleep in the hard plastic chair. It didn’t work, of course. As if I could really sleep.
The hospital burst back into life just as the sunlight began to creep in through the massive windows. I watched the nurses and doctors and visitors around me pass by in their own little worlds. Some were smiling, some were crying, and some- like me- showed no emotion whatsoever.
The clock on the wall was stuck at nine- forty-seven, where it had stopped suddenly the night before. My pessimistic mind couldn’t help but wonder if the clock was symbolic of Arielle’s heart. It was stuck, dead, no longer beating.
Just as I was about to drop into the chair for another try at sleep, Stephanie stumbled into the waiting area. Her clothes were rumpled form being slept in, her hair knotted around her tear-soaked face.
She fell into the chair beside me. “I have to keep telling myself that this is the right thing to do,” She shuddered.
I restrained myself from voicing my own opinions. This wasn’t more decision to make. “When are they…?”
Stephanie inhaled slowly, trying to come to grips. “Around noon or so,” she answered. “I won’t be here. I’m driving Joshua back to the airport.”
I reached out and placed a hand on her slumped shoulder. How could you leave her alone, I wanted to scream. How you even allow them to kill her? Instead I said, “It’ll be alright. I’ll be here to hold her hand.”
Stephanie nodded. “She was lucky to have you, Griffin. I think you did more in her life than anyone else ever dreamed of doing. I think you saved her.”
It took all I had not to let the tears threatening to break free loose. “Yeah, well, she did a lot more for me than I did for her,” I replied gruffly.
“Thanks, I guess, is what I’m trying to say,” Stephanie sighed. “You can go see her, if you want. Say goodbye and all.”
Nodding numbly, I forced my feet to move. Each agonizing step towards her room, I thought of the million different things I still needed to say to her. Most of them she would never hear. She would never know exactly how much I’d loved her, or how much she’d turned my life around, or how pointless life was going to be without her.
Or how short.
I turned the handle, and as the door swung open, I literally walked into Cordelia.
“Oh, Griffin, Dear, I’m sorry,” she apologized quickly. Her usually steady voice quavered, and as I looked into her eyes, I was surprised to find that they were moist with tears.
“I was just… saying my goodbyes to her,” Cordelia explained. “Reading to her and such.”
I nodded mechanically.
Cordelia took the hint. “I’ll let you two alone, then.”
I closed the door quietly behind her, but I did not make a move towards Arielle’s bed. I stared at her from across the room, the tears finally spilling over into silent sobs. Cordelia’s voice filled my head. There is only one thing you can do.
Taking several calm, deep breaths, I crossed the room hesitantly. Once I reached her bedside, I paused for but a second before dropping to my knees upon the linoleum floor.
I looked up with a heavy sigh. This is not what I wanted to do, but I needed to. Had to try this one last thing.
“Um I don’t think I’ve ever done this before, but I have to now. “ I felt so self- conscious, kneeling there like that. Why was I even doing this? I might as well have been talking to myself.
“I don’t know if you’re there. If you even exist, or if this is all in vain. Even if you do, I don’t know if You’ll listen to me. But I have to try. I have to try for her, or I’ve failed her.
“Okay, look, the fact of the matter is… I need her. More than life itself, I need her. And if she’s not here, then it’s pretty much a guarantee that I won’t be either. If she goes, I go.” I was blabbering now, pouring out every thought I’d had in the last twenty-four hours.
“So, I guess, what I’m asking is…could you please…” My voice wavered and I swallowed hard, closing my eyes to get Arielle out of my line of sight. It hurt too much to see her and know she was going to be gone from me forever.
“Please help her. Bring her back. Please bring her back to me.” I couldn’t say anymore; words seemed inadequate in the reality of how much I needed her.
I moved, then, so that I could sit beside her on the bed. With a trembling hand I caressed her cheek, tracing a long scar that stretched over her cheek. They would never heal, these cuts. But all I saw was perfection.
Ever so gently, I moved her over so that I could lay beside her, propped up on one elbow. “I love you,” I whispered in a tone barely audible to my own ears.
I bent to kiss her then, my lips barely touching hers. There was no hope in that touch. No warmth, no promises that could never be kept. This was a goodbye, the only way I could bear to say it.
Afterward I bent my head and cried, hoping, trying to believe, even a little bit, that God would bring her back to me.