Just an attachment to my other story Nobody Home
It seemed that the dimly lit corridor led perpetually forward, past the rooms that kept twenty-seven dying children separate from the living world that existed outside of the Samaritan Spirit Hospital. The woman’s tired feet carried her along down the incredibly quiet space towards her destination at the opposite end of the darkened hallway, two doors from the last room – left side. In her shoulder bag, were carefully carried two special surprises for the young man to whom she would read to this night: the first being a Snicker’s candy bar, as the result of a bet she had lost to the lively boy over a NBA Playoff score; the second was a gift that she had picked up for him at a bookstore she frequented these days.
Jacob, a seven-year-old aspiring geologist and explorer was unfortunately losing his yearlong battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Lately, in the innate anxiousness and dread that the woman had observed time and again in a child just before death finally comes, the bed-ridden youngster had expressed a desire to “be free”. Naturally in the woman’s mind, the boy needed his own copy of Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. The bag was overstuffed and heavier than usual, but the child was at death’s door, for Christ’s sake…and his mother was unable to visit very often.
The weary woman had once been someone’s mother herself – seemingly lifetime’s ago, somewhere – to a girl who was taken away tragically and horribly, far too young. And so, these nightly visits to the hospital where her own little girl was pronounced DOA only a year and a half earlier, somehow offered the mourning woman a sense of relief from her loss and pain. It never ceased to brighten her days and warm her very soul to see these kids smiling through such unimaginable physical pain and discomfort at the stories that she read to them – all hours of the night when they awoke in fear or tremors or the notorious drugged confusion state. She didn’t know how or why she was able to endure the repeated and anticipated deaths of so many of the world’s most innocent and undeserving victims of cancer; somehow that part of the relationship she shared with each one would be erased as it came along into reality – and she would be on to focus on the living patients.
As the woman rounded the final corner leading down the hallway to the end, she immediately noticed the bright overhead lights shining tellingly from Jared’s room. Her feet picked up pace and her shoulders hunched forward in a defeated position. The bed was unoccupied and completely stripped of its linens, the posters and drawings, craft projects and photos taken in the dayroom with the other children on the ward, all gone and wiped away from the memory of the sterilized hospital room – room 5472. The wheezing woman let the bag from her shoulder as she rounded the corner into Jared’s former room.
“’He’s gone?” her voice was expectant and soft, carefully low in volume and tone.
The female nurse at the window quickly spun on her heel at the sound of a voice in the room. Her eyes were wide with surprise at first, but immediately softened upon recognizing the woman. Her mouth drooped to a frown and her eyes welled up, quickly spilling tears over the bottom lids down her caramel colored cheeks.
“Yes,” she whispered, walking briskly across the room from the open curtains at the window, “he passed away about three hours ago, he was not in pain…” she looked down guiltily after saying such a stupid thing about a child who had suffered so much for so long. “Well, I mean not too badly – but his Mother didn’t make it in time…” the nurse returned to her task at the window, shaking the curtain out and dusting off the sill with her paper cloth.
The deflated woman stood completely still just inside the doorway, her eyes scanning the room, at a loss for something to say. She thought of the big, colorful book and the packet of basketball cards in her bag; she thought of Jacob’s mother and the absolute emptiness she would feel soon upon her arrival. The heavy-eyed woman slowly turned and left the room. She stopped in at one of the small, closet-sized rooms used for waiting and dropped off the book for a child or his family to read in the future. With that, she decided to just head home. Maybe she could actually sleep tonight…she doubted it but it was worth a try.
On her way past the nurse’s station across from the elevator leading down and out of the wing, one of the older male nurse’s called out to her. She stopped and let the tall, awkward middle-aged gentleman catch up to her before entering the elevator car.
“Hello Miss Jenay, how’re you?” The soft-spoken nurse held out both hands to hers, folded across her waistline. “I’m so sorry about Jacob….” His hands clasped around both of hers in a display of comfort. “I know you were close.” He went quickly; I want you to know…”
Jenay allowed the man to finish his condolences before noting the supplies tucked into his pack.
“Burn victim?” Jenay inquired with a sigh.
“Yes. He’s new, just got him in about half hour ago; he’s bad off.”
She shook her head and looked towards the whooshing doors of the newly arrived elevator car. “Poor kid…well; let me know when he’s ready for a story.”
It was the man’s turn to shake his head and look away this time, “Ahh, I have a feeling he won’t be getting that option, Ms. Cross…but God bless your soul.
The two went their separate ways at that.