Their Eyes (Part 3)
A heart monitor.
My heart monitor?
A hand grabs the dividing curtain and yanks it over. The metal rings sliding across the bar make a noise. Chhhhhhheeeeeeerrrrrrrr. The fabric swishes back and forth as one end of the curtain hits the wall. Then it’s still again.
On the other side of the curtain I hear the bed wheels creak back and forth as the nurses maneuver it out the door. Then their voices are just echoes moving further and further down the hall that I can’t even see. Code! Doctor! Get me that! Help!
Apparently it’s not my turn yet.
Someone turned out the lights while leaving the room, probably out of habit, and now all I can see is a patch of yellow on the floor–way to my left. Light from the hallway.
I want to see.
I scoot to the edge of the bed. My toes dangle near the metal supports, freezing cold. I rest my feet on the floor before standing.
It’s a brief triumph. As soon as I take a step from the bedside, my legs crumple.
My hands brush the metal bed railing, the bottom corner of the sheet, smack against the floor tiles. I can feel the dirt, the stickiness, the cold. I don’t remember getting from way up there to way down here so quickly. Light, light…
I crawl along the floor, the air conditioner breathing down my half-naked back, in all the spots that hospital gowns don’t cover. I feel exposed, even in the darkness. I can’t see, can’t feel anything but the cold floor and cold air, and the inward ranting of my dark heart. Too fast…too quick….breathe…slow down….
“The kingdom of God is coming….even today into the hearts of his people!”
Craning my neck upward, I can hear the preacher’s voice, coming from the TV that I didn’t turn on.
“Need a little light, don’t we?”
There is someone standing in the doorway. I watch his foot tap the square of light on the floor.
“Your roommate died.” His voice is deep. Familiar. Repulsive. “Dug his own grave apparently.”
“No, they did.” I spit out without hesitating. I can hear the preacher’s voice in the background and finally understand why the man turned it to that particular channel.
I cough, and can feel my lungs constricting again. “You…wouldn’t…know.”
“Uhmmm.” He clears his throat, but the laugh underneath is apparent.
I feel bile rising in my throat. Just as he flips on the light, I throw up at his feet.
“Thanks for that.” He shrugs. “Maybe I would know better than you think.”
I open my mouth and manage to form a couple insults with my lips, but the words came out as a whisper. My throat burns. I taste metal in my mouth. Smell acid.
He swears, probably smelling the same thing I do. “Came down here to lead two funerals…might as well shoot for a third while I’m at it.”
“Sorry to disappoint you. I ain’t going to heaven.”
I can see him raise one scraggly eyebrow. “Well I knew that. I’ll just make all the guests think you did.”
“Might comfort them. Might comfort you to believe it for awhile. That’s what my business is really.” He nods toward the television. “Hand out comfort like sermon bulletins. Makes people forget about wrecks like you. Makes them forget about them.”
He pulls a stack of papers from his pocket, and drops them on the floor, right into my puddle of vomit. I reach for one and feel the sogginess of construction paper. See the colors–blue, green, pink. Stick figures. The word “Daddy.” A dog.
I remember the stack I stuffed under my own pillow back at home. Three years ago.
“Why…why are you…giving…these to me?”
“They’re yours….You made them.”
The burning sensation in my chest intensifies.
“Funeral. Funeral…you said funeral. Three funerals?”
At that moment the nurse scurries into the room. “What the–Awwwww, Miss!”
I crumple the construction paper card in my fist, ignoring her attempts to raise me off the floor.
I am babbling and they are both helping me back to bed and I am struggling, struggling so hard to get away and screaming at the top of my lungs for him to tell me about the cards and about my roommate and about why…why the third funeral….
Then I hear the nurse scream as she finally notices him. The preacher. Standing at her side. His hand cradling one of my arms.
The nurse’s arm goes limp, and both me and her crumple to the floor.
On the tv, I hear the preacher say, “The kingdom is coming…”