I don’t know how anyone could have survived that.
She’s just lying there.
Is she alive? There’s still color in her cheeks.
There goes another nurse. What are they all doing? What are they all talking about?
Dammit, I want to do something. To know something.
Why won’t they let me go back there?
They keep looking at a machine I think I should recognize but don’t.
What was that?
It’s been 15 minutes since anyone talked to me and I’m starting to panic.
Is someone looking at me? Oh, the receptionist. Both receptionists.
Now they’re talking to each other.
Why is she pointing toward the room where they took Melissa?
There’s something wrong.
There must be something wrong.
What could be wrong?
“Mr. Patterson?” Who the hell was that?
“Dr. Michaels. How is she?”
I can’t hear half of what he’s saying. Why not? He’s standing less than three feet from me and the room is quiet. What did he say? Her head? Did he say something about her head?
“How is she?” Why that look?
“She’s not good, Mr. Patterson. The damage to her head and arms is extensive and she will be going into surgery in less than 10 minutes.” The hell did that mean? Why isn’t he speaking clearly? “There’s really nothing you can do here.” Huh? He’s treating me like a five year old and I’m about to lose my cool. Patronizing fuck. “Do you have someone who can get you home? I don’t recommend you drive right now.” Patronizing fuck.
“Yes.” Angela. God save me. “No phone, though.” I’d left it at home when I got the call.
“Come with me.” He better get his hand off me and soon. We’re at the reception desk. “Mr. Patterson needs to use the phone.” Thank God he’s gone now.
The phone is placed in front of me like a fast food burger. I’m not even sure I’m dialing the right number while also knowing I’d never forget it.
“Angela Smithe.” Good, she answered.
“It’s Dan.” Silence that’s not good.
“Yes, Dan?” What’s with the resentment in her voice? That was months ago.
“I need a ride from the hospital.”
“What, you need to go to the hospital?”
“No, I’m at the hospital and need to go home.”
“Why? Can’t call what’s her name?” Not what I’m looking for.
“She was in an accident and is going into surgery and I need a ride home.” Why does the receptionist keep looking at me like that?
“Of course. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“Thanks. Sorry if I woke you.” That was strange.
Details are shared. The phone is hung up and returned to the surly judgemental receptionist.
Just have a seat. Angela will be here soon.
“Hi.” What? Angela.
“Oh. Hi.” She looks nice. What?
“Where is she?” Who?
“They took her to surgery a little while ago.” Thank goodness Angela wasn’t here for that. “They don’t like her chances.” I sound weird.
“Who’s ‘they?’” Jesus, the people. The ones here. “What happened?”
“She was hit by a truck while making a turn.” That’s the first time I’d said it out loud. “It was going too fast backing out of a delivery dock. It wasn’t going fast but fast enough. It took 30 minutes to get her out of the car.” I’m nervous talking to her. It’s been a long time. “The doctor said I should go home. Can you take me?” I sound like a kid asking mom for a ride to the movies.
* * * * *
My apartment feels different for who’s in it and who’s not. Not the apartment’s fault.
I know this is shock. I’ve covered enough trauma stories. Get your head in the game, asshole.
“Are you going to be OK?” Stupid question, she should know better.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” Something I’m about to ask her. “Angela?” She looks tired. “Are you OK?” I shouldn’t be dealing with this tonight.
“Why are you asking that?” Not sure.
“I just…” Can’t back down now. “I must have been hard on you, coming to my rescue tonight.” Just realized she’d been putting her coat on but is now putting it back down on the couch. She’s digging in. “When I got together with Melissa it was right after that night in the office with Charles…” Opening old wounds. Not great. Can’t stop. “I just hope dealing with this hasn’t been hard on you.” She’s irritated.
“It wasn’t until just now, Dan.” Great. Why did I bring this up now? “I thought we had managed to put that behind us but it seems that was just me.” A lot had happened that night.
“Look, I’m just trying to make sure I’m square with a coworker.” Square? “We all said a lot of things. Not all of them kind.”
“Goddammit, Dan. Charles had betrayed me, I’d told you I was in love with you and you’d essentially walked out after upending my life.” All true. “The tone of what was said matters far less the substance.” I don’t want to keep going down this road. Can’t stop.
“I did love you, you know. But all that was too fresh and I couldn’t wrap my head around all of it.” Lot of honesty tonight, all misplaced.
“Why didn’t you tell me that before?” Because I didn’t think it was what you wanted to hear.
“Because I didn’t think it would do anyone any favors.”
“As opposed to this conversation.” Yeah.
“I’d do it differently if I had a chance, you know.” Hadn’t really thought that one through, but I said it anyway.
“That’s not fair.”
“Isn’t it?” Now I’m just being a dick on purpose. Stop it. Can’t stop.
“No! What if I said I’ve thought about what might have been every night since Charles was put away?” What? Melissa. I’m a reporter, I’m paid to be calm. That’s on the job, though, and this is not the job.
My phone rang and I found where I’d dropped it on the floor in my hurry out the door.
Angela moved again toward the door.
“Angela?” She stopped. “Melissa’s still in surgery but it’s going well.”
“That’s great, Dan.” Genuine concern. I can’t tell. Melissa. One more thing.” Fuck.
“I’m leaving Chicago for Washington next week. I’ve accepted a job there that’s free of memories and regrets about Charles, you and the whole damn thing.” Oh. This didn’t need to happen. None of it.
“Good for you.”
“Goodbye, Dan.” The door shuts behind her.