She’s crying, not because she’s sad, but because she doesn’t know how to express what she’s feeling. She knows there aren’t words good enough for this moment.
So neither of us speaks, because there aren’t any words good enough for me, either. I press my cheek to the top of her head and stare inside her apartment. I look up at the painting on her living room wall. I smile, remembering the first night I walked into her apartment and saw it for the first time. I knew she had to have the painting in her possession somewhere, but actually seeing it displayed in her living room was an incredible feeling. It was surreal. And I wanted to turn to her that night and tell her all about it. I wanted to tell her my connection to it. I wanted to tell her my connection to her.
But I didn’t, and I never will, because this confession isn’t mine to share.
This confession belonged to Adam.
FIVE YEARS EARLIER
I’m sitting on the floor of the hallway, next to my father’s hospital room. I watch as she exits the room next door. “You’re just throwing them away?” she asks in disbelief. Her words are directed at the woman she just trailed into the hallway. I know the woman’s name is Lydia, but I still don’t know the name of the girl. Not for lack of trying, though.
Lydia turns around, and I see that she’s holding a box in her arms. She looks down at the contents of it and then back at the girl. “He hasn’t painted in weeks. He doesn’t have any use for them anymore, and they’re just taking up room.” Lydia turns around and sets the box down on the nurses’ desk. “Can you find somewhere to discard these?” she says to the nurse on duty.
Before the nurse even agrees, Lydia walks back into the room and returns a few seconds later with several blank canvases. She sets them on the desk next to the box of what I now assume are painting supplies.
The girl stares down at the box, even after Lydia returns to the hospital room. She looks sad. Almost as if saying good-bye to his things is as difficult as saying good-bye to him.
I watch her for several minutes as her emotions begin to trickle out of her in the form of tears. She wipes them away and looks up at the nurse. “Do you have to throw them away? Can’t you just . . . can you at least give them to someone?”
The nurse hears the sadness in her words. She smiles warmly and nods. The girl nods back, and then turns and slowly makes her way back into the hospital room.
I don’t know her, but I would probably have the same reaction if someone were to throw something away of my father’s.
I’ve never attempted to paint before, but I do draw occasionally. I find myself standing up, walking toward the nurses’ station. I look down at the box full of various types of paints and brushes. “Can I—?”
The sentence doesn’t even finish leaving my mouth when the nurse shoves the box at me. “Please,” she says. “Take it. I don’t know what to do with it.”
I grab the supplies and walk them into my father’s room. I lay them down on the only available area of counter space. The rest of his hospital room is full of flowers and plants that have been delivered over the last couple of weeks. I should probably do something with them, but I still have hope that he’ll wake up soon and see them all.
After finding room for the art supplies, I walk to the chair next to my father’s bed and take a seat.
I watch him.
I watch him for hours, until I get so bored that I stand up and try to find something else to stare at. Sometimes I stare at the blank canvas on the desk. I don’t even know where to start, so I spend the entire next day dividing my attention between my father, the canvas, and the occasional walks I take around the hospital.
I don’t know how many more days of this I can take. It’s as if I can’t even properly grieve until I know he’s able to grieve with me. I hate that as soon as he wakes up—if he wakes up—I’ll more than likely have to go over every last detail of that night with him, when all I want to do is forget it.
“Never look at your phone, Owen,” he said.
“Watch the road,” my brother said from the backseat.
“Use your blinker. Hands at ten and two. Keep the radio off.”
I was completely new at driving, and every single direction that came out of their mouths reminded me of that. All but the one direction I wished they had given me the most. “Watch out for drunk drivers.”
We were hit from the passenger side, right when the light turned green and I made it out into the intersection. The wreck wasn’t my fault, but had I been more experienced, I would have known to look left and right first, even though the light gave me permission to move forward.
My brother and mother died on impact. My father remains in critical condition.
I’ve been broken since the moment it happened.
I spend the majority of my days and nights here, and the longer I sit, waiting for him to wake up, the lonelier it becomes. The visits from family and friends have stopped. I haven’t been to school in weeks, but that’s the least of my concerns. I just wait.
Wait for him to move. Wait for him to blink. Wait for him to speak.
Usually by the end of every day, I’m so exhausted from everything that’s not happening, I have to take a breather. For the first week or two, the evenings were the hardest part for me. Mostly because it meant another day where he showed no signs of improvement was coming to an end. But lately, the evenings have grown into something I actually look forward to.
And I have her to thank for that.
It might be her laugh, but I also think it’s the way she loves whomever it is she visits that makes me feel hopeful. She comes and visits him every evening from five to seven. Adam, I think is his name.
I notice that when she visits, his other family members leave the room. I assume Adam prefers it this way so he can get his alone time with her. I feel guilty sometimes, sitting out here in the hallway, propped up against the wall between his door and my father’s door. But there’s nowhere else I can go and feel the same way I do when I hear her voice.
His visits with her are the only time I ever hear him laugh. Or talk much, for that matter. I’ve heard enough conversations come from his room over the past few weeks to know what his fate is, so the fact that he’s able to laugh when he’s with her speaks volumes.
I think his imminent death is also what gives me a little bit of hope. I know that sounds morbid, but I assume Adam and I are around the same age, so I put myself in his shoes a lot when I start to feel sorry for myself. Would I rather be on my deathbed with a prognosis of only a few weeks to live, or would I rather be in the predicament I’m in?