“Where is he?” I ask. I need him to tell me again. I don’t understand.

“Ma’am, your husband is on his way to Cedars-sinai Medical Center. He is being rushed into the emergency room. Would you like me to take you?”

He’s not here? I think. He was in that ambulance? “Is he okay?”

“Ma’am, I can’t—”

“Is he okay?”

The officer looks at me. He pulls his hat off his head and places it on his chest. I know what this means. I’ve seen it done on the doorsteps of war widows in period pieces. as if on cue, I start violently heaving.

“I need to see him!” I scream through my tears. “I need to see him! I need to be with him!” I drop to my knees in the middle of the road, cereal crunching underneath me. “Is he all right? I should be with him. Just tell me if he is still alive.”

The police officer looks at me with pity and guilt. I’ve never seen the two looks together before but it’s easy to recognize. “Ma’am. I’m sorry. your husband has . . .”

The police officer isn’t rushed; he isn’t running on adrenaline like me. He knows there is nothing to hurry for. He knows my husband’s dead body can wait.

I don’t let him finish his sentence. I know what he’s going to say and I can’t believe it. I won’t believe it. I scream at him, pounding my fists into his chest. He is a huge man, probably six foot four at least, and he looms over me. I feel like a child. But that doesn’t stop me. I just keep flailing and hitting him. I want to slap him. I want to kick him. I want to make him hurt like I do.

“He passed away on impact. I’m sorry.”

That’s when I fall to the ground. everything starts spinning. I can hear my pulse, but I can’t focus on what the policeman is saying. I really didn’t think this was going to happen. I thought bad things only happened to people with hubris. they don’t happen to people like me, people that know how fragile life is, people that respect the authority of a higher power. But it has. It has happened to me.

My body calms. My eyes dry. My face freezes, and my gaze falls onto a scaffolding and stays there. I cannot focus. My arms feel numb. I’m not sure if I’m standing or sitting.

“What happened to the driver?” I ask the officer, calm and composed.

“I’m sorry?”

“What happened to the person driving the moving truck?”

“He passed away, ma’am.”

“Good,” I say to him. I say it like a sociopath. the police officer just nods his head at me, perhaps indicating this unspoken contract that he will pretend he didn’t hear me say it, and I can pretend I don’t wish another person to have died. But I don’t want to take it back.

He grabs my hand and leads me into the front of his police car. He uses his siren to break through traffic and I see the streets of los angeles in fast-forward. they have never looked so ugly.

When we get to the hospital, the officer sits me down in the waiting room. I’m shaking so hard that the chair shakes with me.

“I need to go back there,” I say to him. “I need to go back there!” I yell louder. I take notice of his name tag. officer Hernandez.

“I understand. I’m going to find out all of the information that I can. I believe you will have a social worker assigned to you. I’ll be right back.”

I can hear him talking but I can’t make myself react or acknowledge him. I just sit in the chair and stare at the far wall. I can feel my head sway from side to side. I feel myself stand and walk up to the nurses’ station, but I am cut off by officer Hernandez coming back. He is now with a short, middle-aged man. the man has on a blue shirt with a red tie. I bet this idiot calls it his power tie. I bet he thinks he has a good day when he wears this tie.

“Elsie,” he says. I must have told officer Hernandez my name. I don’t even remember doing that. He puts out his hand as if I were going to shake it. I see no need for formality in the midst of tragedy. I let it hang there. Before all this, I would never have rejected someone’s handshake. I am a nice person. sometimes, I’m even a pushover. I’m not someone who is considered “difficult” or “unruly.”

“You are the wife of Ben ross? do you have a driver’s license on you?” the man asks me.

“No. I . . . ran right out of the house. I don’t . . .” I look down at my feet. I don’t even have on shoes and this man thinks I have my driver’s license?

Officer Hernandez leaves. I can see him step away slowly, awkwardly. He feels like his job is done here, I’m sure. I wish I was him. I wish I could walk away from this and go home. I’d go home to my husband and a warm bed. My husband, a warm bed, and a f**king bowl of Fruity pebbles.

“I’m afraid we cannot let you back there yet, elsie,” the man in the red tie says.

“Why not?”

“The doctors are working.”

“He’s alive?” I scream. How quickly hope can come flying back.

“No, I’m sorry.” He shakes his head. “your husband died earlier this evening. He was listed as an organ donor.”

I feel like I’m in an elevator that is plummeting to the ground floor. they are taking pieces of him and giving them to other people.they are taking his parts.

I sit back down in the chair, dead inside. part of me wants to scream at this man to let me back there.to let me see him. I want to run through the twin doors and find him, hold him. What are they doing to him? But I’m frozen. I am dead too.

The man in the red tie leaves briefly and comes back with hot chocolate and slippers. My eyes are dry and tired. I can barely see through them.all of my senses feel muted. I feel trapped in my own body, separated from everyone around me.

“Do you have someone we can call? your parents?”

I shake my head. “ana,” I say. “I should call ana.”

He puts his hand on my shoulder. “Can you write down ana’s number? I’ll call her.”

I nod and he hands me a piece of paper and a pen. It takes me a minute to remember her number. I write it down wrong a few times before I write it down correctly, but I’m pretty sure, when I hand over the piece of paper, it’s the correct number.

“What about Ben?” I ask. I don’t know what exactly I mean. I just . . . I can’t give up yet. I can’t be at the call-someone-totake-her-home-and-watch-her phase yet. We have to fight this, right? I have to find him and save him. How can I find him and save him?

“The nurses have called the next of kin.”

“What? I’m his next of kin.”

“Apparently his driver’s license listed an address in orange County. We had to legally notify his family.”

“So who did you call? Who is coming?” But I already know who’s coming.

“I will see if I can find out. I’m going to go phone ana. I’ll be back shortly, okay?”

I nod.

In this lobby, I can see and hear other families waiting. some look somber but most look okay. there is a mother with her young daughter.they are reading a book. there is a young boy holding an ice pack to his face next to a father who seems annoyed. there is a teenage couple holding hands. I don’t know why they are here, but judging from the smiles on their faces and the way they are flirting, I can only assume it’s not dire and I . . . I want to scream at them. I want to say that emergency rooms are for emergencies and they shouldn’t be here if they are going to look happy and carefree. I want to tell them to go home and be happy somewhere else because I don’t need to see it. I don’t remember what it feels like to be them. I don’t even remember how it feels to be myself before this happened. all I have is this overwhelming sense of dread. that and my anger toward these two little shitheads who won’t get their smiles out of my f**king face.

I hate them and I hate the goddamn nurses, who just go on with their day like it isn’t the worst one of their lives. they make phone calls and they make photocopies and they drink coffee. I hate them for being able to drink coffee at a time like this. I hate everyone in this entire hospital for not being miserable.

The man in the red tie comes back and says that ana is on her way. He offers to sit down and wait with me. I shrug. He can do whatever he wants. His presence brings me no solace, but it does prevent me from running up to someone and screaming at them for eating a candy bar at a time like this. My mind flashes back to the Fruity pebbles all over the road, and I know they will be there when I get home. I know that no one will have cleaned them up because no one could possibly know how horrifying they would be to look at again. then I think of what a stupid reason for Ben to die. He died over Fruity pebbles. It would be funny if it wasn’t so . . . It will never be funny. nothing about this is funny. even the fact that I lost my husband because I had a craving for a children’s cereal based on the Flintstones cartoon. I hate myself for this. that’s who I hate the most.