The Man in the Bed
The sound permeated the otherwise silent room. We stood looking at the source of it. The machine that made him breath. Silent monitors showed that
his heart still beat. The man, my father, lay there; a husk of meat and bone, and nothing more. His tongue poked out of his mouth like a pink slab
of ham. I could see the dents where he'd bitten it during one of his seizures. I looked away, back to the screen that showed his hearbeat.
His chest rose. Fell. Rose again.
My girlfriend's firm grip on my hand was all that told me that this was real, instead of some surreal dream. It anchored me to the world while I
tried to reconcile my mind to the thought that I was there in the room. I squeezed her hand. She never gave a sign if it hurt her or not. She
I'd seen him in another hospital room, in another city, not long before. It was days before his birthday and he was upset about being there. He
looked fine, other than that. He had originally gone to take his wife in because she couldn't breathe. They ended up keeping him, too. They both had
pnuemonia. Her case was more mild than his and she was already out. The nurses had said that he was getting better and should be home for
I looked across the room to my brother, Dan. I wondered if the same thoughts that were going through my head were also going through his. I doubted
it. He'd always been closer to the old man. Dad and I hadn't been close. We'd never understood each other, no matter how hard we'd tried. There
had been years where I cut off all contact with him. We'd started talking the year before, trying to patch up our relationship. I like to think that
we would have done it if things had gone different. There was just so much I blamed him for.
"Do you want to go get something to eat, hon?"
Joan's voice jerked me out of my reverie. I looked up at her. "Sure. My sugar's getting low. I need some air."
"Go on ahead," my dad's wife, Donna said, "If anything changes I'll have them page you."
We left the room. Dan followed us out and down the hall. "I don't know if I can do it," he said, "I hate seeing him like that."
He was talking about turning off life support. Donna had told us a couple days before that she wanted us to make that decision.
"I don't know if I can, either. Let's just wait and see."
We left the hospital not long after. Joan had to go home and I had to go to work the next day. Dan and I kept in contact over the phone. Nothing
had changed. He would let me know if something did, as he lived closer to the hospital and had been able to take time off of work so he could be
A couple of days passed. It was hard to get through. Too much was on my mind and I couldn't focus on the work. My supervisor understood and
didn't give me any crap if I messed something up. I just couldn't wrap my head around the situation. There was so much I wanted to know but saw my
chance of learning the truth slipping away every second.
There had never been enough food when we were growing up. There had been days when all we ate was soup for every meal because it was cheap and there
just wasn't anything else. Mom said that it was all Dad's fault because he didn't pay child support. Just like it was his fault that we moved so
much and I was never able to make friends. I didn't know if it was the truth or not. They'd both used my siblings and I as pawns in their little
game; playing us off of each other on a whim.
"Your dad is worthless. You're just like him."
"Your mom hurt me so much. She always does."
I didn't know who to believe. There were just so many questions that I needed answered. Why did he drop Dan and I off in the alley behind Mom's
place in the middle of the night with all of our belongings in garbage bags, like a couple of stray dogs. Why hadn't he come to see us for so long
after that? Why? Why? Why? Why?
A few days had passed and we were back in the hospital room. Dan had called and told me that I had to come. Dad was slipping. "Hurry. He's
His chest rose. Fell. Rose again.
We stood watching him. He sat up and started jerking. His whole body spasmed. Blue eyes opened and saw nothing. They were empty, glassy; a doll's
eyes. The siezures had gotten worse. I wanted to look away. I couldn't. I stood mesmerized as he thrashed on the bed and bit his tongue. A nurse
hurried over to one side of the bed. Donna went to the other side.
"Tommy, Tommy, it's okay. Lay down."
I wanted to scream. It was locked in my chest and wouldn't come out. Joan's hand tightened on mine. I was able to look away. I looked across the
room and into Dan's eyes. He was crying. We shook our heads in helplessness.
Dad's body settled back down onto the bed. The lines that measured his heartbeat became more and more irregular. They flattened. The room filled
with a tremendous stink. We all knew what it meant.
His chest rose. Fell. Rose; bringing lie to the fact of his death. The nurse disconnected the machines. His chest fell and did not rise again.
Donna sobbed and rushed to his side; buried her face in his chest. Dan was sitting in a chair, weeping. I looked to Joan. Her eyes were filled with
tears that trickled down her cheeks. My eyes were dry.
"It's okay, hon. It's okay," Joan said with a quavering voice. She meant it was okay to cry. I wanted to. I did. The agony and tears were there,
eating me up like a cancer but nothing would come. It could not come.
Nine years have passed since that day. His face still haunts my dreams. So do the unanswered questions. I wake up in the middle of the night,
reaching for a cigarette to calm my nerves and wishing that I still drank.
I wear the mask of a clown but these are the things that mark me. These are the scars that mar me.
edit on 24-5-2015 by Skid Mark because: Edit
edit on 24-5-2015 by Skid Mark because: (no reason given)