Newly Independent by: Aidan McCaul

Oliver had been in the hospital for 15 days before his wife came to visit him. He had recently been struck by oncoming traffic and flew about 27 feet before he hit the ground and was instantly paralyzed from the waist down. She, his wife, had reason to be upset, but her straight face as she walked through ICU proved otherwise. She didn’t frown or make any gesture that would indicate unhappiness, her neutrality was in fact quite disconcerting. The pale walls, speckled by minuscule black dots surrounded her as she walked through the corridor toward Oliver. Meanwhile He was sprawled out in bed, blinking once for yes and twice for no, watching television, with the hum of the fan
overlapping the voices of all patients in the wing. The screaming, oh the screaming was horrific, and once or twice every four minutes a bleach white stretcher would pass by his room, being pushed with much haste towards emergency care. He would on look and ponder the idea of what had brought each person in, ‘maybe that one was a burn victim in a house fire on the west side.’, ‘maybe that one was struck by a car as well, possibly.’ She reached the main desk of the intensive care wing and proclaimed she was visiting room 163, the attendant replied with a nod and had he
r sign in before saying “down the hall to the right.” He threw up small amounts of water and bile beside him and sighed in exhaustion, he tried again, but with a failure realized he still couldn’t move his legs. He prayed that at least one toe would wiggle as he tried with all his might, but it was a conclusive no. She reached the door of 163 and slowly placed her hand on the brass knob that would open up the rest of her life. This was it, married last month, and already restriction, whether it be this new disability she would have to live with, or her discomfort in understanding that she was not ready for this. She was not ready to live like this, with him, with anyone. She drew back and stood outside the door. He was not ready for this, he was not ready for stability, he in general, was unprepared for everything that was to come. The reason for uneasiness was just unidentifiable to him. He then threw up again, and laid back in his bed staring at the ceiling above and tracing the grids.

She walked in and immediately both pairs of eyes met each other and for a moment became stuck in that position. She walked towards his bed greeting him with a quiet “Hello, Oliver.” He nodded back in recognition, for his speech was impaired, the doctors believed this was just temporary. She sat in the chair adjacent to the bed and spoke calmly with small breaks, knowing that he had been mentally impaired as well as physically.

“Oliver, I know you can at least partly understand me. Listen, I know how you must feel about my absence. I just couldn’t bare to see you like this, knowing who you were and what you did before the accident.” she paused.

Oliver focused on her face and tried to understand, trying to control his frustration and anger, he gripped the keyboard he had been using to communicate sentences, he didn’t use this regularly because it was still a very tedious task, that just frustrated him even more. She watched as he began typing, his bony fingers resembling ivory spider legs as they stretched, pressing each key. She anxiously waited for a response to her obvious displeasure in being there. He stopped and the atmosphere of the room grew cold and uninviting.

“I wish i had died” read the small screen sitting across the room. She stared at him for a moment and he stared back. She grew pale with apprehensiveness, as he just stared at her. His eyes moved down to her fingers, no wedding band, he couldn’t remove his. She wanted this moment to be internalized within him, she wanted him to believe there was no life between them anymore. She stood up and walked out of the room and a silent understanding had been achieved, he laid back again grasping at aspirations in his mind that now seemed intangible and unachieveable. She closed the door to 163, and in an instant her life was committed to experience and selfishness. Everything was up in the air, she went back to her car in the garage of the hospital and sat for a moment with the engine on. Her temple pressed on the steering wheel, she bent forward and let the tears falling from her cheek hit her lap. She slowly laid back into the seat, and pictured what will be in the days to come, an  empty house, dinners for one, the removal of all things Oliver. She had lived in the same place for what feels like an eternity, four years with Oliver in the same house, mixing CD’s and records, sharing plates and cups, compiling DVDs together. She wondered why Oliver had patronized her so before the accident. She dug her fingernail into the crevice between her thumb and fore finger, and the wound already there from this habit began to bleed. She glanced out of the window, the wedding band laid just a few feet from the car, she couldn’t stand having to endure that experience with it still on. She thought about the rise and settle of the sun, and how the world, although crashing around her, would still be in this constant cycle. She sat for a while and believed she would never move, but eventually She backed out and began to drive towards the exit of the garage. As she moved through this darkness, passing cars and descending towards the bottom level, she expelled all memory of Oliver. The slow passing of minutes as she descended and drove out of the garage became a slow passing of hours as she drove towards any and everything, and the atmosphere of the situation really began to hit. Night had proceeded to envelop the world, and she was now unsure of every decision she had ever made.

She settled for a singular bowl of soup that night, and fell asleep to the faint sound of emptiness, and she wondered whether it was emitting from the lack of people in the house, or the unsettling finalization of a life well wasted.

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