The afternoon light pours into the bedroom. Paul is late. He checks for his wallet before heading out the door. He tightens his coat as a cold wind blows down the street. The taxi ride back to the hospital is a long and silent one. The driver tries to make small talk, and so does Paul, but “yeah” and “uh-huh” don’t make for good conversation. Damn it! He thinks as he feels for his keys. He looks at his watch, the very watch that she bought him.
“Because you’re always late,” she told him. The gold watch reflects the afternoon sun. It’s odd. You would think of all days, today wouldn’t be such a beautiful day. He is already late and half way down the block.
“Forget it, I’ll take care of it tonight.”
Paul looks down at his watch.
Two women stand up as he walks into the hospital lobby. An older woman with a stern look on her face, and a much younger woman still wearing the college hoodie she had on the night before.
“Hey, how is she doing?”
“You are late,” said the older woman. He knew that she was not too fond of him.
“I know, Evelyn,” he said with restraint, “I just went home to grab a change of clothes and shower. Jo was with her while I was gone,” he says, nodding in the young woman’s direction
He turns to walk down the hall to Addy’s room, but the older woman stops him. “My daughter went into surgery already about an hour ago.”
“What,” he glances at his watch.
“They told me she would be going in at 10:45.”
“And it is way past that, isn’t it,” asks her mother.
“Mom, stop it,” said Jo, “we just came from her room. They wheeled her into surgery a few minutes ago. She is going to get through this.”
“I know that, but I just wanted to see her before she went in.”
“She told me to tell you she loves you.”
The old woman scoffs and takes her seat again.
“She will be out in a few hours and we can see her then,” Jo says, trying to reassure herself more than anyone else.
The three sit in the lobby, quiet and wrapped in their own thoughts. The constant tapping coming from Evelyn and her phone make Paul shift uncomfortably in his seat. Is now really the time to be working? As he is waiting for the doctors to come walking down the hall, he sits and stares at the coffee cup sitting the table. The coffee, that’s heat has long since risen into the air, has started to seep through the paper cup. A fly lands on the rim of the cup and begins to circle the edge; its front legs rubbing together as if ready to eat. Jo gets up to leave, “I am going to grab something from the cafeteria. Do you two want anything?”
“I’m fine,” say Evelyn.
“Paul?” She squats down to meet his gaze, “Paul, do you want something to eat?”
The fly flies away.
“What,” he shakes off the hypnotism, “I’m good. I’m good, thanks.”
The stench of sterile hospital rooms and the faint cough that comes down the hall fills the room and for a split second Paul thinks he smells smoke. Before he can process any of this, a large woman in a bright patterned shirt shouts from behind the front desk,
“Ma’am, you can’t smoke in here.”
He turns to see Evelyn leaning up against the wall with a lit cigarette in hand. He hadn’t noticed her get up from her seat. She shrugs to the nurse, “oh well,” and tosses the newly lit stick in the old coffee cup.
Paul checks his watch.
Barely any time has passed and Paul is getting antsy. Paul leans back in his chair closes his eyes and before long he was dreaming. Dreaming of the moment they called to tell him that his wife had been hit by a delivery van. His cell phone begins to ring an unfamiliar tone and he stops to think if he should answer, he hesitates. The strange ringing turns into Addy’s voice,
“Addy!” he looks around frantically as he comes to reality.
“Paul the doctors are coming,” say Jo.
He peeks at his watch.
“It’s too early. Dr. Andrews said the procedure would take at least 3 hours. He is out too early. No.” he says while shaking his head.
“Just wait here,” Jo says, “I’ll find out what’s going on.”
Jo stops the doctor just out of earshot, Evelyn joins them soon after. Paul is sitting in the lobby chair, knowing what the doctor is saying. A defeated shadow falls upon the doctor’s face. Paul can hear Evelyn’s breath catch as she begins to cry, falling back into the nearest chair. Jo turns to look at Paul and tears have already filled her eyes. She shakes her head. Dr. Andrews makes his way to Paul, but before he could speak, Paul looks up, chokes back a shy sob,
“Can I see her?” the faint cry of a grieving mother echoes down the hall.
“Paul, I am so sorry. There was a complication during the surgery and she-“
“Can I see her, please?”
Realizing defeat, the doctor turns and raises his hand to say ‘after you,’ Paul follows him into the operating room all the sounds he expected were not there. Machines beeping, staff talking all fell silent as he sees his wife shrouded in a blue sheet up to her shoulders, medical tape still stuck to her face. Yet, she is blissfully asleep, not dead, but asleep. Before the nurses could get to her, he gently removes the tape from her face and kisses her one last time. As he sits there the world goes silent, the only thing he hears is the ticking of the golden watch as time moves on, where his life stands still. The only thing that breaks the peaceful moment is the sound of the nurse behind him,
“Time of death, 11:43 A.M.”