SHORT STORY: Davy, please wait for me!
an almost-true story
I stood outside Nancy’s room talking to the hospice nurse before she left. She told me it looked like the end was near, warned me to be ready for it if it happened on my watch, and made sure I had all the necessary numbers and knew who to call. I assured her that it was all in my packet from the agency and that even though I didn’t expect to be 100% in the calmest frame of mind when the time came (it was my first time sitting a death watch), I did expect I’d still be able to read.
I walked the nurse to the door, watched her trudge the snowy sidewalk to her car, and leaned against the doorframe to steel myself for the night ahead.
Not five minutes passed when I heard a laugh start from down the hall. It was slow at first, but amazingly loud like someone laughing at a comedy club full of people. I couldn’t believe it was coming from Nancy who I had only heard whisper five words in my three previous visits. “Turn me” “I’m wet” and “water” were all that those three twelve-hour shifts had rendered.
Before I had walked the twenty paces to her bedroom door, the laughter quickened, gotten louder, and turned fully maniacal. I froze at the power of it. I knew I should go in and try to settle her, but her eyes were already fixed on me and they blazed with urgency and yet did not seem to be seeing me at all.
At a moment impossible to define, the laughter turned. It was still hoarse, but all of the sudden increased in volume again until the sound shook the plaster of the walls and the liquid of my inner ear. There was no reserve–the cry of an infant that fully believes it’s parents have abandoned it in it’s time of most desperate need. My soul broke.
I did not move. Could not. She stared, screamed, sucked in breath like a swimmer going under, and screamed again. The hopelessness of it enveloped me. For a moment I thought I might pass out from the weight of the despair in the sound. And then it stopped.
I snapped to attention, the swoon past. Nancy’s eyes now looked directly into mine. Seized me. A thought flashed through my mind that it was odd she didn’t breathe in. How could she not after that release? The air still vibrated with the yet unabsorbed sound waves. That’s not hyperbole, I could feel that scream still hanging in the air like some leftover tones audible only to animals or special electronic equipment were still racing around seeking a witness.
Then she did the sinking swimmer gasp again and her face peeled back to let her mouth open wide enough for the wail to follow.
“Davy! Please wait for me! Please wait for me! Please wait for me! Davy! Please wait for me!” Over and over she belted it, and images lit up in my mind so real that I may have been watching them on television.
I saw a seven-year-old girl pulling on her shoes, calling after her father who was letting the screen door shut behind him as he went out to walk the dog. He looked back through the upper window with a loving father’s glance that said, “I’m not going any farther than the porch. Finish what you need to do. I’ll wait for you.” The man stepped out of view.
“…Davy! Please wait for me!…”
I saw a woman in her early twenties. She was in an airport, running down the hallway, right arm above her waving as if stirring the air would halt time if she did it hard enough. A young man looked back at her as he handed his ticket to the attendant. He looked up to the running woman, smiled as though his love for her was tearing pieces off of his heart, but he picked up his overnight bag and turned to the entry. He disappeared down the narrow hall.
“…Please wait for me!…Please wait for me!…Please wait for me!…”
I saw a woman in her fifties. She lay in a hospital bed, writs and ankles bound, hospital gown straining to cover her as she leaned forward unable to get up. A man that might have been her husband stood at the door of her room looking back. A tear ran from the corner of his eye but he smiled the sad smile of long term love mixed with guilt. The smile puckered and his chin quivered and he stepped from view.
“…Please wait for me!…I’m coming Davy!…Please wait for me!…”
I saw Nancy. Dessicated, frail to the point that nobody would believe she could feed herself, but she wailed like she was shouting down five city blocks as her reason for being became hard to see in the mingle of people in between.
“…Please wait for me!…Please wait for me!…Please wait for me, Davy!…”
The door the girl stared at as she screamed exploded outward like an invisible car had just plowed through.
The woman succeeded in stopping time and the frozen people in front of her blew apart in black and red dust.
The lady’s hospital bed collapsed and anything glass or plastic in the room blew into tiny fragments as the rage swept from left to right like God’s own hand had passed through a room full of china cabinets.
My vision focused and saw Nancy still held me in a locked stare. I did not even realize at first that the scream had stopped, the memory of the sound almost as deafening as the actual resonance. Her mouth settled closed. The skin of her face settled around it unnaturally slowly. All the while she stared.
Nancy chuckled lightly.
I collapsed in the doorway and cried into my palms. The hand of the woman due in for the next shift settled on my shoulder. I startled and turned and looked at her. My throat rasped, “Davy.” I turned back and cried into my hands some more.