My phone rings. I stand and search for it. It is my mother calling. She never calls me at this time of day– never. She knows that I am in the middle of my meditations every day at this time. I’ve done this since I was in middle school, and I have continued to do so every morning since. She knows this. Why is she calling?
“Bell?” My mother’s voice is just below a whisper coming through the static-filled cell phone.
“What is it?” Her tone concerns me quite suddenly. Everything stops for a moment and I listen to her utter the next sentence.
“Zack is…” As she trails off in a blur of details, my mind sprints ahead, not stopping for a moment. It continues sprinting through all the possible meanings and implications of that line, all the way to the hospital. Upon my arrival, I am whisked into the Emergency Room, and watch in horror as he lies still on the stretcher. If the hospital had not been two blocks away, I would have missed him. His clothes had been quickly chopped away, and they had left his chest exposed and bloody. His arm has a bone protruding at a queasy angle through his elbow. Blood is everywhere, coating instruments, crisp cloths, uniforms, and the floor. Several nurses are busy cleaning up from the hurried procedure. A doctor is pacing in the corner. The machines are dead– no hopeful bleeping this time. It is all silent as I watch the aftermath.
I walk towards him, picking up his still-warm hand. What happened? I wanted to scream. What was he doing? A wave of panic floods me and I stand still to let it pass. I also allow the knife in my gut to stop twirling before I open my eyes and look at him again. His eyes had been closed. Or they were closed the whole time. Scars and scratches cover his face, and he seems to be oozing out blood from every direction. His arm would never have been worth saving, and they would have had to amputate it after getting his blood-loss under control. A fist-sized piece of metal protrudes from his chest, probably the main cause of the blood-loss. It was millimeters from his heart, and probably grabbed his lungs as well. With all the bleeding, it would have been close to impossible for the doctors to do anything. A cramping, slipping feeling tightens over my chest and I take a step back. It’s too much, to see this. I can’t do it. My brain begins to lock up, as I realize, Oh God, oh God, oh God, what is happening? The gears in my head are stuck, and my brains are pushing outwards, trying to expand past my skull.
There IS no more Zack. He’s gone. Dead. My chest caves inwards, and I land on my knees. The cream linoleum floor offers no give. I bruise my knees. But I can’t think about anything right now. I just can’t think. My mind won’t process anything.
He was with me. Laughing. His adorable cheeks. His soft, tussled blonde hair. His sly eyebrows, how they always let you know when he’s kidding. His wardrobe full of soccer jerseys that he collected. He was there. A vivid person, healthy, alive. Mine. What is– he’s– what am supposed to do? I let those beautiful memories slide past my mind for a long time. All those good things I want to remember. There’s nothing left. Nothing. Just me. Just my memories. I am all he has… Had. I allow myself to be ushered into a chair. My face is soaked with tears, red and snotty, and I accept a box of tissues. The damn things are itchy, cheap tissues.
It was tomorrow. Our wedding. It was tomorrow.