Parkland Memorial Hospital.
11:17 pm . . .
We’ve been sitting for hours. Because of the serious nature of Jesse’s condition, only the immediate members of the family have been allowed in to see her. Visiting hours were over long ago, but the doctors realized that there may not be a tomorrow, so they eased-up a bit.
Angela and I are sitting on a burgundy vinyl couch, waiting for a miracle that I know isn’t coming. I don’t even look towards the observation room where Jesse’s resting because I don’t want to see it when the gatherers come. Earlier I sneaked away, under the auspices of fetching coffee for everyone, and called Hal. I asked what her survivability rate was, based on what information we had gleaned from Clark and the side-stepping doctors.
Hal was rather succinct in his estimation, “Based on all available medical case studies, and taking into account Taylor, Jesse’s medical history, age, and ethnicity . . . there is an estimated survivability rate of point-zero-four-seven percent.”
Less than ½of a percent.
I wouldn’t have even put it that high.
Angela hasn’t spoken in hours. She just sits next to me, her head resting on my shoulder, her body almost curled-up, facing me. And I hate seeing her like this. She’s in so much pain, and I’m not.
I wish I could give her some of my apathy.
A bit of my ambivalence.
I wish she knew the things I knew, without having to die to learn them.
She is so full of compassion and empathy, and this is terribly hard for her. I feel her shaking every now and then, and it just tears me up inside.
I’m wondering when she’s going to ask me about the episode at the bookstore. I know it’s coming. I just don’t know when. I hold her close to me, hoping some of my body heat will help her fight the sadness. But then, how stupid is that? What the hell would I know about her suffering?
I notice Ms. Josephine walking toward us, and she’s got on a pair of blue scrubs, like the nurses wear. She walks by, glancing briefly in my direction and winking. She walks right in to where Jesse is waiting to die. And I see, in that brief moment as the door is opening and closing, that the spooks have all scurried to the corners, scared of something.
That means only one thing . . . the gatherers are coming with their knives.
I hold Angela even tighter. This world is cold and it’s mean. Angela never got to say goodbye to her best friend. Because she thinks there’s more time. Or, because she doesn’t want to be intrusive while the family is worrying at her bedside. Maybe she just doesn’t want to see her bright-eyed, energetic, full-of-life friend in this deteriorating condition. To be confronted by the reality of death.
But as I hold her to me, us sharing our bodies’ heat, I know that some part of her will be forever lost after this. She’s resilient. She’ll recover. But there will always be this, these hours, etched into her soul . . . for as long as she is alive. Longer, even.
And for a moment I can see why people turn away from God, why they choose to ignore religion. I get it, now. It’s the problem most of us probably have: How can something so good be so cold and uncaring? How can God ignore this young girl with her life ahead of her? How can He let her go, as if she was nothing more than a sick insect?
Where is the Divinity in letting humanity be destroyed, even if piece by tiny piece?
See, me . . . I don’t have to believe or not. I know. My relationship with the man upstairs is a little different than the rest. I know He’s there, and I know He doesn’t have much to say to me. I feel awed, and at the same time, alone. In the cold dead of space, I’m worse than nothing. I’m the pointless little particle that spirals into infinity, and He isn’t going to shed one nano-second of regret.
But Angela, this may change her. She’s so intelligent and insightful. She might take all this as proof of . . . nothing. That is to say, she might use this to forge her belief in nothing.
About twenty minutes later Ms. Josephine left the room, the gatherer’s knife wielding arms lifted for full swing in the background as the door opened and closed. She headed back down the hall, maybe a bit slower than when she came. Again she glanced at me, but this time she nodded as if to say, She’s gone.
It wasn’t 30 seconds later I hear Mr. Blue being paged to Observation Room 3. All sorts of doctors appeared from every direction, racing into the room where Jesse is coding. Maybe the doctors will play tug-of-war with her soul for a short time. People will cry and scream and pace and fight, but in the end . . . the Land of Sorrows will win.
It always does.