Chapter VI: The Last Xanax

I scratched for the last two Xanax in the bottom of my purse as the doctor opened the sliding glass door.

“I think we are going to try waking him up today,” she began. She smiled, per The Hippocratic Oath, and rubbed her hands with sanitizer. She stared at his body like a veterinarian ready to scrape together a torn-up dog.

“We can get him alert and go from there,” she finished.

I chewed a pill slowly, shoving the mush to the roof of my mouth with my tongue. I nodded.

I wondered what she thought about him, about us. I wondered if she thought we had raised our children in squalor, if we sat around on beat up couches passing pipes back and forth. I wondered if she could smell my perfume, if she noticed my fingernails were clean, if she had seen me crying in the hall.

“So what we’ll do is reduce the sedation and get him going. I will have a few nurses in here – we may need your help on calling his name, things like that, to get him to wake up, but I think it will go just fine. His bloodwork looks really good this morning, consistent, so I think we are safe to try it today.”

I nodded. The mush on the roof of my mouth began to dissipate. I squeezed remnants of the pill between my teeth, salvaging a few micrograms should he not open his eyes.

Nurses began to file into the room, and I moved away from the bed, as if the bed would soon levitate, push up through the ceiling and all of the floors above, to carry his lifeless body out towards some place where souls like his end up. I imagined Mother Mary standing on the hospital roof, gentle eyes and arms stretched wide, waiting to tell him he wasn’t good enough. Maybe she would notice me down below, spinning this powder around in my mouth, and raise me up from this 4th floor unit. He and I could burst through the atmosphere and catch fire together in the flames of the sun.

The machines quietened to a soft pulse and the nurses began pushing what they could through small tubes. Syringes began to pile up on the bed and I looked at the ceiling. Nothing yet. No sign of Heaven or Hell. No angels singing. No blinding white lights.

“Derek!” the nurses began. “DERRRREK!” they shouted. The doctor inched her way to the bed, rubbed his shoulder as if warming a corpse. She shouted, too.

His body was still, perfect in form and position, perfect for a coffin, for a final viewing. The tears began around my eyelids, and they burned for release.

“Derek! We have someone here who wants to see you!” the doctor announced.

I wondered if he even remembered me, if these last six months had erased all of our years together. I wondered if another woman would burst through the door at any moment and toss out little bags filled with her own powder of choice.

I wondered if he was even still in there, floating around with regret or hesitation, recounting everything he left me for, everything he left me without. Had I become something the sedation had washed away, something that was no longer necessary, something he had always wanted to rid himself of?

The nurses rubbed his legs, tugged at his fingers, pulled at his arms. I stared at his eyelids, hoping for one last sign of life I could seal up in an airtight container and take home to our children. The machines pulsated as the group called his name in unison. I folded my arms, held my breath, clenched every muscle I could, waited for my own release.

The doctor studied the machines, returned to his side, and waved me to the bedside.

“Why don’t you come over here. Sometimes if they hear a familiar voice, it helps.”

I inched towards the bed. I stared at his face. I picked up his hand, sat down on the edge of the bed, and leaned in,

“Babe, it’s me. I came to see you,” tears finally fell, dripped down my neck.

I squeezed his swollen hand. “Please wake up. I came to see you.”

The nurses were silent. The doctor smiled, pressed me on with a tall nod.

“I brought you some pictures the kids drew for you,” I continued. I hung my head – and sobbed.

“Looks like we have some movement!” a nurse jumped.

“Derek are you going to wake up and talk to us?” a nurse pushed.

His eyebrows began to twitch, his lips curled around the tube, he began to choke. The nurses took both sides of the bed, grabbing the tube and shouting new commands. His eyes opened wide and he leaned forward as the nurses pulled the ribbed tube from his mouth.

The commotion in the room was underway and I wondered if Mother Mary had moved on, floated over to another hospital, or a hotel with a body on the bathroom floor. I wondered if she was angry about his delayed condemnation and if she knew about the last Xanax I had in the bottom of my purse, rolling around like a lost soul.