I wrote this story last June in response to a challenge by John Skipp on Storytellers Unplugged.
The assignment was to write a death scene that was emotionally connected, not just blood and gore. It was a topic that I knew something about. Today is the anniversary of my dad’s death. This piece would not have been written had I not had the experience of being there when he lost his battle with cancer.
No Cure For The Open Wound
by Martel Sardina
“So,” my daughter says to my nurse, “do you think he’s going to make it through the night?”
She thinks I can’t hear her, that the morphine has knocked me out. I can’t open my eyes anymore, but I’m still here.
I don’t care what these damn doctors say. I don’t have cancer. I’m not dying.
“If I were you,” my nurse says, “I’d say whatever I have to say before you leave. If you decide to leave.”
Great. Now the waterworks are on. I can hear her crying. Though I can’t understand why. Before the doctors told her I was sick, I hadn’t seen her in over a year. She had no problem saying goodbye to me then. I wonder what she finds so hard about it now.
“Okay, thanks,” my daughter says. She sits down in the chair beside my bed.
The nurse is fiddling with things. Must be adjusting the oxygen machine again. The air doesn’t seem to be coming as fast. Then she packs up her things. Her heels click-clack against the tile floor as she walks out of my room.
My daughter puts her hand on top of mine and squeezes it gently. Her hand is sweaty and I want to pull away but for some reason my arm feels heavy, too heavy to move. I’m expecting her to say something. Perhaps to make a pathetic attempt at an apology. But the room is quiet, save for the buzzing of the blood pressure cuff that turns on every fifteen minutes. When I could still talk, I told the nurse to take the damn thing off. Same with the oxygen sensor that’s on my index finger. If I’m really dying, why would they care about keeping track of such things? If I’m really dying, shouldn’t they just let me be?
“Dad,” she says. “I told them to shut the oxygen off. I can’t watch you suffer like this anymore.”
Suffer? This isn’t suffering. I’m not in pain. If she wasn’t so stupid, maybe she’d know that this is bliss compared to the way she hurt me.
I notice that the blood pressure cuff has gone slack. And that thing on my finger, it’s not there anymore either. I can still hear the beeping that indicates my heart’s still beating. It’s getting faster now. I’m having a hard time taking in air. I can feel my chest getting tighter with each labored breath. My heart’s pumping hard.
Click-clack. The nurse is back.
“Is this normal?”
“Yes. His breathing will become more erratic as things start shutting down.”
“What about his heart rate? It seems really high.”
“The heart is trying to compensate for what the lungs can’t do.”
Things are sort of going in and out now. I know they’re still talking but it sounds garbled, like someone talking on a cell phone from inside a bathroom stall.
And then it hits me…my daughter, my own flesh and blood just pulled the plug on me.
I’m angry now. She has no right to make that choice, to play God. I want to scream. I try to move but nothing is working the way that it should.
Goddamnit. I don’t want to die here. Not in this place. I wish she would have just left me at home. Let me die in my own goddamn bed.
I’m going to tell her that. If it’s the last thing I do.
I heave for breath, then open my eyes.
I can’t remember what I wanted to say.
I’m just going to rest my head on this pillow now.
She grabs me, hugs me. Her tears trickled down my cheeks. They’re warm.
I wish I’d told her that I loved her.