The breeze from the opened car window caressed my cheeks. I could feel a blunt and raw pain clawing from the depths of my stomach.
I was losing something again.
The detectives kept mouthing things to each other, then they would look back and try to say comforting words to me. Words that didn’t really work. Things like.
It happened in front of a convenience store in New Jersey a couple days ago.
We’ve got a strong description of the criminal.
We’ll find him.
There are enough uniforms searching the streets to find a needle in a haystack.
Blah, blah, blah.
We made it to the hospital and things felt even slower. The pain refused to subside and continuously burrowed deeper into my gut. My knees felt weak and the floor seemed to swallow me whole.
“Right this way,” said a tall slender doctor. He had glasses that matched his watch, and his watch matched a wrist tattoo he tried his best to conceal. His short hair was slicked back, caked with gel or whatever the hell he used to keep it back. I hated him.
He sat us down in a upper class waiting room, filled with rich old people probably waiting for their spouse to die. It was void of crying babies and paranoid drug addicts. The place just felt wrong.
“Do you know how to contact your mother?” asked a nurse. She sat politely next to me and placed a controlling hand over my shoulder. Just as the detective did.
“No,” I responded, beginning to feel overwhelmed. I just wanted to speak to my father. Yet, something in me was afraid to do so; afraid to see him.
“Any next to kin?” she continued, crossing off things on a card.
“My father’s lawyer,” I replied, “Mr.Green.”
“Yes, the detectives already spoke to him. That’s how we found you.”
After my father had struggled to become as rich as he was, he had eventually wedged a wall between us and the rest of the family. I never even knew my grandparents. There was even a point in time where I resented him for it, but I was sure he had his reasons.
The doctor came back in and the nurse gave me a soft nod followed by one of those grins parents give their children when their pets die or when they find out Santa isn’t real.
I hated it.
The doctor led me down a long white hall. We passed rooms filled with people wired to machines; decorated by flowers, balloons, and crying family members. Except my fathers room. He was just laying there with one of those gas mask that covered half of his face, and a small card that lied on the table besides him. His eyes were shut and he was covered in cold sweat. Two nurses stood by his bedside, fidgeting with the machines and constantly attempting to keep his brow dry of sweat. They gave me one of those nods and backed away from the bed, giving me room to approach.
The normally stern man had faded away over night. He was pale and gasping in a horrid attempt to breathe. His hair had lost its shape, soaked in sweat. They had cleaned him up the best they could before I arrived. But they had already done as much as they could.
“Hey Dad,” I called out numbly. My voiced echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls and slipping dreadfully back into my own ears. I stood there in the after silence, pressing my hand against the screaming pain in my stomach.
“You’ll be alright, right?”
“I bought Malena over to the house without your permission. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t do everything you wanted me to do last year in school.”
“I’ll fix my SATs and stuff. I-I’ll sign up for some practice courses. And I’ll look into getting an internship. I’ve been thinking about getting into real-estate and investing. Maybe you can show me the ropes. You always spoke about sitting me down and getting me to learn. A man has to support his family right?”
I heard the doctor whisper to the nurse behind me, asking about the lawyer; asking about my mother; asking about my age and asking about the district social worker. My breath began to quicken and my chest caved. I couldn’t think straight. Nothing made sense.
His eyelids fluttered. Just a bit; just a tiny bit. His hand slid up his body wearily until he reached the mask. He scratched at it weakly with his unkempt fingernails, begging me to move it. I slid it off of his mouth and his eyes opened.
“Hey Dad,” I said again warmly. My eyes began to water. I hadn’t cried in years but now I could finally remember exactly what those pains in my stomach were. They were tears.
“I’ll cook dinner from now on when they let you out of this place, okay? I’ll study too. I’ll even - “
“Go see her,” he wheezed, struggling to breathe. “Go see Malena.”
A smile slipped from his face and his eyes clenched shut again. His hand fell limply onto his chest and the beeping from one of the thousand machines behind him increased with anger. The nurse jumped in between us, followed by another nurse, and another. They corrected his mask and led me out of the room, slow enough so I could at least hear the beeping return to normal. He remembered her name. I remember the day I first spoke about her. He always told me to focus on school and would always call her that girl.
But he remembered her name.
“How old are you?” The detective asked, pulling me away from the room.
“We can’t let a minor stay home alone for an extended period of time, so we need to figure out a place for you to-”
“It’s okay,” I said, staring blankly down the hallway and clenching the birthday card that was on the table.
“I’ll be 18 tomorrow.”