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Life is all around; in the roguish giggles from the set of twin girls sitting across the waiting room, the bouquet of lilies perched on the reception desk, and the rush of nurses’ feet from one hallway into another. I can only focus on the sense of death and the Styrofoam cup of black coffee in my hand. It smells like a dirty woodstove, but right now I need something to clear my head. If that mean having to swallow down ash flavored whatever-the-hell-this-is, I’m all for it.
Macy hated coffee.
Don’t think about Macy.
I pinch the bridge of my nose and seek out the source of the voice. A pigeon-toed nurse stares up at me with sharp, moss-colored eyes. The blond twist of hair on top of her head barely reaches my shoulders. She clings to a clipboard and watches me with expectation, as one waiting for an answer.
“Sorry, did you say something?” I hate hospitals. I hate everything about them; the smell of antiseptic, the squeak of sneakers across the linoleum, the unforgiving fluorescents, and the way noises travel for miles and miles from one corner of the building to another. Nothing’s sacred here.
“Are you the one who came with Miss Calloway?” the nurse repeats.
She means Macy of course. Macy Calloway; beautiful, disastrous woman. “Yeah, that was me.”
The nurse looks down at the charts, and back at me. “Are you her… husband? Boyfriend?”
“No.” But I wanted to be. I wanted to be everything to Macy Calloway. “We’re tenants in the same apartment complex.”
“Ah, I see.” She scribbles something quickly on the papers. “Does Miss Calloway have any family we should call?”
A gurney rolls through the ER doors and, for a moment, I stare at the little boy strapped to it. Bright spots of blood bloom through the gauze wrapping one of his legs from the ankle all the way up to the knee. From behind, a nurse calls for a room. I catch words like “bite”, “dog” and “stitches”. Looks like he’ll live. A knot catches in my throat.
“Sir?” the pigeon-toed nurse prods, and I make eye contact again. “I was asking about Miss Calloway’s family?”
“Right, um…” I exhale and every ounce of my strength saps away. “She said both her parents were gone. No friends.”
Macy didn’t have friends, she had visitors; strange men who’d drift quietly through her door like a November morning fog. When they left again, the sadness on her face always grew more pronounced—more permanent.
“What’s going to happen to her now?” I ask, the flatness in my voice masking the soreness of these fresh memories.
The nurse runs a finger along the edge of the clipboard, a nervous habit no doubt. “They’ll take her body down to autopsy.”
“Autopsy? Even when it’s obvious the narcotics killed her?” I declare, appalled at the thought of a knife against Macy’s skin. It’s not like she’s going to feel it, but it still seems so wrong; like defacing a work of art.
“If a patient dies before they reach the hospital, it’s policy that they undergo autopsy, Mr…” She tilts her head, prompting me to give her a full name.
“Um…” It seems I have nothing to offer, just the static in my mind. I grope and fumble in it, looking stupider by the second. Damn my noncompliant brain. Damn Macy. Damn the whole world.
And then it comes, a white flag raised sheepishly amongst the dead and dying.
“It’s Will,” I mumble at last. “Will Harper.”