Carey was working on making a wedding dress out of butcher paper.
She had a mannequin. One of the vintage ones with the gorgeous wooden stand and linen body. The ruffles had begun to form around the bust and she was working to start the bodice, each pearl tipped pin strategically placed and each fold creating a stunning silhouette.
Our broadway office as dimly lit by the chandelier and the leaves had fallen outside the open second story windows, letting in the fresh air that smelled of rain and tempura from the fast food place below our building. It was dark, and the heater in our building was always on high, making even the coldest of nights feel like an old man’s scotch and cigar by the fire kind of night in our brick lined second story abode.
I left before Carey was done with her night, snapping a photo outside our door, looking in. It’s black and white now, the original color lost to social media filters and cell phone purchases.
Adam called as I drove home, telling him that I was on the Esplanade, headed his direction. We talked about what to eat for dinner, how long he’d been at the house and if the dogs had been fed yet.
He talked normal, like all was right in the world.
It was the very cold and windy night of January 4th, 2013.
I had bangs then, and I was wearing a baby blue cardigan, extra soft and long, pockets in the front. My hair was in a bun low on my neck, and my leggings and pink studded flats were not adequately warm for the night we were having.
I pulled into our driveway, marveling at our Christmas lights that Adam had so graciously put up for me. Our Christmas tree still shone through my front window. Per tradition, the tree doesn’t come down until my birthday, 5 days later. Little did I know then that it would be much, much later than that this year.
Adam didn’t live there yet. It was just me at the time. Tony was on Christmas break from college, helping Mom and Dad at home with cows, and Adam was living in a rundown and quite cold house across town with some other friends.
Adam met me in the driveway, face serious. He was wearing a red shirt and a black fleece vest.
The drive to the hospital, a mere 5 blocks away, is lost to me. I don’t remember if I drove, or if Adam drove. What vehicle did we take? Did I go in the house before we left to get there? Where was my purse or my phone or my house key?
Auntie Shelly was already there, Adam said. She was not on shift that night but had scrubbed up and went in, simply so she could be in the ER when he arrived.
He was being air flighted in, and the trauma team was ready and waiting, she said. She met us at the door.
It was under construction, making the ER waiting room also the main entrance to the hospital. The door to the actual emergency department was a teeny beige heavy door with a simple silver doorknob at the end of a wide but very dark hallway.
Shelly said something about a social worker.
What the hell is a social worker and why do I need one?
She also told me that I would be able to hear the helicopter arrive, and that there would be a call for the trauma team over the intercom every two minutes as they got closer.
The voice on the intercom was a woman. Her words pierced the air around me, seemingly overly loud and unnecessarily harsh.
We sat in that hallway, on the floor. I sat with both my legs to my right side. My mind does not paint any sort of picture for me now, what the rest of the world looked like in there. If there was an empty chair or a waiting room or a person trying to help me find somewhere to go. I didn’t cry. I focused on a piece of lint on the brown tile floor in front of me.
They had not arrived yet. No helicopter sounds. No one I knew other than Adam and Shelly in my space. Shelly would disappear and then reappear often, back and forth through the heavy beige door. She would just look at me, and then turn around again.
“How bad?” were the only words I could articulate.
The answer, I already knew.
This blonde woman was kneeling in front of me. Her name was something that reminded me of a cartoon character and she spoke so slowly I wanted to slap her and tell her to just spit it out. Her words blurred together, and she looked at me with a stare like I had just been told news that I couldn’t handle. But there was no news. He wasn’t here yet. No one was here yet.
Why were they not here yet?
The intercom rang and two people dressed in all blue sprinted in front of me and went through the heavy door.
Did you know the helicopter shakes the whole hospital? Its wings moving enough air to make me feel like I was going to lift out of this life, right here on the first floor of a concrete and steel building.
It had been hours, I’m told. I had been sitting there for hours.
I finally did a scan. Our pastor was sitting in the waiting room. He didn’t approach me.
At some point, Mom and Dad and Scott got there. To be honest, the first memory I have of my parents is three days later.
Shock must have set in, since how I got from the floor and through the heavy beige door is non-existent to me now.
The slow talking blonde woman was still there. Her words meaning nothing to me.
There was another man now. His hair wild and grey and his glasses thick. He was dressed in street clothes but they called him Doctor. His Nike tennis shoes were worn well and he spoke coldly.
I was last in line. All these other people entered the room before me. Who were they? Why are they here?
He laid there, on a gurney. There were machines everywhere and all I could see was the recessed hole where your chest meets your neck, the sunken space where your collar bone meets its mate. It was empty.
“Where is his Saint Christopher? Why is it not here? Who took it off him? Put it back on him!” I screamed at nobody. I was suddenly in a time warp. The white and green room was spinning around me, and I was screaming but no one could hear me. Why can't they year me? Is my voice real? Is this real? Am I real?
I chased a woman out of the room, begging her to tell me where his necklace was. She turned around and spoke to some other person dressed in gray. All gray. They responded with some sort of nod and continued to briskly walk away.
“He didn’t have one on, honey. I’m sorry, we don’t have it.”
The next moments are so much of a blur. This street clothed “doctor” had a meeting with us in this box of an office. I don’t know who “us” was or what he said. Words like “brain swelling” and “Glasgow scale” and “waiting.”
I walked out of the door by myself. Adam must have followed me. I stared at him, and fell to my knees. I sobbed and punched Adam’s shoulder and couldn’t get my feet to work.
He picked me up and carried me like a child, slung between his arms as I retreated back into myself, only to come up for air three days later, when a man named Chris spoke the only word I needed to hear in order to breathe again.