He is lying down, asleep, peaceful. His face is pale, but beautiful; but it is still him.
The room is windowless, lit by a glaring strip light, making his skin look semi-transparent. The wall behind him is painted a muted blue, but is only slightly visible due to the mess of wires, tubes and equipment. It seems there is a constant ‘beep’ resounding through the room. His arm is elevated, a plaster of Paris cast, the other is lying by his side, a drip containing white, misty liquid connected to it.. His face is bruised, but recognisable.
I am sitting on a cheap, blue chair, its material rubbing harshly on my neck. At the foot of the bed a white plastic table, adorned with once blooming flowers, now dull with age. What was once bright yellow is now rotting brown, what was blazing red is now ghostly grey. All I can see when I close my eyes is that night. My son was coming home, walking alone, crossing what he thought was an empty road. He was hit by a drunk driver. We got the call from the hospital late at night. We came as fast as we possibly could
I keep running what I could have done over and over and over again. What if I could have been there? What if I could have driven him home? What if I had known earlier? The questions are building up in my stomach, filling me with guilt. Now we have to decide whether to let him die.
It has been a month since the accident, his condition is not improving. I wonder what he thinks, would he want to go? Is he aware? Is he afraid? If I could reach into his mind, find his thoughts and pull them out, I would. That is my main priority, him. There is nothing I want more than his happiness, all I want is for him to survive. Then there is my family. His sister is too young to understand, she doesn’t know; but the life she will know will be different, it will contain a void, the void of a missing brother. What about my husband? After the accident, he turned to disappearing, then remerging hours later, with the aroma of alcohol surrounding him. He would pay as little attention to us as possible, instead, heading straight upstairs, not speaking a single word. If this is the current reaction, what would it be like if our decision was for the worst?
Finally, there is me. I like to think I am holding it together. I am lying to myself. There is a small ball of guilt and anger inside of my stomach, growing and growing. If we chose to let him go, perhaps it would explode, ripping me apart from the inside, destroying me and my whole body.
The door creaks as it opens revealing the untidy figure of my husband. His dark hair falls over his eyes, casting his face in shadow. He edges slowly across the room to a similar chair in the corner. He keeps his head down, cradling it in his hands. From across the room I can smell the strong stench of beer on his breath. We sit in silence for minutes, I am mutely waiting, hoping, for him to say a single word. It does not come. We sit for what feels like days, until, with a harsh scraping, he pushes his chair backwards and heads out of the door.
All this time I have been replaying the accident over and over and over in my head, praying for it to influence our decision. It is not helping. Again, I am searching for answers, sifting through my memories one single non-existent thought to aid me
I cast my mind back to three days after the accident. I am sitting in this exact chair. My husband is stationed opposite me. There is a knock at the door. It opens and in walks the nurse, escorting a stranger holding a bunch of bright purple flowers in his trembling hands. The nurse announces that this is the man who hit our son. My husband is shouting now, screaming in fact, the anger hot on his face. I sit in silence, staring into the man’s eyes. It is said that the eyes are a window into the soul: all I saw in his eyes was guilt, the same guilt I feel.
I stand, and as if possessed, I feel urged walk to the door. I feel my fingers gently wrap around the metal handle. Outside the room stands my husband, leaning, alone, against the wall by the door, his head resting against the notice board. I ask where he has been. He does not answer, instead, he lets a solitary tear roll down his cheek.
The walls of the corridor are painted a ‘calming’ lime green colour with a double blue stripe at ankle height, just above the skirting board. The floor is a white lino, with dark green flecks marbled into it. It is soulless. I stand in front of the light, vanished oak wood door into my son’s room. Stationed by each of these doors is a pair of the same cheap blue chairs as inside. The bright lights on the ceiling are placed around thin plastic squares on the ceiling and are aided by bright ’emergency fire exit’ lights. It is soulless.
I stand next to him, listening. On the street, howls of sirens pass by as pedestrians talk and gossip. I am listening to the clock on the wall, the beeps from inside the room, time going by. I close my eyes and listen to footsteps as they pass down the hallway.
The footsteps stop and I open my eyes. The gaunt, long face of my son’s doctor is directly in front of me. We stare at each other for a while. Then, he says five dreaded words:
‘Have you made your decision?’