“Is that for an anniversary?”
“I wish it was, haha, I wish it was…”
The goto is always spilling your story, hoping to receive some kind of human reaction. Hoping for someone to listen. Hoping to make someone feel, at that moment, your life is much more important than theirs. It’s too commonplace to share our personal grievances with random strangers — there’s enough of that in the media. And I’d like to bet, that young grocery checkout cashier probably wondered the entire day, what I had meant by I wish it was.
I was buying flowers for my wife. Not something I’d typically do on an average day — I mean, I used to. I mean, if it truly were our anniversary, or Valentines, or her birthday, or I fucked up again, I’d definitely be scoping out those 2-dozen roses. I used to buy flowers just because; that was nice also.
These weren’t those type of flowers.
Somewhere, somebody planted some seeds, little buds popped out of the ground, and this person cared for and nutured them. Fed their roots, trimmed their dying leaves, allowed them plenty of sun and nourishment. Once they bloomed, they were cut, cleaned, de-thorned, delivered to a florist, arranged in a bright yellow vase, marked with a price tag, and placed on a black, reflective plastic shelf, at precisely the moment that I’d walk through the sliding glass doors of the floral department, and find them.
These flowers were magical.
It was as if I was hoping, that in the act of purchasing them, an alarm would sound off. It’d be accompanied by loud horns and a rhythmically upbeat ditty, that some charmingly dressed man in a plaid checkered suit would stroll out from behind some conspicuous partition, holding a slender lollipop microphone, throw his arm around my shoulder, squeezing excitedly, and saying something like:
Hello there, I’m with station channel blankety-blank, my name is important-so-and-so, and this is, Some-Reality-Television-Show-People-Just-Watch-A-Rama. Those flowers you just bought are actually the key to saving your wife’s life. How does that make you feel?
It was as if I was hoping, all this drama was really a cruel joke somebody was playing on me — one that, after they realized how traumatized I was from it, they’d feel like an extremely horrible person.
A fucking joke? I shouldn’t have been so naive. Because it was so incredibly real. Too real.
It was my wife. Real. She was experiencing discomfort in her chest. Real. Her heart felt like it was going to pound out of its cage. Real. I drove her, in complete silence, to the nearest emergency room. Real. We waited for over three hours to be seen by a staff doctor — one that, by now, has been so desensitized from years of treating some of the planets worst souls, approached us with the same distant bedside manner, as that of a struggling drug addict looking to score a fix. Real.
There were no available beds in any hospital in the Southwestern part of Washington. Un-fucking real. We were transported by ambulance at 4 o’clock in the morning. Real. She was diagnosed with a massive Pulmonary Embolism. Real. She had been connected to machines that do this thing, and were making frightening noises. She was scared. I was scared. She could’ve died. Real. Real. Real.
Nothing prepares you for all of that.
You want to be angry, but there’s no means to a solution with that frame of thinking. And to completely surrender oneself to the agony, and the roller coaster of emotions, only to allow your fears to gain total control, could potentially be deadly. So you enter limbo.
Your sense of anything that resembles normality is shattered.
Yet somehow you remain hopeful and positive and optimistic, and are forced to find comfort in this new routine of swimming for survival in life’s biggest bucket’O bullshit. The beginning is hazy, and the end appears to be nonexistent. It’s that awkward space in between. And yet, no one can advise you which space to hold position — there’s no way to gauge that your making the right decision. You just do, you just go, and you just accept that.
You’re sleep deprived. Any rest you do get is superficial. You’re constantly worrying. You sometimes find yourself staring at your cell phone, but not too hard, because you don’t want to will it to ring — because achieving that sort of mental feat could only be followed by bad news. You turn into a spectator watching a never ending episode of your life. And you can’t look away.
Nothing prepares you for all of that. Nothing.
Still more, you hold onto faith, whether that’s some mystical being, or the idea of something much bigger than ourselves, that there’s always a happy ending. That you’ve seen so many different medical shows, that reveal what the problem is, and everyone always ends up living.
Everyone always ends up living.
There’s that saying, “you only live once,” but after all that I’ve been through in the past couple days, I’ve realized, it’s phrased incorrectly. I believe it should read, “you only die once.”
Because every setback you encounter is an opportunity for rebirth — a chance to live again, and again, and again, and again. You live many times in the span of one life.
So I’m hopeful this is a chance for my wife to live again. I’m hopeful this situation is an opportunity to get our shit in check. I’m hopeful that someday we’ll look back on this time and think to ourselves, man what a wild ride that was. Because that’s just what we do.
I’m hopeful this will never happen again. Because it can’t happen again. That wouldn’t be fair right? Or would it be? Would we be forced to look at it like, those are the cards we’ve been dealt, so we must live with it?
Clearly I’m not a medium, or any kind of fortune teller — I can’t see into the future. But damned to hell, I will not accept that fate. We are in control of our own destiny. We overcome. We shall triumph. We shall fight like hell. We will always fight like hell.
Because you only die once. Face the war, and win the battle.