The days are hot and long. I am seven and standing in a room where everything's white, from the floor to the walls to the sheets on the bed. My dad sits in a stiff wood chair that wobbles when he leans back and to the left. He buries his head down in his hands and locks everything in place, controlling sobs so the tears only drop to the linoleum. The buttons of his plaid shirt are undone and it flaps down to his waist, sucking away from him each time the door across from his chair opens or closes.
I don't want to be here. It isn't fear. I felt fear once, but that was when the situation was further out of my control. I don't want to be here because there isn't anything to come from it. Nothing will stop dad's tears from carving microscopic river valleys in the floor, and nothing will bring mom back.
Her skin is still rosy, like she's been out in the cold too long only to happily come inside to a warm fire and hot chocolate with little marshmallows. Dad said she's resting, but that's a lie.
She died. Her breathing was shallow and sporadic and she struggled until there were no more breaths. At the point she stopped breathing dad's lungs exploded and he choked in the biggest breath I've ever seen anyone take. He did that five times, each one the slightest bit bigger than the last, before falling into the chair.
My woolen trousers make my legs itch and crawl like they're covered in bugs. I want to move but I don't want to disturb the silence. An invisible barrier blocks the open door. Each nurse that walks by the room slows but doesn't enter; they look at me and my father's rocking body, and mumble something about how sad it is and how it never gets any easier. We can't hear the words but we don't need to because we've heard them before.
I walk to my father. I smell his Old Spice and Barbasol shaving cream. In the last several days he refused to leave mom's side, not even to see me out of the hospital when grandma came to take me home at the end of the day. Each night he half-slept in two chairs pushed together, he said, so he could be near mom. And each morning he rose with the sun, bought coffee from the vending machine at the end of the hall, and, without showering, applied fresh deodorant and shaved.
He flinches when I put my hand on top of his head. The tears flow freely for another minute and then he looks up, his eyes a bundle of fire. He smiles but somehow it comes out wrong.
"Hey there Benny," he sniffs. "Sorry." He wipes under his eyes. "I'm so sorry."
I don't respond and stare at the floor. Dad picks me up and sits me in his lap facing mom. He buries his face back in my back and I feel the heat of his breath and his tears with each sob that jerks both of our bodies.