I’ve been working on a new project that’s very close to me… I hope you enjoy this sneaky peaky! – Ms.Fortune
When Maggie stepped into the hospice room that contained her grandmother, she had prepared herself to put on The Show – the false act of prosperity and happiness she pulled out for family members, old boyfriends, and newly-met and/or long-forgotten acquaintances. She was prepared to tell her about her job and how hard she worked and how much she was needed, her friends’ successes and the inconsequential things we had done, and, of course, the exciting new relationship she was in. The relationship that had turned into a lie when the guy who stole her heart-shaped boomerang never returned with it, but that wasn’t something her grandmother needed to know. Not now.
The room was clinical and had an artificial warmness to it that failed to mask the sterile floors and the adjustable bed, protected by a blue, plastic mat to collect various body fluids from the sick and dying patients that rested above it. There was a cork board with ironical “Get Well” cards tacked to it. They were painful to see as everyone knew that “Get Well” and “Feel Better” in MaMa’s case meant a life of morphine until a (hopefully) quick death.
One of the cards had a bear holding a balloon. Another was written by a child, her next door neighbor’s kid. It had the s’s printed backwards.
MaMa was unconscious. Maggie wasn’t a fool enough to say that she was sleeping. When MaMa slept, her snoring always kept Maggie awake with its sonorous vibrations. It was loud and abrasive for one so quiet and careful.
I wonder how Pap could have slept next to her for all of those years, Maggie wondered again.
MaMa wasn’t snoring now, so… Yes, she was unconscious.
Maggie’s stomach plunged to the harshly tiled floor.
Who is that person? Be strong. You can do this. Oh, God. Who is that? That’s not her. That’s not MaMa. Breathe, Burke, breathe. Oh, God. Oh, God. You can do this. Come on. Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God… No. No. No.
Maggie’s feet moved her forward, though her brain kept her rooted in the entryway. She crossed the room, pulling a generic, wooden chair towards the bed. It was an unfeeling piece of furniture, as any doctor’s office, hospital, or worse would have, but it held Maggie’s unbearable weight and for that, she was grateful.
MaMa’s lips were parted and it looked as though she had no teeth in her mouth.
She looks empty, Maggie whimpered.
There was a potted Gerber Daisy next to MaMa’s bed. Each petal was a brilliant yellow, the color of dandelions in early May, fresh and vibrant. There were three flower heads that defiantly rose from the yellow paper wrapped emotionlessly around the plastic pot. They were bright and cheerful, Maggie’s favorite flower, and she hated them. She hated them almost as much as she hated the backwards s’s on the sticker-clad piece of construction paper that smugly hung from the cork board.
Both called out in mocking tones to one another over the near-corpse on the feces-protected bed. They cried, “Life,” and “Hope,” and “Tomorrow”while MaMa struggled through Today. They were going to live long after she was gone. They were going to drink the intoxicating air and survive and Maggie hated them for it.
Maybe it was because she knew that she would survive, too. She would be hurt, yes, but she would come back and live again. She would cry and scream and pound her breast and collapse where she stood and her hair would turn brittle and her mascara would run and the bones in her face would protrude and her hands would shake and she would sleep far more than she should and she would eat far less, but she would live. MaMa’s death, the only clear path forward would not destroy Maggie, even if she wished it so.
She would live and she would hate herself for it.