When I awoke the morning my son died all I could think about was the zoo. The shitty smell that lingers hours after your visitation. The animals giving less than a shit that you are there and refusing with all their might to do anything interesting until you look away and catch it in the corner of your eye. These were the thoughts I had as I crawled out of my freezing cold bed that morning. I would’ve had better thoughts if only I knew my little boy was going to slip away in ten hours. That’s just life. That’s not true. I can not accept that as an excuse. I think back many times about what I would’ve done if I only knew. I come back empty. I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t have done anything. Sit and mope and hate life and all things involved. Sit at the edge of the bed and blame a god for something…something no one real or imagined or penned on paper could have done about it. That’s not what I did. No. I thought about the smell of an animal’s ass, made breakfast and laughed as my overweight neighbor squeezed himself behind the wheel of his fuel efficient, itty-bitty car.
A truth? I feel bad for being in such a good mood that morning. For though I didn’t know my child was going to die that day I did know he was suffering in that cold hell of a hospital room. I feel bad that he wasn’t there to laugh at me as I unsuccessfully flirted with the grocer’s checkout girl. I feel bad that I did that. That I was in a state of mind where I could make flirty chatter with the opposite sex.
When I left my home I drove to the grocery store to pick up some sugar wafers and a two liter of soda. I flirted with the checkout lady and drove to the hospital to see my son. I entered the room popping a wafer into my mouth. Charlie was reading, looking up as I entered.
“You saved some for me right?”
I revealed an unopened pack, chocolate flavored.
I sat in the horrendously uncomfortable chair that rest itself against the wall, pulling it from its home to the edge of the bed.
“What are you reading?”
“A Brief History of Time”
“You can comprehend it?”
“Sure. What’s not to comprehend?”
” Just seems a little above your reading level. Hell, I’m almost three times your age and that shit goes right over my head.”
“I’m just smarter than you. That’s all.”
“Hardy fucking har.”
He laughs and nibbles on a chocolate wafer.
“What did you do today?”
“Nothing really. Woke up late as hell. Stopped for the snacks and came here. I did wake up thinking about the zoo though. For what reason? I have not a clue.”
“We went last year.”
“Do you remember what happened?”
“We were walking to the reptile exhibit and you stepped in dog poop and you were so mad cause it just didn’t make sense to you. How of all the animals that are kept there you step in dog poop. You yelled at that guy with the broom and told him you hadn’t even seen a dog. He asked if you were sure it was dog. You told him you’d run a full analysis and get back to him. You washed your shoe then we went for burgers.”
“I don’t remember a bit of that.”
“I wonder if that guy is still waiting for your report.”
“He probably is. That was probably the most excitement he’d seen in years. Now I’ve left him depressed and wanting.”
I looked at my son. He had a slight smile on his face and a worried look in his eye. I asked him what was wrong.
“This is it.”
“This. This is the last place I’ll ever know. These memories I have…that’s all they are for the short while I have. Once I’m gone what are they? They are mine for now, in one, two days time where will they go? I lay here at night wondering what its going to be like. Death. Will I know? Will it be like sleeping though I don’t wake? I can understand the mathematics of the cosmos but I can not wrap my head around death. I die. I cease. Is that all? There’s no fairy tale. I understand that. Heaven. Hell. It’s just a way out to the realization that all we have to look forward to is nothing. We exist no more and that is very scary. You told me that death is something that happens to us all that we shouldn’t fear it because there is no way around it. I do fear it. I don’t want it. I want to continue. I don’t want to go to sleep and just never…anything, ever again. I won’t even know it and that scares the hell out of me.”
I sat there speechless. All I had were the reassurances that we are fed to make everything better. Was I to say, “It’s going to be okay.”? What good would that do? It was not going to be okay. So I sat. Then I stood and got into the bed with him and wrapped my arms around him and held him. Feeling his weak heartbeat I held him. We laid like that for hours. Neither of us speaking a word. Words no longer existed between us. We understood that. I would’ve held on for days. It was only hours later that I no longer felt the heartbeat. We had fallen asleep at some point and I was the only one to awake. As I laid there, his lifeless little body in my arms…I didn’t pray, I just hoped that if there was anything beyond this existence that he was no longer scared.