Event: 500 Word Challenge
Host: Lizzie Gudkov
Prompt: "He looked at the tubes and wires and cried silently. How was this fair?"
Time: 30 mins
Peter walked down the corridor, his pace accelerating to match his heartbeat.
He received the news of David’s accident earlier in the morning. A girl, introducing herself as David’s friend, sobbed on the phone for a few minutes before summoning the quietness needed to break the terrible news.
She was unable to provide any detailed information. Yet, amidst the turmoil of tears and sentences chopped in half, Peter found out that his son had been cut off by another car when the traffic lights turned green. As any hot-temped young man, David yelled and waved offenses at the other driver. The man got out of his car and pulled out a gun and shot David.
Peter asked her over and over again where his son had been shot, but that only prompted another wave of sobbing and crying, so he gave up.
During the flight, he couldn’t help thinking that, back then, he should’ve accepted that job in Japan and taken David with him. His son loved The Land of The Rising Sun and always wanted to study there.
However, for Peter, staying was easier than leaving. That happened when his marriage started crumbling; he stayed hanging on to the excuse that David was still so young, not even a teen yet. Years later, when the divorce was final and his life seemed to crumble around him with the financial demise of his company, he still stayed. A prestigious Japanese enterprise tried to hire him, but he refused, alleging his family, by then practically non-existent, needed him.
At seventeen, David moved out of town to go to college and, like his father, stayed away. He then found a job at a start-up company, rented an apartment and most likely found a girlfriend or two.
Now, in his mid-thirties, he never called. David, in his late-sixties, retired and enjoying the freedom of having time and money, didn’t either.
As he approached his son’s hospital room, he slowed down. For the first time in hours, he hesitated. Would he find hope or fatal despair? Would he find his son or a stranger?
His ex-wife Annie, David’s mother, was standing at the door, as if waiting for him, judgmental as always, her arms crossed. “What took you so long?”
He wouldn’t tell her about the four agonizing hours he had to sit in the airplane, waiting for take-off, his legs struggling to survive painful attacks of cramps and sheer helplessness. He wouldn’t tell her about the avalanche of recollections and mixed feelings that assaulted him of David riding his tricycle for the first time, looking as proud as when he rode his Harley out of town into a new life. He wouldn’t tell her about how he loved her back then when she told him she was pregnant. He wouldn’t…
He entered the room and, not even the infinite time he spent getting mentally ready for this precise moment, helped him. He looked at the tubes and wires and started to cry silently.
“David…” His son looked so vulnerable. His face was smashed beyond recognition. Peter wanted to hug him, but he didn’t know how. David was held hostage by a menacing array of medical paraphernalia. How could he hug his son? How could he overcome the gap? How could he put the past behind and save him?
“How can I save you?” he whispered.
Annie sneered. “Save him like you saved your precious whore,” she lashed at him.
A week later, David died peacefully, or so it seemed. The machines were turned off and the comforting beeping that had cradled everyone’s hopes went silent. The funeral was as silent as David’s premature departure.
Annie never shed a tear. It was not the way she grieved. She would cry at home, perhaps even on the flight back. Peter went back home too, a different home in the same town. They took two different flights, Annie insisted on that.
The “whore” was long gone. Well, she wasn’t a whore, she was just a young woman determined to save Peter’s soul. If anyone saved anyone else, it had been her and not him. Lives move in different directions and she moved on as well.
However, the death of his son triggered something in him, an anxiety, an eager and rebellious determination to change. In a totally atypical attitude, he packed a bag, closed his house and bought a ticket to Japan. And he stayed there, never to come back again.