Hello! Come in and have lunch. Just sandwiches but help yourself.

*****

The ringing phone roused her from what could not honestly be called sleep. More accurately, it was a night full of tossing and turning while her mind played out every possible negative scenario. She had tried to sneak in a few possible positive thoughts, but they didn’t get far.

A quick glance at the clock told her that it was 4:05am, and it was time to get ready for the daunting task ahead. 

She showered and dressed quickly, all the while avoiding thinking what could be coming. She fed the cats, taking time she didn’t have to sweep up around their bowls. She knew she was delaying the inevitable. It was time to go.

The drive to her first destination, normally a trip that took 10-15 minutes, seemed to take hours. The  torrent of thoughts flooding her brain continued to prevent coherent thought. 

Finally, she arrived to pick up her passenger. He was pacing. Nervous. Anxious. His partner was equally nervous – talking too much. The needed to leave. She hugged the partner, and ushered her passenger out the door. 

The Passenger did his best to keep up a normal conversation, commenting on such mundane things as a trip to the local big-box store, and how hungry he was. She tried to keep present so that he would not notice her unease. She laughed when appropriate and commented on things about which she thought he would be interested. She wanted to keep his mind off things, as well. 

When they were almost at their final destination, they were stopped by a train. The building was visible over the trees and surrounding buildings, but the train cars continued to pass. Slowly. In all actuality, they were only stopped for about 3 minutes, but for the Passenger? It was just one more delay. Finally, the train passed completely and they made their way up the hill to the parking lot, and into the building where the Passenger would be staying. 

She and the Passenger walked in together – she didn’t want to leave his side until she absolutely had to. They looked around uncertainly until they saw where they would check in. They sat in the waiting area in silence. 

The Passenger was taken into a separate room and questioned. It wasn’t long until their escort came to take them into another area, for further questions and preparation. He was weighed and measured, his blood pressure taken, and blood sugar tested. She was taken out of the room when someone came in to do some more personal preparations. As she waited in the room down the hall, the nurse came by to see if she was okay. She was barely holding back the tears or the nerves, but wanted to appear strong for the Passenger. The nurse had an Ativan to give to the Passenger. She wanted the nurse to provide her with one as well. The nurse wouldn’t agree. Understandably.

Finally, it was time. The Passenger was completely prepped, and the gurney was waiting. She waited in the doorway until he was lying down and covered. 

The group of four – the nurse, the orderly, the Passenger, and She – made their way to the elevator, where she and the Passenger would separate. The elevator car stopped one floor down, and she was told that she needed to get off there. She hugged the Passenger one more time and told him she loved him. Then she and the nurse exited the elevator car, while the Passenger and the orderly continued their decent. 

As soon as the elevator doors shut behind her, the ugly cry started. All the anxiety she had felt for the past few weeks erupted. The nurse waited patiently for her to collect herself again. Then they walked to where the Passenger would be after the operation. The nurse kindly talked her through what would happen, what she could expect, and gave her numbers for checking in. Then, the nurse said the nicest thing – “Take care of yourself. The Passenger needs you.”

And with that, she walked from the building. 

Once in the car, she allowed herself one more cry. As she drove toward coffee, she noticed the sky. It was blue – a kind of angry, grey blue that happens before a storm – and pink – a mottled, bright pink that promised hope. The coffee tasted rich and soothing. 

She got home, and tried to sleep. It was no good. She got back in her car and drove to the Partner’s house. They could wait together. 

The call came. The wait was over.

“Dead man walking” stopped going through her head. Things were going to be fine.

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