There are days when I wish things could have been different.
Don’t paint me out to be this awful person; I have enough guilt without you helping me. But there are so many times when I wonder, why couldn’t she have just died?
Most people would wish for it to have been them. People say that they would rather die for the one they love, so that person wouldn’t have to suffer. But I wouldn’t wish this kind of thing on anyone. Not even someone I hate. Because no matter who you are, there’s never going to be a time when you would willingly want to be in a disabling accident that could potentially do permanent mental damage. You wouldn’t want anyone to have to be stuck with you forever.
It’s a Catch 22. I can’t leave her, I just can’t. But there’s nothing for me to do, not when my wife is stuck in the mentality of an 8 year-old girl.
“Jessie, it’s time to wake up,” I whisper, gently nudging her shoulder.
Her eyes flutter open. My heart melts a little as I can see flashes of her violet colored eyes; for even a brief second, I can see the love that was once there. But then like a candle in the wind, it’s gone.
If I could, I would have kissed her gently on the lips, but there’s something in me that says no. she doesn’t understand intimacy anymore, doesn’t know that she and I are married.
She’s like a small child trapped within a grown woman’s body. It’s awful to think of her like that, a little girl in my wife’s body; when we would say we wanted children, I know I never meant it like this. I didn’t want to have to raise my wife.
She slowly sits up, a mini smile on her lips. “Morning, Jakey,”
Most days it takes everything I have not to snap when she calls me this. While it may sound strange, I hate it when people put y’s on the end of names. It sounds like baby talk to me, and in this instance, it basically is.
But there’s nothing I can do. I just have to go with it and hope and pray that maybe some day she’ll snap out of it. Doctors had originally said that it was just her brain’s way of coping with what happened, and that eventually it would change. That was three and a half months ago; so far, nothing’s changed for the better.
“What do you want for breakfast?” I ask, sitting at the foot of her twin sized bed. I tug at the light pink bedding with my thumb, remembering how a long time ago, she told me pink was one of the most misunderstood colors. She used to have the oddest of notions….
“Pancakes!” she says, a smile lighting up her face. The enthusiasm is so strange to hear; it’s the kind of energy you expect from a young girl, not a thirty-two year-old woman.
But I play along, for her sake. “Alrighty, well let me go whip some up while you get changed.”
Sometimes I wonder if she would have done the same thing for me. Would she have persevered through the trials of having to deal with me in a state like that? Would she have stayed by my side?
I wish I could say easily that she would have, but I can’t. There’s such a big risk in answering that. Even I have been tempted to call a lawyer and say I need a divorce. I know it wouldn’t take much for me to get one. After all, who would want to be stuck with someone so completely dependant? It would be so much easier to just stick her in a mental ward for the rest of her life than to have to deal with her like this.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t contemplated that before. It isn’t that I don’t love her, because I do. But maybe what she needs is a better place for her to be around. More interaction with people who actually know how to handle her. Doctors and therapists than can help break her out of the state of mind in which she’s trapped in. Maybe I’m just not doing her justice.
But then I wonder, what if she’d get worse? She’s been with me for so long, maybe the separation would make her digress. It’s little thoughts that seep into my brain like that which make it nearly impossible to let her go.
She scoops the last fork-full of fluffy, syrupy goodness into her mouth. I try not to stare at her; sometimes I’m so lost in thought over the situation that I just stare. It makes her uncomfortable, I know. She told me once; little kids don’t know better than to just blurt what’s on their minds. I guess that’s the one good thing from all of this, she’s pretty amusing.
“So what do you want to do today?” I ask, hoping that we can actually get out of the house for once in a while. Lately she’s just wanted to stay inside and watch cartoons or play with dolls. Her older sister brought over some of their dolls from when they were children and told me about what they did when they were that age. It had provoked a three hour search for movies on Amazon and ended up costing me almost two hundred bucks, but it made Jessie happy.
“Ummmmmm…..” Jessie taps her chin, thinking. “I dunno.”
I sigh. “What if we went down to the creek? I can call Amanda and see if she wants to come along,”
“Yeah! That sounds like fun!”
She jumps out of her chair and runs into her “room”. It used to be my office, before the accident. But then once she was sent home and the full effect of everything set in, I realized there was no way she would sleep in the same room as me. She wouldn’t even change in front of me anymore, but in her mind, that made sense. Why would a little girl change in front of a grown man?
Amanda and I had done our best to make it something that a little girl would like. We didn’t bother with putting posters up or anything like that, but we made it seem like it was meant for a young girl. The walls were painted a pale pink, and she had her own twin bed. There was a little chest of toys for her, and she had covered them in cartoon stickers. And, no matter how many times I refused, she kept persisting that she needed a canopy that had butterflies sewn on.
I can’t help but wonder if somewhere in the back of her mind, she understands everything. Maybe she’s just choosing to remain in this state, because it’s a lot easier than coming back to real life. If you could choose, wouldn’t you rather be a carefree little kid again? Never to have to worry about bills or taxes or jobs, just being able to do whatever you want when you feel like it. I wouldn’t fully be able to blame her.
A few minutes later she comes out with an American Girl doll that looked kind of like her, if you could imagine a dark haired, violet eyed 32 year old woman doll. Even still, she carries it around with her almost everywhere. Though it seems absurd to someone who doesn’t know the situation, it makes perfect sense to the rest of us.
Then again, not many other people know about it. Jessie was in the hospital for a few months before she was release; she was in a coma-like state for the longest of time, and for a while, none of us thought she was going to make it out alive.
After a long period of time from being unable to go home, I decided to just move us. I still had to work, of course, but my job allowed me to make an office from home and communicate via phone calls, texts, Face Time, and emails. While it wasn’t the best way to talk for long amounts of time, or to really get into the details, it sufficed.
Pulling out my phone, I dial Amanda’s number. “Jessie wants to see you,” I say right after she picks up.
There’s no point in greeting her, that would only worry her. The formality of it all was lost a long time ago, around the first couple weeks of Jessie being moved here. There were way too many nights that she would have a melt down and I would have no idea how to help her, so Amanda would have to come over in the dead of the night to help me calm her down.
It was a lot more awkward back then. After all, are you ever really supposed to be incredibly comfortable around your in-laws? I’d always heard stories from my friends that they usually only put up with you for the sake of the family member that you were married to, but never fully accepted you as a part of the family. Whether or not that was true in my case, I didn’t know. But so long as everything was well in the general picture, I was perfectly fine.
“Alright, I’ll be over soon,” she says. “Do I need to bring anything?”
I study the scene, looking closely at Jessie. She’s sitting in the living room, criss-cross applesauce, playing with her doll. “Probably some sunscreen, or snacks. I don’t know. Whatever is fine by me,”
She laughs. “Sounds good to me. I’m on my way.”
“You know, we grew up around the sea,” Amanda says, digging her toes into the sandbanks by the river. “Our grandfather would take us down to the little tidal pools and we could find the shells and poke sea urchins with sticks.”
I smile. “I was landlocked my whole life. Creeks were all I had.”
“That’s no fun,” she said, tracing patterns in the sand. “I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like without it. I mean, Jessie gets to know both sides of it, I guess. But for me, it just would have been so strange. The ocean was always there through everything. It was an escape…”
She trails off and I look away. They both do that. Or, Jessie used to. Thankfully, one of the things that came with the messed up mentality was that she didn’t remember much of her first childhood. After around the age of eight or so, she had to go through a lot. Maybe that’s why her brain decided to stick herself in this age for who knows how long. It’s a second chance for her to be a kid for a little while longer.
I’m not sure of all that they went through; neither of them liked to talk about it a lot. But after their father killed their mother in a drunken brawl, they were sent to live with their aunt. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, from all that I’ve heard. Things were too cramped, too agitated, and there were too many mistakes made in such a short amount of time. Past that, I don’t know much. What I do, however, isn’t the best. I can’t say I blame them for not wanting to speak about it.
“Look at what I found!” Jessie calls out, holding up a shell.
Amanda smiles. “That’s awesome, Jess,”
I feign a smile to match. Jessie looks so proud of herself for finding one measly shell, but I have a few memories here with her that I can’t hardly ignore. Being here with her like this, it’s messing with my head.
She goes back to playing in the shallow area of the river, but I’m nervous. I’d heard stories about how she wasn’t the strongest of swimmers, and I start to have doubts on why I decided to come here. This was just a bad idea for both of us, I think to myself bitterly. There’s too many memories for me, and she might not even be able to swim, depending on however her mind works. I put her at too much of a risk.
But I stay where I am, as awful as that sounds. I’m not sure what was running through the demented mind of mine, but if she was going to drown, it was going to happen no matter what. Why bother saving her? At least this way she would die in something she was familiar with….
I snap out of the twisted thoughts. Amanda nudges my arm.
“Lost in thought?” she says, giving me a little half grin. She looks so much like her sister sometimes, it’s insane.
I nod. “Yeah. I brought her here a few times before the accident, and it’s just…. Getting to me, I guess. That’s one way to put it.”
“I know what you mean,” she says. “Well, kind of.”
We laugh uncomfortably for a minute. Before the accident, neither of us had ever really spoken to each other much past the usual formal dinnertime talk at holidays. There was never much of a reason to; we both had our own lives, and she and her sisters never really talked much, either. Everyone just kind of carried on in their own manners. And it would have gone on exactly the same, if not for life throwing a new one at us.
I sit on the edge of the riverbank and point out to the center of the currents. “See the fish swimming upstream?”
Jessie grins and puts her feet into the water. A couple fish dart off quickly. “Careful,” I say quietly. “They don’t like the movement. It scares them.”
She slowly backs out of the water. The bottom hem of her sundress is wet and drips water onto the sand. She collapses on the warm banks and picks up the little clumps of wet sand, rolling it up into a ball.
“Are you having fun, Jess?” Amanda asks, concern adding a lilt into her voice.
“Yeah, it’s good! I like coming out here,” she says dreamily. Her violet eyes scan the scene, and I wonder if she’s having flashbacks like I am.
If she is, she doesn’t say a word about it. She just starts digging a little hole, flicking the sand at me, laughing. I try to hide the disappointment on my face, but her sister picks right up on it.
I shake my head. “I keep wishing that something would click together in her head, that she would get it. But nothing. I’ve been waiting and waiting, and I’m so sure that some days she’s finally got it. But then she’s just right back to the same thing the next day. It’s like she’s never coming back.”
After a second of thought, I let out a sigh. “Now I feel awful for letting that all out, right in front of her, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t give a shit. It’s like she doesn’t even know who I am anymore.”
Amanda scoots closer to me in the sand and puts her hand on my shoulder reassuringly. “I wish I could tell you when she’s going to get better, I really do.” she sighs, too. “Hell, I wish I could tell you that I knew for sure that she’s going to. But she might not.”
Jessie doesn’t have a clue that we’re talking about her. I feel bad for speaking as if she wasn’t there, but in a way, she wasn’t. I didn’t know whether or not that made it okay, but hey, it was a chance to vent. There wasn’t much wrong with that.
“Jake, sometimes I feel as though I would hate to be you. And don’t hate me for saying that, please. But if I were you, I would have walked away a long time ago.” she pauses, looking at my face. I try to keep from letting my terrible thoughts from showing. “So, I just wanted to let you know. No one would hate you for backing out. I understand. It’s not like you asked for all of this to happen, and it isn’t like you two were in the best of relationships before hand, either.”
I suck in a breath, but have to run over her words a few times. “What do you mean?”
A look passes over her face. It goes from anger to confusion to concern. “Didn’t you…. Didn’t you know why she was in a car to begin with? Didn’t you know where she was going?”
“She told me she was going to the store. I mean, she was no where near there when she crashed, but I figured that there was traffic and she took a different route or something…”
It takes me a few moments to realize how ridiculous that sounded. I nearly choked on the breath I was taking in. Suddenly, I felt really light-headed.
“I’m so sorry,” Amanda mumbled. “I thought you knew. That you would have figured it out by now, if he himself hadn’t told you. Or that you had spoken to Jess about it…”
Jessie perked up at the mention of her name. “What about me?”
“Nothing,” I say, a hard edge to my voice. “Go play.”
I stir the sugar into my coffee a little too fast. Some of it splashes on the countertops, and even a few drops hit the floor. I shrug and figure I’ll clean it later.
“You want some?” I murmur to Amanda. Jessie’s in the other room, watching some cartoon about teens with wings. Sky Dancers or something, I don’t know.
She shakes her head. “I’m okay. Come sit, Jake. You need to hear this, if you want.”
Gripping the mug tightly, I go over to the seat. “No, I don’t want to hear that my wife was cheating on me, but I need to. What the fuck, Amanda? Why didn’t you tell me before?”
She looks down at the table. “I didn’t want to tell you, not when there was so much else going on. It didn’t seem like the most important thing at the moment. I was more worried about my sister surviving, you know what I mean?”
Her small attempt at humor falls flat. she shrugs it off. “I just didn’t want you to jump into getting a divorce with her if you found out. I didn’t want her to wake up in the hospital alone because you left her while she was in a coma. That wouldn’t be a good way to wake up. And in my mind, I kind of hoped…. I don’t know. I just kind of wanted her to keep it secret after she woke up. I didn’t want you to know, that way when she wakes up, that mistake doesn’t haunt your relationship with her.”
It takes a minute to let that sink in. “I get where you’re coming from, I really do, but how can you expect me to know how to handle this?” I say, trying not to throw my mug at a wall. “I can’t
confront her about it! She thinks she’s a little kid!”
“I know, I know, Jake.” she sighs. “I’m not sure what to tell you. In short, she was on her way to see some guy. She was on the phone with him when she got in the crash. I had gotten his number from her phone and called him after the accident, to see if he wanted to come see her. I told him he didn’t even have to come clean, so long as he stayed the fuck away from her after she woke up.”
I try not to let out a bitter laugh. Amanda looks at me, her eyes rimmed red with tears. “I’m so sorry I never told you. I thought that everything was okay between you two until I found out from her a few days before. She had said that there just wasn’t any passion left, that she was getting bored. She told me about the guy, and how she might be falling for him and everything. I thought that maybe she was right, and that you both were bored, so I didn’t think much of it. But then this happened and….” Amanda stopped mid-sentence. “Jake, he never came to see her in the hospital.”
“Yeah, that’s great.” I say coldly. “So my wife was cheating on me with some random bastard who didn’t even care to come see her in the hospital. How nice.”
We sit there in silence for so long, I forget how much time passed. Amanda just stared down at her hands, fiddling around and twirling her thumbs. Occasionally, I would stir my still-full cup of coffee and pretend that all of this didn’t sting me like a knife.
After a while, Amanda gets up. “I have to go. But the offer still stands. All you have to do is call me and I’ll come pick her up.”
“Jessie, come on. We’re going to miss it.”
She pulls her shoes on in a hurry and jumps into the back seat of the car. “Don’t forget to buckle up,” I say, reminding myself of one of the overly protective parents on TV. She doesn’t even technically have to wear a seatbelt in the backseat, considering she’s over the age of eighteen. Oh well.
“I like bands,” she says quietly. “And the pretty flag twirlers. I want to be one of them when I’m older.”
“You can be whatever you want to be,” I say softly, trying not to get emotional.
It’s been another two months. She hasn’t gotten any better. Almost half a year and there’s been little to no improvement. No matter what I try, whether it’s bringing up things one would think she should be able to remember, like our wedding, or trying to show her things on video, she doesn’t remember any of it.
Of course, she hasn’t seen herself in a mirror at all. The doctors and therapists told me to take them all down in the house, because it could be incredibly traumatizing to her. If you thought you were eight, and you saw that in fact you were twenty-four years older than that, wouldn’t you be a little scared?
Though it’s awful to admit, I’ve had the idea of doing that to her. Sometimes I think to myself that it would be payback. After all, she cheated on me. If she hadn’t lied and gone out to see her lover, we never would have been in this situation. Things could have been so much different than they were now.
At the same time, I think that maybe it could work like hiccups. Sometimes you just have to scare yourself out of the pattern to return to normal, so maybe it could work somewhat the same way? Maybe all of this was just a little mental hiccup?
Shaking my head, I try to focus on my driving. Jessie sings little ditties of songs that I’ve never heard before; for being eight in her mind, she’s incredibly creative. Amanda had told me a couple months ago about how they used to sing and play songs that they wrote themselves on the beach late at night with their parents. All of them would be sitting around the campfire, and their father would strum along to whatever beat they had going on a guitar. Sometimes their mother would bring out her flute and try to play along, or maybe just have a pretty solo.
The stories that both of the girls had told me painted some pretty awesome images. I can’t imagine what it was like for them to have that kind of atmosphere ripped away from them, and at such a young age. But then again, if they hadn’t had those things happen, then maybe I never would have met Jessie.
I pull into a semi empty lot and dig out a plastic bag from the glove box. I hand it to Jessie and she squeals with excitement. “There’s going to be candy?”
“What kind of parade would it be without candy?” I say, laughing.
We get out of the car, and already there’s a few strange looks given. I turn to see that Jessie has brought her American Girl doll. Trying to brush the looks off, I point out a few places where there’s already been candy thrown. She looks at me, smiling expectantly, like she’s just waiting for me to give her approval on going and getting it.
“Be careful,” I whisper in her ear. She nods and goes out to get the candy. I can feel people staring at me as if I had sprouted fifteen extra heads.
A few moments later she comes back and shows me the few pieces she got. A couple of them are flattened, and one of the jawbreakers are complexly crushed, but she just looks so damn happy.
“Great job, honey.” I say, adding in a twinge of extra enthusiasm, even though I can feel people’s eyes on us. I want to yell out at them, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
Minutes later, Jessie sits down on the sidewalk and starts to play with her dolls. Though it might have seemed paranoid of me, I checked around us to see how many people were staring. There were quite a few, and they weren’t even trying to hide it.
“Jess.” I say through gritted teeth, trying to fake a smile. “Put the doll back in the car.”
She looks up at me, confused. She’s not been out in public much since the accident, and everywhere she has been by now, the people are already familiar with the situation. But here, no one knows us. “What’s wrong with my doll?”
Her voice sounds so innocent that it breaks my heart to tell her. “You aren’t eight. Go put it in the car. Now, or we’re leaving.”
Her face falls and she stomps off to put the doll in the car. Folding her arms, she sits back down on the ground next to me, but refuses to face me. Even like this, she still gives me the silent treatment when she’s mad, I think to myself jokingly. At least one thing is the same about her.
Finally, the marching band comes around. Jessie stands up to cheer them on with the rest of us, but she’s so mesmerized by the color guard girls. She watches with wonder as she sees them twirl around their rifles and sabers. I can see her clenching her fists to the beat, nearly doing the motions along with the flags.
Even though she doesn’t remember it, she was on her high school’s color guard team. Maybe that’s why she can follow along so easily with the hand movements, but I doubt she’s realized that yet. She probably just thinks it’s something normal for her to do, and doesn’t think anything differently of it.
Jessie looks a little disappointed when the band passed, but then I can see something in her eyes. As the veterans and currently serving but not stationed soldiers pass by, she clenches her jaw.
“What’s bothering you?” I say quietly.
For a millisecond, I can see the old Jess in her eyes. “God hates flags,”
But then it’s gone. It takes me a minute to remember that after she had been moved in to live with her aunt, they’d had a very religious upbringing. They were strict Christians.
The only way she would remember anything like that, though, is if things were slowly coming back to her from her old life. I hadn’t ever brought up anything about religion to her in the five months that she had been here with me, and I hadn’t intended to. I didn’t think it was all too necessary. How much of something like that could an eight year old really understand? Plus, it would be a tad weird to put a grown woman in bible school with a bunch of little kids. I’m sure that the kids and the parents wouldn’t go along with that all too well.
“I want to go home,” Jessie said out of nowhere. “I’m…. tired.”
“Okay, Jess, we can go if you want. Are you sure?”
She nods. “This is boring. I just want to leave and relax or something.”
I want to get hope in the few little signs from this, but I’m too scared. While yes, she’s using larger vocabulary and recalling a couple details from before, I can’t rely on it. There’s just more room to get hurt then. I don’t want to risk getting my hopes up anymore. Neither mine nor Amanda’s, for that matter.
That night, things take a turn for the worst.
“Jake, I want to stay up later with you!” she screams. “I’m not sleepy yet!”
Her voice cracks, and what’s funny is it sounds exactly like it used to whenever we would get in arguments. Only it was never about her bedtime back them; it was over money, why she was staying out so late, whether or not we should move… things were a lot more different then, that’s for sure.
“Jessie, you have to. No arguments. Just go to bed. I’ll tuck you in.”
“No, Jake! I’m not a little girl! I don’t need your help/” I can hear so much anger in her voice, and it cuts me like a knife. Even though I knew better, I couldn’t stop myself.
“You’re not a little girl, you say? Then get the fuck out of your twisted mind set and join the real world!”
Tears well up in her eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”
“Oh really? You don’t? Like all those times you didn’t fucking know what I was talking about when I asked you why you were out so late? Like when I saw the messages on your phone? Like that, Jessica? Well take a look in the goddamn mirror. You aren’t eight.”
Without thinking, I pull out a mirror and toss it across the table to her. I watch as she picks it up with her shaking hands and stares at herself in the glass. Her eyes go wide and her jaw drops.
“That isn’t me, Jakey. That isn’t me!” her voice trembles as the tears start to roll down her face.
“It is.” I yell. “So grow the fuck up!”
Tears streaming, she jumps up from the table and runs to her room. I watch her slam the door and wonder if she collapsed on the bed, crying, or if she’s doing something else that was equally like a tantrum.
The fight doesn’t sink into my head until the next morning.
I can still remember the few nights leading up to the accident as if they were just yesterday. Everything had been going surprisingly well, considering how much fighting had been happening before.
I took her out to the river behind our house; at that point, it was just a little vacation house that I had inherited from my grandfather when he died. We were still living in another city at that time, and we would come to visit the house every now and then when we needed a break from the rest of life.
She had been so hesitant to go up here; the last time we had been there, she’d gotten sun poisoning. For whatever reason, she was convinced that it was because the UV rays were much stronger here, but I never believed that bullshit. It was always one excuse or another with her. But she had seemed pleasantly surprised when we got there.
She found out later that I had called some of my old friends to see if they could set things up for us. There was fancy red wine in the fridge, flowers everywhere, and some of her favorite songs playing when we pulled up. I made sure that there was plenty of chocolate and little snacks that I knew she loved, like Wheat Thins and expensive olives that you have to go to Marsh to get.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough to show her that I still cared about our marriage. Or at least it was at that time being. We hadn’t gotten very far up the driveway before she started to notice the little tea-lights that were hung in the tress. Once we were closer to the house, she heard the music coming from the house and turned to me. There was a giant smile on her face.
“You did this?” she asked, her voice full of awe.
I nodded. “All for you, Jessie.”
I watched the crimson flush her cheeks as she tried to hide how much she was affected by it. Eventually she gave up trying to hide it and wrapped her arms around me, kissing me on the cheek.
We’d stayed there for a few days. Everything was great; both of us had called in sick for work, and there wasn’t anything that we could possibly need that wasn’t already there. I’d be lying if I said we hadn’t spent most of the days making love or lounging in various places at least half naked. Most of the time we were at least a little buzzed.
Neither of us had wanted to return to normal life, but we had to. There wasn’t anything else we could do; this was kind of like a brief little vacation. I know it upset her a lot that we had to go, but I had used as many days as I could off of work, and I couldn’t afford to miss any more.
Now I kind of wonder if we would have been in this situation if we had stayed longer. Maybe then she would have been happier and broken off the affair. Then she never would have had to go out to see him late at night, and never would have gotten in the accident.
But that’s all just wishful thinking. There’s no point in hoping or thinking about things like that; what’s done is done, and I can’t change the past no matter how much I hope and dream about it. I just have to live with the regrets that have built up on my chest.
I try not to let this phase me.
We’ve been through this before, I tell myself. Maybe she’s just sleeping; I can’t stand to accept the fact that she’s in a coma again.
I shouldn’t have said those things to her, I think bitterly. This might be why she’s like this. Her brain just couldn’t handle that kind of trauma. She might have just shut herself down and gone into recovery mode. She might never wake up again because of me.
The worries run through my head. Amanda’s sitting by my side, sniffling. She’s trying to hold it together as much as I am, but so far, I’ve had better luck. The only tears shed so far were when they loaded her onto a stretcher and brought her to the hospital. I held her hand the entire ride there.
“I don’t want to lose her,” I mumble to Amanda.
She nods. “I don’t either.”
We sit there in silence for a long time after that. Neither of us know what to say since we’re both in the same general position. We’re just waiting in limbo as much as Jessie might be; no one knows what exactly is going to happen next. All we can do is wait.
The doctors are starting to have doubts that she’s going to wake up. What’s strange is she isn’t dependant on needing assistance with breathing. She can survive on her own, completely without life support. But there’s no signs of her getting better, or of anything starting to change at all. She’s just asleep, as if we were at home.
Amanda and I have to consider all options. We can either have her put in a assisted living place, where they’ll basically care for her as they might an extremely old person. Or we can try to figure out some other plan; we both have offered to the other to take her home with us and try to just baby sit her, in a way.
I told her sister that I already work from home, so it would be easier. But at the same time, I’m not sure that I would be able to handle having her there, but not actually there at the same time. At least when she was in the wrong mind state, she was conscious. Then it was just like I was living in an alternate universe, not like I was taking care of a vegetable.
The thought of considering my wife a vegetable is unnerving. I don’t like that, but in a way, it’s completely true. She isn’t moving, isn’t awake, and might not even be thinking or dreaming. At that point, what are you other than a shell of a person? You’re a body, sure, but you can’t do anything.
It’s just me and Jessie in the room right now. Amanda had to run back to her house to take a shower and get clean clothes; it’s been three or four days since I’ve left here for more than fifteen minutes. I can’t really remember the last time I got more than thirty minutes of sleep. But there’s just no time for that. Not when I have no clue how much longer I’m going to have with her.
I lean over and squeeze Jessie’s hand. “Please, baby, please hold on.”
The heart monitor is the only sound in the room other than our breathing. She doesn’t move even the slightest bit, doesn’t squeeze my hand back. She just lies perfectly still, her hair splayed out on her pillow like a dark halo.
Closing my eyes, I press her hand onto my forehead. Her hand is icy cold, but it feels comforting. I can feel her pulse in her finger tips, and it’s enough to calm my brain. It’s okay, it tells me, she’s still alive and breathing. There’s still a little bit of hope.
“I’m so sorry for what I said, Jess.” I mumble. “When you wake up, we can fix everything, I promise. I’ll be a better man, I’ll be who you want. We can move, you can quit your job, we can travel the world. Whatever you want to do, we can. But please,” I say slowly. “Please wake up, Jessie.”
I keep my eyes closed and eventually dose off into sleep, clutching her hand the entire time. In my dreams, I can replay the memories of us over and over again. Whether it’s our wedding night, or just before the accident, I can remember it all. And with each little smile of hers, I swear I could feel my own heart start to race.
But then I feel a gentle pull and someone brush their finger tips across my face. Groggily, I shift myself up into a sitting position.
“You back already?” I say. “Doesn’t take you long to shower, I guess.”
There’s no answer. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and look around the room. Amanda isn’t even there.
Looking over, I see Jessie sitting up in her bed.
“Jake?” she whispers.
My eyes grow wide. “Jessie?”
“Where am I? What… what happened?” she asks. I try to figure out if she thinks she’s eight or not, but I can’t tell any difference in her voice. What’s it matter, though? She’s awake!
“You’re in the hospital. You were in an accident and then---”
Jess’s face falls. “You found out about…?”
I nod. “But that’s okay, baby, I don’t care anymore. We’ll fix things, I promise. I just…. I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” she murmurs as she falls back onto her pillow.
As she closes her eyes and smiles a little sweet one, I jump out of my seat and throw open the door.
“Doctor?!? Nurse? Someone, come quick! She’s awake!”
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