“Seriously? SERIOUSLY?” She kept repeating that word every time she thought about how much more the mechanic said her car repair would be. She was furious – he had told her it would be quick and simple, a routine oil change. But when she went to pick her car up after flipping through a few magazines and sipping on her soy chai, his face told her that it hadn’t been so simple, it hadn’t been so routine.
She planned on using that money to buy her plane ticket to Cabo. She had always been a saver and the extra refund from her taxes this year gave her the extra bump in her account to feel free to reward herself, get away, relax, and sit on a beach somewhere. But now, now all those thoughts of a golden tan, strong drinks with tiny umbrellas, and white sand beaches as far as her eye could see went up in the cloud of smoke as thick and depressing as the oil and dirt under the mechanic’s finger nails. She cringed at the idea and exclaimed another “Seriously!?” when she thought about affording to do no more than sit on her couch and watch TV during her time off of work. She could try to get her shifts back but that made her even angrier. She couldn’t drive home to see her parents because they would still be working on her car, squeezing out those hard-earned dollars as the hours of paid labor was made up of smoking cigarettes, bull-shitting over last night’s game, and polishing wrenches. It was supposed to be a routine oil change, she was being responsible. She was supposed to be going on vacation in a month.
Should he stand or should he sit? He didn’t know what he should do while he waited for the news waited for the world to fall apart waited for the verdict that he already knew. He stared at the framed picture of four happy faces - the doctor and his family, arm-over-shoulder-over arm under some cabana on a white sand beach somewhere. They were all so happy, with their pink noses and sea-salt-wavy hair. She wouldn’t smile again. She wouldn’t feel the ocean again. She wasn’t supposed to die. Routine, routine, routine. That’s what they kept saying. But she died anyway. One of the unlucky ones that falls into the slim category where things go wrong.
His body began to shake, his vision blurring. He couldn’t be in that room any longer. He didn’t want to wait for the doctor, see his not-smiling face, hear his kind words. But he needed to see her. He needed to know it was real. So he waited and stared at the tan bodies of the children and wife of the doctor that were still here still alive still smiling.
After talking and talking and cooing and apologizing, the doctor finally led him to her room. They had lied. She looked different than what he had been led to believe about dead people. She did not look like she was sleeping and she did not look like a monster. She did not look at all like they all said dead people looked. Her mouth was rigid and sagged slightly to the right. The delicate skin beneath her eyes was purple, bruised and sunken. He couldn’t think of what her skin looked like, he didn’t want to compare it to anything. He just thought that it wasn’t a skin-color anymore. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t her. He needed to get out, get away, move his body, his breathing still alive body away from her cold and dead one.
He walked through the doors, his legs stiff and moving slowly moving him away. The tears started then as the air changed from sterile and conditioned to natural and humid. He heard the automatic doors close behind him he could feel them, collecting, welling, gathering behind his eyes, no longer waiting to burst through and down his face. He kept his mouth shut, tight and breathed heavily through his nose like a bull like a sleeping dreaming dog like a boar. He kept walking, away from the hospital, down the street and into a neighborhood. He walked past house after house, thinking about all the living people inside. His chest and throat began convulsing, his body racked from the force of his sobs. He couldn’t hold it in anymore, he didn’t know why he was trying. He opened his mouth, wide and deep and began to wail, a deep and guttural wail. His throat began to burn and ache from his screams. It felt good. He felt relief that his body could produce a sound that matched what his heart was going through. And that small, strange-good feeling kept him going kept him from going mad kept him from being consumed and deep inside his own sadness and confusion. She wanted to schedule the procedure early so that she could go home and watch a marathon of her favorite television show as she came out of her anesthetic haze on the couch. This memory, this thought of her motives and plans and unfulfilled life renewed the grief and sent him stumbling on, wailing and crying some more. He kept wailing the length of the sidewalk, and turned and walked another sidewalk and street and past houses and houses, all the while screaming, all the while wailing, all the while thinking that this is the only thing he could manage to do, the only thing he wanted to do.
He didn’t see the young girl looking out her car windshield at him, slowing down, and stopping. He didn’t notice her concerned eyes staring in her rearview mirror wondering what had happened – who had hurt him, who he had lost. She couldn’t know. She eventually put her car into gear again and drove away. She was the only one that witnessed his grief. She was the only one that thought to herself how lucky she was, to be worrying about small things like car repairs. She wondered what had happened. She would wonder who he had lost that day. She kept thinking about him for the rest of the night and had nightmares about the sound that his throat made as he trudged down the street.
He kept walking in the opposite direction. He kept walking until his shoes were muddy, until his head ached from dehydration and the screaming and the tearing at his temples. It was supposed to be routine. It was supposed to be quick and easy. He was supposed to be home right now, heating up soup on the stove and mocking her terrible taste in television.
She sat on her couch. But she did not turn on the TV. She just stared straight ahead and thought about that man. She couldn't stop thinking about his mouth, how it looked so big and so wide that it wouldn't have been very surprising if it had opened up enough to consume his body, devour the rest of his head and shoulders and torso. She sat on her couch and thought about him, her head hazy heart aching breathing short and low and shallow. She didn't want to turn on the TV. She wished she had never taken her car in for that oil change. But she had. So she sat on her couch and thought about that man.