The Sound of Beeps
rating: +11+x

Beep. Beep.

"You don't have to say yes - nodding your head would work. We just want to make sure that we're clear on how you want this to play out."

Through your still-working eye, you see the student in the back, nodding his head as if to show you by way of demonstration. He sees you glancing in his direction. Returns a sad smile in yours.

You nod.

"Thank you, Mr. Lewis. The nurse'll be by in a little while to turn off the —"

Beep. Beep.

"— monitors, so we can get you some peace and quiet."

He taps a few buttons on the machine, silencing it momentarily. As he tears off his blue gown and gloves, his entourage following suit, you take a deep breath, wet your lips.

"Doctor…"

He turns in your direction. You're croaking, your throat aches from disuse.

"How long will it be?"

The attending opens his mouth to answer. As he does, the resident stands up, quietly walks out the door, pulling a pager off their waist - off to put out the next fire.

"Like I said earlier - hard to know. I'm not God. Could be hours, could be a day or two. What's important is that you're comfortable. That's what we're going for, here."

He nods, once, curtly. You nod back. They slip out the door, one by one, the social worker last. She squeezes your hand gently - hesitates - leans over the bedside and gives you a hug as best she can given you're laying down. You try to return it. She leaves.

A few minutes go by. Through your brain fog, you register that the TV is still muted. You unmute it. No matter what time of day, what time of year, this action movie is always on the hospital television - you once recited it word-for-word, just to prove you could. The cute dialysis nurse smiled at you, and brought you an extra cookie for that trick.

Beep. Beep.

No audience for you today, though.

Beep. Beep.

You glance out the window, see the sailboats on Lake Superior, gently tilting back and forth with the summer breeze. You see yourself walking along the lakeshore, just a few years younger, right hand holding Max's leash and left hand empty, fingers instinctively curled as if to interlace another's. Max runs up to another dog, sniffing around, and you gently laugh with her owner as the dogs play about in the sand for a minute, and then they see another furry friend and they start to —

Beep. Beep.

The ringing of the monitors pierces through your daydreams and imaginings, and you come back to reality.

The thoughts are coming slower, now. The nurse slips in quietly, takes the pulse oximeter off your finger, disconnects all the IV lines except for the one pumping your dextrose solution. She turns that one up as far as it'll go - maxes you out, the sweet sugar burning your veins worse than chemotherapy ever had. She leaves, squeezing your shoulder as she goes.

You're tired.

You look out the window again - this time, seeing not the lake, but rather your childhood home. A tranquil cabin up in the Carolina foothills. You're catching a baseball, throwing it back to Tommy, and as he catches it and tosses it back you hear your momma yelling that supper's ready, and you and your brother are running back inside, racing to the cornbread —

Beep. Beep.

She forgot to turn off one of the monitors. You try to reach for the call light, summon the nurse back to save you, but you see the remote is on the floor. Just out of reach, and you're too weak to move.

Beep. Beep.

You're going to die to the sound of beeps.

Beep. Beep.

You look desperately around the room. Tanya's there, sitting in the corner. She smiles sadly at you and says nothing. You smile back, and hate that your last memory of her is in that sky-blue hospital gown. As you keep looking at her, she is holding James in her arms, gently stroking his bald head, avoiding the tube jammed between his lips. You wonder what color hair he would've had, who he would've ended up looking more like, what he would've —

Beep. Beep.

They're gone. You blink a few times, hoping they'll return.

Beep. Beep.

They don't.

Beep. Beep.

The beeping will never stop. You'll live for another week, but no one will come for you. No one will come to visit. No one will come to say hi, "just to check in on you" as they say. They've already signed your death certificate, the priest's already come by to deliver Last Rites, not that you wanted them, you gave up on the God that gave up on you a long time ago.

Beep. Beep.

So this is how it will play out. The anxiety begins to eat you alive. Your heart is trying to pound itself out of your chest, vision getting fuzzy, head throbbing - you wanted to be awake, you didn't want the seizures, the coma, but now you wish they had just turned off the sugar, too.

Beep. Beep.

It's all you can hear, echoing now even —

Beep. Beep.

— above your own thoughts, crowding out every last —

Beep. Beep.

— regret, every fear, every wish.

You squeeze your eye shut. Hope for the end to come soon. All you can ask for, now.

Beep. Beep.
Beep. Beep.
Beep. Beep.
Beep. Beep.

You gently open your eye, looking for your savior. Your vision is still fuzzy, but you can see clearly enough, see the figure at your bedside. His hand pulling away from the IV monitor, reaching slowly into his jacket pocket. He pulls out a carton. Hand reaches out in your direction, an unlit cigarette between his two fingers.

You nod.

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