Dominic’s mother enters the waiting room. The elegant woman I met on July 4th has been replaced by a sallow, puffy-eyed wraith. She clings to her brother’s arm as he guides her to a chair. Tansy nudges me and we walk the long hallway that leads to the ICU.
We check in with the nurse who glances at a clipboard, directs us to wash out hands, and then takes us to a cubicle behind a blue curtain. Tansy pushes me forward. My eyes are glued to Dominic’s face, what I can see of his face behind the tubes and bandages.
He’s so pale. I touch my fingertips to his cheek, caress his cool skin. I lean forward and kiss his forehead.
“I love you,” I whisper against his eyebrow. “Please come back to me.”
I lay my hand against the side of his face, could imagine him kissing the palm the way he would, his brown eyes connecting with mine. I take his right hand and squeeze it gently. I think I feel him squeezing back, but decide it’s my imagination until his eyelids lift so slightly.
Tansy sees and she’s at my side instantly. “Dom, we’re here, buddy.”
His lids drop and don’t reopen; it’s as if it never happened.
A different nurse appears and scoots us out of the way as she checks the readings on all of the monitors. “The doctor’s about to examine him. I need for you ladies to return to the waiting room.”
Tansy and I stop at a vending machine and buy coffee. We watch the coffee pour, followed by the milk. Neither of us speaks. We sip without tasting, watch without seeing, our thoughts a million miles away to last week, laughing with Dominic.