What Love Looks Like
It’s been three months.
I’m almost out of hope, but I’m still sitting here, my feet dangling over the edge of the bed, my hand resting softly on top of his.
His hand is warm.
It feels wrong that his hand is not icy cold and pale blue, just like it feels wrong that his chest still rises and falls with deep breaths and that his face is peaceful, his eyes shut softly, a little half-smile on his lips. It feels wrong that in a few hours I’m going to have to go home and he will stay here, alone. It feels wrong, all of it.
The door opens softly. I twist around and see my mom standing in the doorway, tears mixed with mascara streaking their way down her face.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
She doesn’t move from the doorway. Shaking her head, she covers her mouth with a hand and lets out a choked sob.
I spring off the bed and wrap her in a hug. “It’ll be OK,” I whisper. “It’s going to be OK.”
“Honey, it’s been three months,” my mom says in a shaky voice. “They need the bed in the ICU.”
Not understanding, I nod and say, “So where are they going to move him?”
My mom walks over to my brother and pushes the brown hair off of his forehead, leaning down and pressing a kiss onto his face. When she pulls away, tears gleam in her eyes.
Heaving a sigh, she says, “Oh, baby. I’m so sorry.”
“What are you talking about?”
I don’t process the words because I’m already running out of the room, sprinting through the hallways until I come to one without the smell of death hanging over it like a cloud. I can’t handle the idea of death right now, not when my brother is about to stop existing.
I never imagined having to live in a world without him. I never imagined not having to fight for the bathroom in the morning and him banging on the bathroom door, telling me to hurry the hell up and get out of the shower. I never imagined not having to stop at a McDonald’s on road trips because that was the only thing he would eat. I never imagined not having 20 boxes of cereal under the counter because he could never decide which was his favorite. I never imagined life without him, because he’s all I’ve ever known. He’s my brother. I’m not supposed to have to live without him.
Then my mind wanders to my mom. I lost a brother, but she’s losing a son. She’s losing a person that she brought into the world, watched take his first steps, talk for the first time, go to school without looking backwards. She watched him grow up, and now she has to watch him stay eternally 12.
I retrace my steps back to his room. I pass room after room, all of them holding a different story. Lives ending in some of them, lives beginning in others. Lives changing forever behind closed doors.
My mom is standing in the doorway of my brother’s room, tears streaming silently from her eyes. When she sees me, she lets out a sob and cries, “I shouldn’t have to watch my baby die. He was never supposed to die before me.”
That makes me cry, too, and together we stand by his bed and watch as the nurse slowly shuts off the ventilator. With a raspy cough, he takes his last breath. Tears fall from my eyes as I watch my brother, my baby brother, twitch one last time.
He goes still.
The monitor goes into an urgent flatline. The nurse slowly moves across the room, but not fast enough. I want to yell at her to move her feet because that’s my baby brother whose heart has stopped beating and I don’t want to hear the machine yelling at us for one more second.
She presses the power button and we’re plunged into silence.
All my life, I wished my brother would just shut up and be quiet.
All I want in this moment is for him to sit up and crack one of his corny jokes that never made me laugh.
All I want is for him to sit up and complain about having to eat crappy hospital food and ask when we can next go to the Cheesecake Factory.
All I want is my brother back.
But he is quiet.
For the first time in my life, my brother is quiet.