All Fall Down
Lately she’d spent more time in this room than she had at home. Although a little too clinical for her tastes she’d begun to see the benefit of a white canvas-it helped her to remain focused. Sometimes she’d shared her musings with Steve and at other times she thought better of it.
Every time she stepped through the door she hoped to be greeted with a smile and to see him sitting up in bed requesting the latest issue of ‘National Geographic’. The morning of the accident they’d enjoyed breakfast together, which in itself was unusual as they rarely had the time, but she’d been off work that week. She’d gone to town on a cooked breakfast-black pudding, the works. He’d made some quip about her killing him with kindness. Dr Andrews had been on at him about his cholesterol. As they’d eaten, they made plans to visit Andrea and the boys that evening. She’d waved him off before giving the lounge a once over with the vacuum.
The call came around 10.30. She’d just settled down to read the latest one by Jodi Picoult. The book was still sitting on the nest of tables-the bookmark untouched. The voice of a stranger explained that there had been an accident and that Steve had suffered major head injuries.
When she first saw him, he looked as though he was enjoying an afternoon nap, only he didn’t usually adorn headwear when going to bed. His face looked swollen and bruised and there were still traces of dried blood under his left ear. He’d been hit by a car on a zebra crossing. At the time, all she could think of was having told him countless times to delay crossing until he was sure the drivers had slowed down. He had always insisted that if his foot was on the crossing then the traffic had to stop. His whole body had been on the crossing and no, they hadn’t necessarily followed the Highway Code.
His bruises had healed but he didn’t seem to want to wake up. The nurses, now like old friends, had been so supportive even allowing her to adorn his bed with a quilt cover from home. They had suggested that familiar smells from home might stir some deep rooted memory and coax him out of his hidey hole. He had yet to stir but it had made her feel much better, seeing him lying in something familiar. It made him seem less distant somehow.
For weeks she had religiously read to him, kept him up to date with family news and gossip, told him the football scores and played him his favourite songs. Some days she’d grown hoarse from talking for hours uninterrupted. It had amazed her just how much she had to say. In a bizarre way she had come to view her daily visits as a counselling session- all the talking helped to order her mind. The kids, the house, her job, even their own relationship had not been sacred. She discussed it all, laying everything bare. They assured her that he could hear and she damn well hoped that he could. She’d always thought that they’d been good communicators and in their own way they had, but it hadn’t been until the accident that she’d realised how much they’d censored what they really wanted to say. She remembered reading once that a true listener was someone who was thinking about what you were saying and not what they were going to say next.
When he did finally wake from his coma it wasn’t the joyous reunion she’d hoped for and she felt cheated by authors and filmmakers the world over. She’d been lead to believe that he would gaze into her eyes and they’d instantly reconnect-roll credits. Initially they’d thought Steve’s detachedness was an adjustment side effect but it soon became apparent that his memory had been decimated and their entire life together erased. As she bounced back off the ropes she called time on a happy ending-this was not Hollywood.