Sunday, January 29, 2012
Sure, John had been frequently late, but had never missed a day of work. Connie had just found an easy way to save on expenses and fired him, thought Emma, she never really liked him anyway. Two days had gone by since Connie left the message. Emma asked if she had ever talked to him personally. Connie said that that wasn’t necessary she had made her intentions clear enough. At first Emma was a little put off that John hadn’t called her, but the sentiment soon turned to concern when John didn’t pick up his last check the following day. Emma decided to give John a call. They had exchanged numbers at one time, although they had never called one another. She let the phone ring, leaving a message once the machine picked up.
“Hey, this is Emma. Give me a call. Let me know that you’re ok, I guess.”
That was all she could think of to say. I was beginning to think we could be more than just friends. She thought, Who are you trying to kid, Emma, you’ve had the hots for him since his first day on the job. It seemed to me he was starting to feel the same way.
Emma still hadn’t heard from John by the end of her shift the following day. The more she thought about him, the more troubled she became. She decided she would check on him personally. Connie had left early, giving Emma the opportunity to pull John’s employee file. She jotted down John’s address, and as an after thought, wrote down his parent’s phone number, listed as his emergency contact. When her shift was over, she boarded the bus to his neighborhood. She walked the block to his apartment building, past empty store fronts and anemic consignment shops. Emma took note of John’s blue Vespa sitting in the parking lot next to his apartment building. There were bits of trash and leaves blown up against the wheels, caught in the spokes.
She entered through the double doors, and stepped into the foyer; one wall lined with ancient brass mail boxes. There was an elevator marked “Out of Order, Use Stares”. Emma, not accustomed to such deplorable trappings, headed cautiously up the stair well. Finding John’s room, she knocked on the door. She waited a moment, then knocked harder.
“John, are you alright? You didn’t show up for work. I tried calling…” she said, raising her voice to be heard.
There was no response. She stood at his door, trying to decide her next move, when she noticed the odor of something burning.
“JOHN, can you hear me? I smell something burning. JOHN?”
“Whoa! Whoa!” came the voice of the building “super,” “Young lady, you’re disturbin’ the peace, already! What’s the problem here?” he asked, hobbling quickly down the hall.
“My, my boyfriend, he lives here… I haven’t been able to get a hold of him for days. He’s not answering the door, and I think I smell smoke,” Emma blurted out.
“I think I do too,” he said, fumbling through the keys on a huge key ring fastened to his belt.
“Stand aside, little lady.”
The apartment supervisor entered the room first, with Emma close behind.
“There’s your problem. Dummy left on the space heater. Really singed that couch…”
Emma was headed towards the bed, where John lay motionless. The odor of urine hit her as she leaned over him. He looked to be sleeping. She tried waking him, first gently shaking his arm, with no response, she shook him harder.
“Wake up. Wake up!”
She began to panic and slapped his face hard. “Wake up!” she screamed. The super took her by the shoulders and led her back to the hall.
“Get a hold of yourself, young lady. I’ll call the EMT’s,” he said. “In the mean time, you come with me.”
She didn’t resist, although she made a feeble demand to stay with John. When the paramedics arrived, she hurried back to the room, followed by the building supervisor. She hovered over the two paramedics as they tended to John; checking his vital signs, directing each other in low tones.
“What’s wrong with him?” her voice cracking, “What’s wrong with him?”
“Nothing, from what I can tell,” said one paramedic, not looking at Emma, pulling back John’s eyelids with his thumb, first one, then the other. “He seems to be… sleeping.”
“Fifteen years, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said the other. “Maybe some kind of coma?”
Emma felt faint. She wasn’t understanding any of this.
“Are you related?” said the first.
“No, she’s his girl,” said the super, interjecting into the awkward silence.
She gave the name and number of John’s parents to the paramedics, and watched helplessly as they transferred him to the ambulance. She asked where they were taking him, and headed there by bus.
John was completely content as he lay in bed next to Emma in their penthouse apartment. The Hancock building never had a penthouse apartment, but now it did. The taste of champagne was still on his lips as he remembered the evening’s events. Just as he was drifting off to sleep, Emma shook him.
“Wake up! Wake up!”
What’s going on? What could possibly be wrong? He didn’t want this, didn’t ask for this. John rolled over to face Emma, annoyed more than alarmed, until he saw the look of fear and desperation on her face.
The ambulance pulled up to the automatic sliding doors of the E.R.; the two paramedics exited the rear doors of the emergency vehicle. Pulling out the gurney with John on it, releasing the wheels to the pavement, they hustled him inside. He was examined by a medical intern, assigned a resident doctor, and was transferred to a room. Emma arrived shortly after. She took vigil beside John’s bed. She was tired and confused. So much had happened in so little time. John really means something to me, why couldn’t I have let him know sooner? All she could do now was pray that they would make it through this. Emma stayed until two in the morning. She left with great reluctance, kissing his cheek before heading into the cold damp evening. She needed a few hours of sleep before returning to work at the café.
John watched incredulously as Emma’s skin darkened, her grip on his arms tightening, her eyes sinking deeper into her blackening face, then she was gone. He lie alone in the bed, the silk sheets bitter cold against his skin, the light dimming, his surroundings becoming less defined. A wave of depression came over him. He left the bed, stumbling forward through the hall that should lead to the living room, only to be confronted with more hallways, darkly lit with deep blue shadows crossing the floors. He headed blindly down one of the halls, walking for what seemed like hours, randomly choosing his path as hallway branched off of hallway. He was overcome with a deep feeling of dread. Desperation welled up inside of him as his walk became a run, his footsteps echoing behind him. He finally came to a dead end, and realized he was standing in front of an elevator door. It was the elevator door to his efficiency apartment. He was dressed in his usual dress of black jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. He rode the elevator to the third floor. He had never been this glad to return to his tiny self imposed prison. As he stepped from the elevator, he saw two men carrying another on a stretcher from his apartment.
“Hey, what’s going on? I live there! Hey!”
The men didn’t acknowledge him as they headed away from John towards the stairwell. He saw Emma. Emma! Following after them, her head down, rubbing her eyes with her palms. The building supervisor headed his way.
“They’re taking you to the hospital,” he said as he passed.
I’m still dreaming. John desperately tried to wake himself up as the hallway grew darker, deep blue shadows crossing the floor.
Emma visited John every evening for months, even crossing paths with his parents more than once. She quizzed the doctors frequently until she realized that they couldn’t offer any real explanation or hope. As she once again took her post and sat next to him, she thought of the dreams. The dreams she had of John were so real, it was as if they really had been a couple. A tear slipped down her cheek as she realized now that those few fleeting dreams would never be a reality. She leaned over John and kissed his lips delicately, as if this would somehow break the spell, but he slept on. She turned and walked out of the hospital room, biting her lip, biting back the tears. John slipped slowly from her life. John slipped deeper into his sleeping hell.