Monday, May 4, 2009

The Worst Thing Imaginable

At the hospital, just thirty minutes later, I stood over his body in total disbelief.

Erik was stretched out on a steel table in the Emergency Room. Eyes closed, arms at his sides, he was motionless. There was no subtle rise in the white hospital sheet where the air once filled his chest.

This can’t be real.

The body in front of me was what had been carrying my Erik, but my Erik was gone. It was as if I had been able to feel his massive spirit pass through me—a disorienting consumption of my senses—in our kitchen, during my call to 911. All the while my brother had tried to revive him, all the while I had repeated to Tatiana that “Dada was going to be OK,” I had known it wasn’t going to be OK. Somehow, I had known. I had felt it.

Erik was dead.

Dead. My Erik.

I crossed my forearms over my belly and hunched over, feeling the beginning of a sickness I wouldn’t be able to purge.

“I can’t believe this.”

Jen stood at the foot of Erik’s bed. She was silent, but her brown, puffy eyes told me that she, too, could not believe.

I kissed Erik’s eyelids, the eyelids I had kissed so many times before. Cold. His eyelids were cold and clammy, with a funny hospital smell.

“Erik,” I cried.

Troy put his hand on my back.

Giving in to the pain, I sobbed from a place I didn’t know could exist. I thought of Tatiana . . . the new baby . . . and myself. A widow with two babies. Just like that. Thirty-five minutes before I had been living the kind of life everyone dreams of and, now . . . now what?

I wanted to crawl on top of him and die.

“Erik. Erik. Erik.”

I held his hand. Limp and heavy. This hand would never hold our new daughter, never spin Tatiana around, never brush my hair. Never. Never again.

“What am I going to do?”

Troy moved closer. “We’re here for you,” he said. “We’re here.”

I twisted around, tucked my elbows into my pregnant belly, and let Troy hold me in a way I had never let my big brother hold me before. “Oh my God, what am I going to do without him? What am I going to do?”

Troy sobbed deeply with me. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t save him. I’m so sorry I couldn’t save him.”

I pulled away so that I could look directly at Troy, and said, “Don’t you ever think that. You did everything. I don’t know what I would have … done … if you weren’t here. And … there was nothing you could have done. You heard what the doctor said. It was his heart. It just stopped. It just stopped. Don’t you ever think that this was your fault. Ever.”

I turned back to Erik and let my long brown hair fall on his chest. I wanted my husband to hold me, to make it better, but there was nothing he could do, nothing he could do to fix it, so I lay there on his cold body, trying to breathe.

“You know,” Troy said, “He was the happiest guy. The happiest guy I have ever known. Because of you. And Tatiana. And the baby.”

“Yes he was,” Jen said. “He loved you more than anything. He was so happy.”

“I know.” I lifted my head. “He was happy. He was so happy.”

But I wanted him back. I wanted everything to be as it had been—perfect in all of its imperfection. I wanted him to yell or close himself off or sleep in the guest room because he was mad at me again. I wanted him to spend too much time on his computer, too much time dealing with things at work. I wanted him to complain that I didn’t want to have sex, that I was always tired. I wanted him to ask, ask me anything. I wanted him back.