Coffee by Tamara Williams

Seven o’clock on Mondays. That’s when Heather, my daughter, comes to visit. My wife comes on Thursdays. Our new normal for the past four months.

Clunky shoes enter the room, followed by a mumbled greeting to the nurse who’s been renewing my IV’s. Heather and those tar black army boots. I’d recognize those clumsy steps anywhere. I feel her weight on the right side of my bed after the nurse steps out of the room. She examines my hair with a tisk, before brushing out my knots.

I’ve always hated hospitals. It’s the smell, it doesn’t feel homey. Since I’ve been stuck here in a coma, I’ve haven’t been able to rest. I know, how can someone in a coma not rest? I get it, I used to think that way too, but with code blues playing in the background, can you blame me? One blink too long is all it takes.

“It’s seven o’clock, dad,” she says. “Monday, February the eighth. The Bucc’s beat Kansas, thirty-one to nine last night. Sorry, maybe next year.”

OuchCould this year get any worse?

“I-I got accepted to Northeastern…Mom’s idea,” she says, sounding nervous. “She thinks I shouldn’t pause my life waiting for a miracle, but I’m not leaving to forget about you. I’m leaving to make you proud when you wake up.” She breathes deep. “Anyway, I’ve got to get going, so I’ll see you next week. Love you.”

She pecks my forehead. Those boots clunk down the hall before I’m swallowed by chemicals and beeping monitors.

Heather’s leaving. To Northeastern? Ohhh, man!

The machine quickens, matching the siren in my chest. Nurses rush in, giving me something to calm down. My pulse slows, but my mind races. They’re moving on. Why shouldn’t they? How long before these weekly visits become monthly? Yearly? No, I must wake up! Blink, cough, yawn. Do something you pathetic excuse of a man. You need them.

Sharp, expensive heels click toward the room. My wife’s never worn sneakers.

“Oh, Mrs. Dawn, you just missed your daughter about fifteen minutes ago,” says Stephanie, the morning nurse.

My wife makes conversation before stepping beside my bed. Our visits are usually short and emotional. It beats her up to see me this way.

I remember the day I dropped like a fly. Beth made some delicious coffee, before checking the mail. She complained about all the spam from Jersey. If it wasn’t mail, it was phone calls asking about our car’s extended warranty. Heather, busy on her phone, didn’t look up until a car horn honked outside. She shot up her head, gave us a hug goodbye, and ran out the door. I checked my watch and decided I’d better get going myself. I made it to the hall before blacking out. They say I may’ve had an aneurysm.

That morning wasn’t extraordinary. It was normal, but that’s all I’d been praying for. A day with no arguments. Beth and I were on the rocks, but like someone turning on the porch light, we found ourselves again. The blizzard in our home melted. That day was perfect. I guess that’s why it didn’t last very long.

She sits on the bed, leaning into me. Strange silence fills the space between us, and I wonder what she’s doing. Looking at me, taking in my face, I’m sure. I focus hard, trying to will myself to move for her. I think about my toes, how they look, and the fabric of the socks.

Okay. It’s now or never, Heather’s leaving, and soon Beth will join her. Show them that you’re here. That they shouldn’t give up on you.

Squeaky steps make Beth jump from the bed. She apologizes to the nurse.

“No worries, ma’am, just here to change his bedpan. Then I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Actually, I’ll just come back later,” says Beth. “I was in such a rush, that I left my coffee in the car.” She sounds emotional. These visits never get easier.

“You okay, ma’am? You look a little green.”

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just the coma thing.”

“You sure? I could check your temp.”

“No, really. I’m fine,” says Beth, leaving the room.

I try my hardest to wiggle a finger for the nurse, but nothing seems to grab her attention. It’s like screaming into a vacuum. Time ticks, pushing forward, and waiting for no one, especially not middle-aged tax collectors in comas.

Wait-I-I felt that. Did I…Did I just move a finger? Yes, there it is again! Okay, easy Mike, let’s not overdo it here. Take it nice and slow. One more time annnddd? Nothing? She didn’t see me. Man, that took everything out of me, like lifting weights with your pinky. No big deal, Beth will notice. We’ll just wait for Beth, and she’ll see that beautiful finger move, and know that I’m fighting to get home to her.

She’s back by eight, according to some noisy nurses deciding on who gets to take lunch when. She’s quiet again, not so chatty like her personality would typically call for. I smell the coffee she brought, recognizing its unique scent. I’ve tasted that coffee before. Four months ago.

She sits, sniffling, and two fat tears smack my arm.

“I’m sorry, Michael.” More tears fall. “It was supposed to be quick. Painless. At least that’s what that idiot in Jersey guaranteed. Anyway, this one’s supposed to be stronger. This ends today.”

She twists the bottle open, fidgets with something in her purse. “I loved you, please know that. I didn’t want this, but you had that-that woman in our house,” she says, bitterly. “You ruined us, so you don’t get to call the shots anymore, okay? So, I’m telling Heather. Not now, but one day she’ll know why you deserved those cold days. Then she’ll look at me again.”

Her hand brushes my face, and her eyes bulge when I catch it in mine, sitting up for the first time in four months.

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