As Corrinne crosses the swinging bridge, the Island of Seagrove comes into view. One by one, bungalows are aligned along the shore. At one time, the bungalows were alive with summer vacationers, weekend lovers, and flocking snowbirds. Whatever the case, the bungalows are soaked with memories. They breathed vibrant colors of yellow, orange, blue, and green. Now, they have become wrinkled by the sun and beaten by the wind.
At the end of the bridge, there is a sign marked with “beach access.” Corrinne drives her car into the vacant parking lot. She gets out of her car and walks towards the dune. Once she reaches the shore, she bends over to take her sandals off. The warm sensation of the sand meets her feet like a long-forgotten memory.
It is late-September, the island is breath-taking. Corrinne crouches in the shade of a palmetto tree. She can hear the palm leaves rustling against the easterly wind. She can feel the sea oaks dancing around her feet. They sway to and fro with the whistling tune of the wind. The sky is filled with billowing clouds that hover over the horizon. The water is so blue; it’s as if the ocean and the sky are one. As the waves roll in, Corrinne gets lost in the low murmuring tone of the oceans song. Memories of that day begin to flood her memory.
After leaving her morning meeting, Corrinne walks to her corner office. Corrinne is the editor of “The Journalist.” It is a small publishing office located in downtown Chicago. After Corrinne and Jason got married four years ago, they moved from comfortable Seagrove to bustling Chicago. Jason was offered a job at an engineering firm. Luckily enough, Corrinne received the job at “The Journalist” a couple of months later.
When Corrinne walks into her office, she notices the monster-like weather staring back at her through the picture window. The eastern sky looks angry. The low, coal-colored clouds march along the Chicago skyline. It’s as if, the city is under attack. In the distance, Corrinne can hear the wailing scream of a siren. The sound becomes louder and louder as it speeds by her office building. The siren suddenly becomes muffled in the busy street below.
After making a cup of coffee, Corrinne begins to sift through her e-mails. This has become a mechanical routine for her. As the editor, Corrinne receives hundreds of submissions a day. They are from aspiring authors, striving to get their novels published. She begins to read off the titles, “The Winding Road,” The Dark Days,” and “The Accident.”
“Hey Corrinne,” her assistant said.
Corrinne remains staring at her computer screen.
“Corrinne,” her assistant said again with impatience.
“Sorry Heather. I didn’t even hear you,” Corrinne said while her cheeks begin to blush.
“There’s a man on the phone asking for you. He said his name was Officer Gordon.”
“Is it Jason again?” Corrinne asked while beginning to laugh.
Jason loves to joke around with Corrinne. He always knows how to make her laugh. That is one thing Corrinne loves about Jason.
“No, I don’t think so. He said it was an emergency.”
“”Okay. Thanks Heather!”
Corrinne waits until Heather has left her office to answer the call. She looks down towards the phone. Line two is angrily flashing red. It’s as if, it’s screaming at her. Corrinne reaches down to pick up the phone. The receiver feels unusually heavy.
“Hello,” Corrinne said into the receiver.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Bryan?” the unfamiliar voice asked from the other line.
“Yes,” Corrinne said with curiosity in her voice.
“My name is Officer Gordon. I’m from the Chicago Police Department.”
Thump, thump, thump. Corrinne’s heart begins to pound.
“I’ve got some news about your husband. He has been sent to the hospital-”
The phone slams to the ground. She feels an intense wave of fear overwhelm her. Corrinne jumps up to grab her purse. The room begins to spin around, around, and around. Corrinne has the sudden urge to throw up. Her heart feels like it is pounding out of her chest. Her throat tightens up and it becomes harder to breathe. She feels herself beginning to lose her balance. Corrinne reaches out to grip the corner of her desk. She clings so hard, her knuckles turn white. She slowly pushes herself up by the desk drawers. She flings open the door to her office. It sends a loud bang throughout the hallway.
“Corrinne, what’s wrong?” Heather exclaims.
“News! Husband! Hospital!”
These are the only words Corrinne is able to get out.
As she runs to the elevator, Corrinne feels detached from everything around her. She rushes by her co-workers. Corrinne can see their mouths moving but she can’t comprehend anything they are saying. Some of them reach out to touch her but she is numb. The elevator moves slowly down each floor. It’s as if, time has stopped. It feels unreal. The door to the elevator creeps open. Corrinne puts all of her weight on it. The door slides open with ease. She runs out of the building.
It is around noon. It’s the busiest time of the day in downtown Chicago. Corrinne’s car is parked in the parking deck two blocks down from her office building. There is no time to drive. The hospital is only a couple of blocks down the street. Corrinne starts sprinting down the sidewalk. She pushes down everything and anything in her path. She weaves in and out of the people. Corrinne feels destructible. A feeling of strength stirs up in her. It is a feeling that she has never encountered before.
As soon as Corrinne enters the emergency room, she is immediately hit by the smell. It is a combination of disinfectant, cafeteria food, and medicine. The smell seems to punch her in the gut. It makes her sick to her stomach. She begins to think about all of the patients in the hospital. There are patients beside her, in front of her, and behind her. There are people who are throwing up, people who are coughing, and people who are bleeding. Her stomach clamps down harder and harder. She starts gulping for air.
“Can I help you?” asked a nurse from behind the desk.
Corrinne is grasping for air. Her mouth opens and closes. She is unable to speak. Her body is jolting. Her hands begin to wave franticly in front of her face.
“Ma’am! Ma’am! Please sit down!” the nurse demands.
The nurse takes Corrinne by the arm. She begins leading her to the waiting room. Corrinne starts to protest. She jerks her arm away from the nurse. She turns around and begins running towards the hallway. Another nurse on duty grabs Corrinne by her arm.
“I’ve got to find my husband! Where is he? Jason! Jason!” Corrinne exclaims.
“Okay ma’am. You have to be calm. What’s your husband’s name?” the nurse asked.
“What’s his last name ma’am?”
“Bryan is his last name! Jason is his first name!” Corrinne yelled.
“Thank you, Mrs. Bryan. Just please have a seat in the waiting room. I’ll be back soon with some information about your husband,” the nurse said.
Corrinne stomps over to the waiting room. She takes a seat near the door. By this time, her clothes are drenched with sweat. Her cotton blouse is clinging to her chest. The tips of her hair are dripping wet.
After catching her breath, Corrinne decides to call Jason’s parents. She feels like her heart is in her throat and beating about five hundred beats a minute. She reaches down for her purse. She frantically rummages through it to find her cell phone. After fumbling with the phone several times, Corrinne finally dials the number with her shaky fingers.
“Hi Corrinne,” Jason’s mother said.
“Oh, it’s Jason…”
“Slow down, Corrinne! What’s wrong?”
“It’s, it’s, its Jason!”
“Oh no, what is it? What about Jason?”
“Just come to the hospital!” Corrinne exclaims.
As Corrinne waits impatiently, she sees doctors and nurses pacing in and out of the steel doors in front of her. As they pass one another, whispers are passed amongst them. As they whisper, they tend to point into her direction. Some of them even look over their shoulder at her. They seem to have a world of hurt on their face.
As the swinging doors open, Corrinne tries to get a glimpse of the world inside. All of a sudden, Corrinne has an overwhelming feeling of being trapped between two worlds. An intense force tries to draw her towards those doors. Before she realizes it, her shaky hands are reaching for the handle. Someone from behind grabs her shoulder.
“Excuse me ma’am, you can’t go back there,” a nurse demands.
“Will someone please just help me! What’s happening behind those doors? Is it my husband? Is he okay?” she asked angrily.
“You’ll have to wait for the doctor,” the nurse said.
“But it’s my husband…”
At that time, a doctor comes through the doors.
“Are you Mrs. Bryan?” the doctor asked.
Corrinne whirls around and his grim eyes meet hers.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m Mrs. Bryan! What’s wrong with Jason?” Corrinne asked in desperation.
“Please, let’s take a seat.”
“No! Tell me now!”
The doctor tries to place his comforting hand on her shoulder. She pulls away. The doctor takes a deep breath in preparation for his next words.
“Jason is in very critical condition. He has a very serious brain injury which has caused him to fall into a coma.”
Tears begin to stream down her cheeks. She places her hands to her mouth. She utters the words that the doctor has heard many times, “Is he going to be okay?” About that time, a man in a uniform approaches them.
“Hi, are you Mrs. Bryan?” the officer asked.
“Yes,” Corrinne answered.
“My name is Officer Gordon. I spoke to you earlier on the phone. Your husband was hit in the head by a steel beam while on the job site.”
“You can see him when you’re ready,” the doctor said to Corrinne.
Jason’s room is dark and damp. It is so cold, it sends goose bumps up and down her skin. Everything around her is white. It feels like a heavenly dream. The paint on the walls are beginning to chip and fade. There are streaks of yellow up and down the walls where it hasn’t been cleaned in weeks. The white linoleum is peeling here and there. Everything in the room is sterile. The room smells of metal. The hospital equipment is creating a song of sounds. There is buzzing, clicking, and beeping.
Corrinne can barely see Jason lying in the hospital bed across the room. His body is intertwined in the ghostly white sheet. His head is wrapped in bloody bandages. His glassy eyes stare back at her. Long tubes are extending from his nose and mouth. There are wires scattered up and down his body.
Corrinne takes a seat next to his bed. His pale, cold hand lays lonely beside him. Corrinne reaches out to hold it. She gently puts his hand to her face. His hand feels lifeless and fragile. His body seems so small lying there. She remembers how handsome and vibrant he looked on their wedding day. Now, he seems like a stranger to her. His cheeks are caved in. His face is sickly gray. It looks like death is surrounding him. Corrinne feels helpless. Her mind and body is completely shut down. Corrinne feels like a zombie. She feels torn, empty and broken. She begins to sob uncontrollably. The tears begin to flood down her face like a river. She shrieks at the top of her lungs.
“Why? Oh my gosh! Why did this have to happen? Please! Please! Please! Jason, please wake up! Don’t leave me. I love you!”
All of the sudden, Jason’s heart monitor sets off an intense screeching sound that echoes in Corrinne’s ears. A nurse screams, “Code blue!” A group of people march in. There are doctors, nurses, and assistants. The room suddenly feels smaller, smaller, and smaller. Corrinne gets lost amongst all of the people. They swarm around Jason like flies. Corrinne can hear frantic whispering, moaning, and high pitched voices all around her.
“Oh my gosh! What’s happening?” Corrinne screams.
“Someone get her out of here!” the doctor exclaims.
Corrinne is being led out of the room by several nurses. All of the sudden, her stomach and knees become weak. She falls stiffly to the floor with a loud thump. She is on her hands and knees.
At that time, Corrinne feels someone helping her up off the floor. She turns to look and realizes its Jason’s mother. She falls into her arms. His mother throws her arms around her. Corrinne buries her head into her chest.
“What happened, Corrinne?” Jason’s mother asked in fear.
“There was a terrible accident,” Corrinne said through her tears.
“Accident! Oh my goodness! Is he…”
Just then, the doctor approaches them.
“Mrs. Bryan, I have some news-“
Everything went suddenly dark.
Corrinne is awakened by the cool surf hitting her feet. She stands and shakes off the memories that cling to her. Corrinne begins walking along the abandoned shore. In the distance, Corrinne can see the all-so-familiar figure approaching her.