So it was on a Tuesday, I think, Tuesday night, and my wife started complaining about chest pains. I remember thinking that’s a big deal. It was getting worse, so I called 911. The medics appeared almost immediately, coming in through the front door, a whole bunch of them. I was very impressed by that.
“Mrs. Downing, how’d you like to come with us,” said one. “I think the doctors should take a look at you ... Would that be OK?”
Sharon didn’t answer, but she did shake her head, as if to say OK. I shook my head too, even if they weren’t looking at me. The medics packed up everything and laid her out on a stretcher. “You can follow us down,” said one of them to me.
“I love you,” I said to my wife, sounding as bright and positive as I could. “I’ll see you soon.”
I found the van pulling into the hospital parking lot and backing up against the big door. I felt a little alone. “Excuse me, excuse me,” I said. “I’m the husband. I need to check on my wife.”
“Sir, you have to give us room,” somebody said. “She needs to see the doctor.”
So that was it. My wife was pushed through a door and disappeared. I was left alone. “OK,” I thought. “What do I do now?”
I went through the door; there were several cubicles. Each of them had a bed and a table with drawers. Three or four nurses surrounded my wife, I knew it was her, I recognized the goofy socks she likes to wear. I rushed towards her, but an orderly held me back.
“Not now,” he said. “They’ll call for you when it’s time.”
I might as well have been ignored. The orderly reached out to shove me back again. I didn’t move. There was a gap, a wide open space between my feet and the bed. I’m sure there was room for me. I reached forward, but it didn’t seem to do any good.
Who were these people? Who are these strangers? This is my wife, I thought. I need to be there!
“Sir, sir!” they cried, shoving me back. Apparently I was coming too close.
“There’s room for me!” I cried. “I need to be there!”
“OK,” said one of them. “Are we all ready to go?”
I guess they were. Everyone grabbed onto the rail, nearly running me down. “Sir,” said one of the women. “Please,” she said forcefully, “let us do our job.”
There was silence like a dead echo. No one was near me, the hall lights seemed thin. I pushed cautiously on the swinging door. No one was on the other side. A long hallway stretched out nearly as far as I could see. No windows. No doors. I started heading down the hallway. I’m not a very good walker, so it probably wasn’t as long as I thought it was. Finally the hallway stopped and made a quick turn to the right. A set of doors lay before me. I pushed them forward and came upon a big darkened room, nearly pitch black. I swept the wall with my hand, looking for a switch. But there wasn’t anything to feel. I pulled away. In an instant I lost the feel of the wall, I lost everything. I was floating in a vast expanse of darkness and nothing.
Who turns the lights off in a hospital? Nobody! I fell backwards, gasping for breath. My fingers crawled up the side of the wall. I followed the hallway back to where I started.
I fell against the wall and dropped to my knees. Back down the long hall, through the last set of doors. Out into the dark of night. My wife was leaning against my truck, a bit shaky but smiling.
“Gas,” she said, looking down at the ground, kicking her feet. “Too much chili, maybe, maybe something I ate ... come back in a week ... I wanna go home.”
I put my arm around her and hugged her tight against the cold air. I looked up against the walls of the hospital. I was hoping it wasn’t the hospital that created its own darkness — people should only get sick in the daytime, otherwise it’s just too scary.
Nothing really that bad has happened since then, it was as if we had come through the darkness. I held my wife, she snuggled up against me. Maybe we don’t need to know everything.