In one waiting room of intensive care there is space for 8. We sit in a U shaped arrangement in an alcove next to the artery where troops and couples and three-spots of others like us parade to the territory beyond the automatic doors carrying balloons and flowers. They straggle back smiling or chattering or silent or wiping their eyes or all of those simultaneously.
We text the outlanders with news and talk about trucks, guns, children, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, dogs, wolves, furnaces, our fathers and mothers. We make calls. We laugh and argue. We read newspapers. We eat clementines and carrots and doughnuts. We sit and stare and sometimes doze, arms wrapped across our chests. We walk up and down. We migrate to the anteroom next to the elevators where big windows let in the sun and below us a pool of water rests among trees.
The priest visits. He anoints her twice with the Sacrament of the Sick.
We enter the room together or singly, brother and sister, husband and children, friends. One bed. One room. Many doctors. Machines. A bed that looks like a cantilevered bridge, one able to open for ships venturing into deep water. Trees of plastic bags filled with medicines and saline solutions whose contents pulse into tubes and are parcelled in a mass to the bed. A computer screen that records blood pressure, respiration, pulse rate, oxygen levels. We fix on that image as if it were the tablet that held all the secrets of the world. We will the numbers towards equilibrium.
Our sister, mother, wife, aunt, in-law, friend lies in stillness in a hush at our center. We talk to her, touch her hands, command her to squeeze them, kiss her, stroke her hair, tickle her feet, rest her hand upon ours, call her name as if it were the decisive word in a spell. We form a circle around her. Joined together, we look down, look away, wait, pour into her our desire that she return. We pray.
On day seven she opens her eyes. On day eight she murmurs our names. She whispers sentences. She smiles.
With her, we are rising from the bottom of a lake into air and light.