Looking out the window of the taxi as she rode to the airport, she was startled out of her reverie by the voice of the cabdriver.
“Ma’am,” he said, trying to capture her attention, “Ma’am, the airport has arranged for you to be escorted from the terminal to the plane. Do you have any special requests?”
She turned her head in the general direction of the cabdriver, not hearing what he said, instead following the sound that had interrupted her silence. She stared at him for what seemed a long while, trying to decipher his words as if they had been spoken in a different language. Then suddenly, she realized that it was indeed English he spoke, and the words were directed towards her. He seemed to need her to respond in some fashion, so she silently shook her head in the negative, and then turned her head to look out the window again.
The cab stopped; the door opened; she got out; all of this done without any awareness of her surroundings. People came up to her, they spoke, she nodded or she shook her head. But if anyone had asked her later, or even now, she would say she couldn’t remember how she made it from one place to another that day, or what she said, or who she said it to. What she would tell you is that one minute she was on the phone in Sausalito, and the next she was sitting in a seat on an airplane headed for a Los Angeles hospital.
There was noise everywhere as she was led through the busy terminal and taken to the proper gate, but she was only aware of it in the sense that it was there, in the background. Oblivious, she entered the plane while it was still empty and was seated in a window seat away from everyone else, away from any thing or any one that might upset her more than she already was. The Flight Attendants had been briefed about her trip and the reasons for it, with instructions to leave her alone, but to keep a watchful eye on her.
She sat there in her seat and numbly looked out the window, thinking of nothing, nothing at all. She didn’t even realize the plane had taken off until the sight of clouds finally registered in her brain and she dimly became aware that she was in the air. She turned from the window to look down the aisle and saw a Flight Attendant, who quickly came to ask if she needed anything.
The idea of anyone being able to give her what she needed brought the first bout of silent tears. Tears she should have cried when the phone call first arrived, but hadn’t; tears that filled her eyes in the same silence that she had cocooned herself in since she had begun her journey.
She looked into the eyes of the Attendant, and then realized all she could do was sit there in silence and let her eyes fill with tears. Finally she found the words and asked if she could have some water. The water arrived and was placed on her table, and it sat there untouched for the entire journey while she looked out the window at the clouds. She wondered if she could get lost in those clouds, lost in the sky and never have to land.
She absently looked away from the window only to find Attendants hovering, looking at her, and she was shamed. She saw the looks on their faces, she felt the wetness of her tear stained face, and she knew she was more vulnerable than she had ever been in her life. There, completely naked with her emotions visible in front of complete strangers, she quickly turned her head to look out the window again, praying silently that there was some view to occupy her attention. Even a lonely, desolate one was better than nothing.
Then the clouds were gone, the land and water beneath were gone, the plane was on the ground and she was in LA. She sat there a moment and wished she could be back in the clouds, above it all, above the silent screams, above the pain, above all the noise she was now going to have to deal with. She longed to be in those clouds forever with her only child—to keep him free from the pain, to keep him away from death’s door. But as she rose to leave the plane she realized that nothing she could ever do would ever keep him safe again. And there, in that moment, in front of complete strangers, she lost all hope, and her heart broke in two.
She said her goodbyes before she exited the plane and they watched her go in their own silence. Unable to speak, unable to look her in the eyes, unable to look each other in the eyes, they silently returned to their duties and pushed the sight of her out of their minds.
She picked up her luggage and she flagged a taxi to drive her to the hospital. She sat in the taxi for yet another journey, and all she could do was look out the window with nothing but tears and her newly shattered heart for company.
She arrived at the hospital and paid the cab driver. It took what seemed hours to walk the distance from the sidewalk to the entrance, although in reality it probably took only a few minutes. People approached her as she walked, spoke to her, asked her questions, but she could not answer them, she couldn’t find words quite yet. She wasn’t sure she would ever find them again to be honest, and the repeated questions and solicitations about her well-being weren’t helping at all. Finally, in a tone that must have sounded quite harsh, she asked.
“Where is my son?”
They all stopped as if frozen, no one spoke, no one blinked an eye, until finally one brave young soul took her by the hand and led her silently down the corridor to the room where her son lay dying from a gun shot wound to the head. As she took each step to the room, her legs got heavier and heavier and, as she took each step to the room her heart shattered into more pieces.
She entered the room and saw her only child, his breathing synchronized with the steady sound of the machines he was hooked up to. Doctors, Nurses, Administrators, all circled around her in a frenzy of noise, asking her more questions, more questions she did not know the answers to. She took a few blind steps to find a seat, the noise around her stopping instantly, leaving only the rhythmic sounds of the machines in the room. She looked at the face of her child and then turned and looked out the window, thinking nothing really—nothing at all.
Time stopped. Perhaps it was days, hours, or even minutes later when she stopped looking out the window. She finally returned from whatever place she had steeled herself away in, and she knew what she had to do—she had to let go. She looked at her son one final time. She kissed him and nodded to the doctors, then watched them turn machines off one by one.
The silence in the room screamed to her as she sat and watched life slip from him. When it was finally done, when the last drop of life had left him, all she could do was turn and leave the room, leaving behind her heart, now shattered into so many pieces she doubted it could never be put back together again.