Home Things
Michael Kimball

I had all of her home things with me and I drove back to the hospital in the dark. It was almost morning and people were starting to wake up and get up and turn the lights on in the bedrooms and the bathrooms and the kitchens of their houses. There were more and more cars with their headlights on driving up and down the streets on my way back to the hospital.

The hospital parking lot was still lit up with those tall lamps. They gave off a false morning light for that soft hospital world.

There were a lot of people walking both toward and away from the hospital and their cars. There was a change of shifts at the hospital. There were doctors and nurses and other hospital workers going home to go to sleep and even more of them who had already gotten up to come back to work.

There were also all of us people who walked back and forth between the hospital and the parking lot before and after visiting hours. We looked different than the people who worked at the hospital. We were carrying things — flowers and clothes and books and food — and many of us were looking up at a particular floor of the hospital to see if the light in a particular window were on.

We nodded our heads to each other or said hello in some other quiet way. Our hair was brushed or combed. Our clothes looked neat and seemed clean. We looked as if we had slept but were still tired. We looked anxious and walked fast. We were all hurrying into the hospital to see if there had been any change in our husband or wife or mother or father or son or daughter. We wanted to know if anything had happened to them while we were at home or asleep. We wanted to get up to their hospital room before they woke up or before they died.

I carried our two suitcases into the hospital through the sliding glass doors, through the lobby, and waited for the elevator to take me back up to my wife. There were other people waiting for the elevator with me and all of us looked old. It could have been any one of us dying too.

We rode the elevator up together, but we got off at different floors. There were different floors for heart attacks and for strokes. There were different floors for organ transplants and for the cancer ward. I got off the elevator at the floor for the intensive care unit. The elevator’s mechanical doors opened up onto a hallway that looked so bright that it looked as if the sun were coming up inside.

I picked our two suitcases up and carried them down the hallway toward her hospital room. I pushed the door to her hospital room open, but I couldn’t really see through the darkness inside there. It seemed as if it were nighttime all the time in that hospital room.

I set our two suitcases down inside the doorway and looked down through the low light toward her hospital bed. My wife was still there, but she just looked like a blanketed shape. My eyes adjusted to the darkness enough for me to see her face, but I couldn’t see that anything had changed in her face. All of the machines and the IVs were all the same as they had been when I had left. My wife was still alive, but she was still asleep.

I told her that I wanted her to come back to me. I told her that it was almost morning and that she should wake up so that we could eat breakfast together again.

I told her that I had brought her some clean clothes so that she could change her clothes and we could go back home. I told her that I had brought her some flowers for her. I asked her if she wanted me to brush her hair for her. I asked her which one of her nightgowns she wanted to wear and if she wanted to wear her housecoat over it.

I didn’t know what else to tell her or to say. I looked away from her. I looked down at the floor and then I looked back up at her face and her face had changed. Her eyebrows were somehow a little higher on her face. It looked as if she were trying to pull her eyelids up so that she could open her eyes up to look at me. Or maybe she was asking me why I had stopped talking. Or maybe she was asking me where she was and why she was there.

I answered her questions back. I told her that she was in a hospital bed and that I was standing next to it. I told her that she had had a seizure in our bed at home and that she had been sleeping ever since then. I told her that they were feeding her through IVs and that she was feeding herself with sleep. I told her that I was going to unpack our two suitcases so that I could stay there with her.

I set our two suitcases down on the empty hospital bed next to her hospital bed and opened them up. I let the locks snap open and it sounded as if we were on vacation. I unpacked our changes of clothes and put them away in a little set of dresser drawers that was next to her hospital bed. I laid a nightgown and the housecoat out over the armrest of the visitor’s chair. I set her slippers down under her hospital bed. I set the reading lamp, the book she was reading, and her reading glasses out on the bedside table. I put her make-up kit inside the bathroom. I set the flowers from our front garden on the windowsill.

I lifted the back of her head up off her hospital pillow and slid her pillow from home back under her head. I unpacked the blanket, unfolded it, and laid it out on top of the other blankets that covered my wife up. I got the alarm clock out and plugged it into a wall socket. It blinked the time off and on and I set the time and set the alarm. It was almost morning and she was almost awake. I wanted to see if this would wake her the rest of the way up.

Michael Kimball is the author of four books, including Dear Everybody and, most recently, Us. He is also responsible for Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard), a couple of documentaries, the 510 Readings, and the conceptual pseudonym Andy Devine.