I wound my way through a variety of different blocks instead of taking the most direct route. I’d almost reached my destination when my surroundings nudged something at the back of my mind. Something about the way the tall building on the corner stood next to the shorter structure beside it tugged at some hidden memory.
I turned a slow circle. I couldn’t say why I remembered this place, but I did. It was probably a stupid thing to do, but I closed my eyes, recreating the crossroads as I seemed to recall them.
Something, I don’t know what, drew me to the right. I slipped across the busy intersection as soon as the pedestrian light turned green. Mouse wouldn’t begin to worry until noon; I still had plenty of time to kill.
The road was straight, traffic flowing freely after the chaos of early morning rush hour. The further I went, the more things became recognizable. Certain buildings began to stand out; my brain decided it certainly remembered those.
Perhaps fifteen minutes later I figured out why everything seemed so familiar. A large white building sprawled lazily along the roadside. It contrasted sharply with most of the buildings surrounding it, which seemed to be reaching as high as they could skyward.
A hospital sign sat out front and a wide driveway split into multiple smaller routes, all with different colored lines drawn down the center.
A siren blared and yanked me from my contemplation. An ambulance raced along the road and turned sharply into the lane in front of me. It followed the red line labeled “Emergency vehicles only!” and disappeared around the corner of the building.
The automatic doors swept open and the air conditioning enveloped me, colder than outside. I was almost at a loss for what to do; I hadn’t been here for five years, now that I was, strange memories trickled back. For some reason it felt like I shouldn’t be here.
I followed my instincts and walked past the reception desk, which was bustling with people, around the corner to the elevators. When I arrived, I was the only person there. I must have missed the last elevator by moments because by the time the little bell sounded, indicating the next had arrived, dozens of people milled around.
They surged forward as the doors opened, not paying any heed to those struggling to get out. I only managed to squeeze in as the doors swooshed shut again.
One of the women standing in front of me stunk of some sort of too much perfume; it was as if she’d bathed in the stuff. When we reached the fifth floor I was glad for the fresh air.
I wandered along the corridor and turned right at the end. The sign on the wall had an arrow pointing to the intensive care unit. I continued slowly, hoping the door would open before I got there. The doors in this section of the hospital all needed a swipe card or pin to pass through.
I was lucky. A woman pushed the door open and sailed past me. She didn’t even seem to see me. I caught the door before it closed and stepped inside. The hallway reminded me of the labs with its abundance of white. Spaced at even intervals along the wall were windows, allowing a view into the small intensive care rooms. Between each pane of glass was a white door with a silver handle and a small silver number screwed to the center.
I didn’t need to count the numbers as I paced my way along the hallway, but I couldn’t help my eyes sliding over them. Below each little number was a small metal frame, holding a piece of card with the last name of the occupant printed in plain black pen.
At room number 514 I stopped, gathered my confidence and turned to gaze through the window. It was exactly the same—the same white walls, the same hospital bed, the same little cupboard next to the bed with a pitcher of water and a glass on top.
The person lying in the bed had the white blanket pulled up across his chest. Numerous tubes and wires ran between his thin arm and the machines standing nearby.
The only thing different was that the name on that plastic bracelet around his wrist was not Mary. Mom had died a long time ago, but standing here, the feelings from that day flooded back.