I would like to really thank everyone that has ordered copies of "Death in the City." I'm looking forward to reading your reviews when you're finished reading it. For those who haven't read it yet, here's another sample.
4 - Hard Words & Harder Goodbyes
The first half of Nurse Jeanie’s work day went by faster than she expected despite the emergency room being relatively quiet that evening with the exception of a few crying children who were sick with the flu and a few loud confrontations between hospital security guards and homeless men who kept having to be escorted out of the building for loitering. It was freezing outside and they were seeking somewhere to sleep and get warm but the hospital didn’t want them inside the building unless they were there for medical treatment which, by law, they couldn’t deny them. There was also a grumpy, rude, perverted old man suffering from an asthma attack that kept wheezing inappropriate requests directed at the female nurses. He seemed to be obsessed with how their butts looked in their nurse’s uniforms and insisted on telling them, in graphic detail, what he wanted them to let him do to those butts. He was obnoxiously loud but otherwise, the doctors, nurses, orderlies and everyone on duty that night were all appreciative of a not-so-busy night in the E.R. for a change. Everyone seemed to be drowsy and moving at a snail’s pace because of the sleepy vibe that hung in the air like a thick fog.
Jeanie hadn’t brought any food from home so on her break, she decided to buy dinner from the West Indian food truck that was always parked on the side block of the hospital. She loved Jamaican food and they always had delicious, spicy jerk chicken which she happened to have a craving for that evening. She placed her order at the window cut into the side of the truck, then rocked and swayed to the old school reggae that softly poured out of the truck’s speakers. She made pleasant small talk with the chubby owner of the food truck as he prepared her meal but only because it would have seemed rude if she hadn’t. He politely passed her the hot chicken wrapped in aluminum foil and Jeanie smiled at how delicious if smelled. She wished him a pleasant night before she turned away to walk back to the hospital. That’s when she heard a familiar voice behind her.
“Why’d you call me and hang up?” Nate, Jeanie’s ex-husband, asked.
Angry and annoyed by the sound of his voice, Jeanie spun around to face him. The last thing she was in the mood for was an argument with him on the street outside of her job. When she looked at him, she was shocked by his appearance. He had always been a neat, well-groomed man. He cared so much about the way he looked that she often called him pretty, or vain so it was surprising to see him disheveled and un-kept. Even in the shadow that the hood of his sweatshirt cast over his face, she could tell that he hadn’t shaved in weeks. He wasn’t exactly filthy but, his jeans were just dirty enough to let her know that he had been wearing them for some time without washing them.
“What’re you doing here Nate?” she asked.
“I haven’t seen or heard from you in a month and a half. I’ve tried to reach out to you but you won’t take my calls,” he said.
“Because there’s nothing to talk about,” she interrupted.
Nate felt her animosity towards him like a gunshot to his chest but he was determined to keep talking because he had no idea when he would have the chance to speak to, or see her again.
“I was surprised to see your number pop up in my phone yesterday and then I got worried when you just hung up,” he explained.
“I hung up because I didn’t want to talk to you,” she quickly answered.
“But you must have wanted to talk because you dialed my number…unless you called me by mistake,” he said, questioning her sincerity.
“Listen Nate…I had a really rough day and I was having a really hard time sleeping so I dialed your number. I swear, I’m not even sure why I thought it was a good idea to call you but I hung up because I changed my mind,” she explained without sharing the whole truth with him which made her feel bad because she had always believed that selective, deliberate omission was the same as lying.
“Well, what had you shook up enough to reach out to me all of a sudden? In all the years I’ve known you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you afraid or unsure, or even restless. You’ve always been a woman of faith,” he said.
“Not anymore,” Jeanie answered. “ I gave all that up after our son was taken from us.”
“Well, your faith isn’t the only thing you gave up on after he died,” said Nate.
“He didn’t die! He was killed….and I don’t want to talk about this,” she snapped.
“Why not? Why can’t we talk about our son? Why can’t we talk about us? We were supposed to be there for each other…to get through this. What the fuck happened to our marriage?” Nate yelled so loudly that more than a few people passing by turned their heads to see what was going on.
“Because there’s nothing to talk about!” she shouted and the veins in her neck bulged as she yelled back at the top of her voice.
“Nothing? Twelve years of marriage and you think there’s nothing to talk about?” he asked and grabbed her arm as she tried to walk away from him.
“No…nothing!” she said through gritted teeth as she yanked her arm away from him and continued on her way back to the hospital.
“So…it’s really just that easy for you to throw it all away…to throw me away?” he asked.
Nate’s question made Jeanie turn around and storm right back towards him. His aggressive demand for answers had triggered an anger inside her that she had kept bottled up for so long that it had become more harmful to her heart than her grief. There were things that she needed to say but had avoided saying just to spare Nate’s feelings but now that he had chosen to relentlessly pry, she decided to let him have it all.
“Yes, it WAS that easy. You want to know why I stopped loving you?” she asked while poking her finger in his chest. “I stopped loving you the day you stood up on that podium, in front of all those news cameras, right alongside the police commissioner, calling for peace, asking everyone to stay calm, begging the people who were angry and outraged about what happened to OUR boy not to turn the city upside down. You stood side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with the people who were protecting and defending our son’s murderer. You stood there…asking everyone to protest peacefully and I just stood there with you and let you speak…and I hated you…and I hated myself too. While you were trying to help them save this place, all I wanted was to watch it burn like the hell it is. That’s when I stopped believing in you…stopped loving you. That’s when I stopped believing in everything I was taught about faith…and forgiveness. I have neither one of those things left in me. Do you get it now? Do you understand now? I hope you do. Now…leave me the fuck alone,” she told him coldly before she turned her back on him and started to walk away again.
“I lost a son too. I miss him too. I hurt too!” Nate yelled after her.
“Obviously not as much as I do,” she answered without turning around to look at him.
Copyright © 2016 Keith Kareem Williams
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