Holding On. Short Story.

The machines beeped with a steady, almost soothing, rhythm. It was hard to believe that these few machines were all that were keeping him alive. One was helping him breathe, steadily expanding and contracting with a faint hiss as his chest slowly rose and fell in time. The bags of blood were finally gone. She was glad of that. They were so distracting, deep red clots of blood that drew her eyes, so dark and distracting against the white of the rest of the room. Now all that was left were clear bags of saline, the bag for the catheter was discretely hanging from the bed, on the opposite side on which she sat. The sheets were white and crisp and always seemed to be clean, no matter the time or day she visited. She hoped that some part of him was aware of it, he always did like clean sheets. Jane knew that others visited him, but she always had the room to herself. She never stayed long though, just in case. She knew his parents didn’t approve of her, that was certainly no secret, and it just seemed easier to simply avoid them when possible. They probably blamed her for what happened to Mark too, even though she wasn’t there. Jane shifted slightly, the heat of the sun was starting to become uncomfortable on her back. She stood and closed the blinds, darkening the room a little. She felt bad, like she was cutting him off from the outside. The summer had been hot so far, it felt wrong almost. His world was ending, but everyone else’s continued on. It should be raining outside, stormy, the very skies weeping for him, but life continued on. The sun shined and couples and families went out to enjoy the days. The days Jane should have been enjoying with Mark.

Jane hadn’t given up hope, not yet, she hoped he would wake up every day, but she was practical. It had been almost six months with no signs of improvement. Doctors had been hinting about turning off the life supports, but Jane knew his parents would never hear of it. They’d keep him like this for as long as they could afford to, which would be a very, very long time. They never stopped and wondered what Mark would want. He had never said anything specifically about this situation, after all who would think about these kinds of things at twenty three? But Jane knew enough about Mark to know he wouldn’t want this. An empty shell, a husk, just sitting here, waiting until it was finally given permission to die. Sometimes she thought it wasn’t fair, that it was stopping her and everyone else from properly grieving and moving on. Thoughts she would never actually verbalise to anyone else, she didn’t want to see the look of shock and revulsion in their eyes if she said it. She gripped his hand tightly in hers, gently moving her thumb back and forth on the back of his hand. He liked that, he found it soothing. She hoped that if part of him was still in there, scared and panicking, he’d feel it and it would calm him down a little.

Jane let go of his hand and stood, leaning over she kissed him gently on the forehead. “I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?” She gave his hand another squeeze then Jane turned and left the room. A few of the nurses nodded and smiled at her on her way out. They knew she didn’t like to talk to people after seeing Mark. So far she had come in every single day he was here. Sometimes she wondered if he’d even know if she missed a day, but doing so felt like a kind of betrayal to him, like she was just forgetting about him. She’d never forget about him. How could she?

Jane stepped into the lift and waited as it brought her down, slowly but surely. It seemed like it would be so easy to just never come back. Lately she had to drag herself out, dreading the trip. It was only a half an hour each way, but some days that half hour felt endless. Maybe it really would be better if she scaled back the visits a little. The hospital would surely call her if he woke up, wouldn’t they? And, if she was honest with herself, Mark probably didn’t know. The visits were more for her than for him. He wasn’t really Mark anymore. Just an empty copy of him. Would it really be so bad to only go every second day?

Jane stepped out into the lobby, she had grown to hate this place. At first it had seemed nice, relaxing. White walls and tiles floors, potted plants at regular intervals. But now she saw it for what it was, cold and sterile. It felt too big, too wide, too airy. It was such a vast space to walk through. Despite the lack of any soft furnishings, sounds seemed to be muffled too, there was no clacking of high heels here, just a strange thudding. Jane walked through the doors and to the outside. The front of the hospital was a wide, flat expanse of grass with roads snaking through. Jane suspected the lack of trees was to make it easier to spot any patients wandering the grounds. She turned along the path and started walking towards the garage. She still had to pay for parking here, they already made a small fortune off her. She stopped walking and breathed deeply, inhaling the fresh air, then she released it slowly. She was just stressed, that was all. It had been a long, long day. She was just being silly, silly and a little bit selfish. She started to walk again, this time going slower, she would do something for herself tonight. Something nice, perhaps a bath and a glass of wine. Her mother might have a few words about that, she was never a supporter of drinking alone for any reason. Still, Jane would ignore it, like she always did. It was after all just a glass. She needed something, anything to let her relax, even if it was only for a few minutes.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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