I have been incapable of moving, even a finger or an eye, for at least a year now. I feel relatively certain about this timeframe because I have been watching the crepe myrtle outside the window of the room I am in. When I came here, the crepe myrtle was bursting with pink. I have since watched it fade to brown, then disappear, then climb back into view one green sprig at a time until it is today exploding with pink again. I am grateful that my family faced me toward the window even though they have no idea whether I can actually see or not.
Likely, my position in the room has been dictated by my wife who has not missed a day by my side. I assert this “day” observation with a bit of care. As best as I have been able to distinguish days from nights—periods of light and dark—she has been present. My comprehension, perhaps better described as my “sense,” of time is not dictated by an absolute passage, but rather by relative changes in states: light or dark, recumbent or reclined, numbness or pain.
I have watched her demeanor change with the seasons as well. From unfettered hope to staunch acceptance, Spring passed to Summer. The realization that my state was probably inalterable moved with an early September rustle, interrupted only by a few moments of Indian Summer, to a halting Autumnal despair. Forcing a mask of joy upon a season of salvation, I know she silently prayed to the spirit of the anticipated newborn Christ during Advent for my shedding off of the shackles of life. And I have once again watched her, ebullient with hope—feigned for the sake of a child who is now able to comprehend who I am—and vigor, make fake preparations for my return home. Her tender words accompanied by pecks on my cheek, her sheepish finger fondling my hair, her tears, her raspy and longing soliloquies intermingling memory with nostalgia: all bear witness to a doting and dutiful wife.
I’ve been visited by more friends and family than I ever knew I had. In addition to my porcelain-faced wife and even more porcelain-faced daughter, I have also seen the faces of my loved ones change, grow a year older…or more. Parents and siblings and nieces and nephews alike—I’ve watched tired and pained faces crackle under the pressure and stress that comes from caring for me. I’ve watched young faces mature. I’ve seen beards grow on the faces of those who were but boys. I’ve seen the faces of people I know and many I do not as they have come to visit me. I have seen the seasons change by the clothes my visitors have worn: first polos, then t-shirts, then flannels, then sweatshirts and coats. The polos have returned with the crepe myrtles.
I am excited to see my child celebrate Easter again, which must be right around the corner. Last year, they dressed my daughter as a bunny. Adorable and carefree, she played in my room and spoke at me, with those few words saved for and murmured by three year olds— for hours. She didn’t want to leave, but was eventually convinced by those who were able to speak that hunting Easter eggs would be more fun than playing hide and seek with the motionless creature in the bed. I could not, in good conscience, argue otherwise though the physical inability to move my lips or force air from my diaphragm over my pharynx also prevented my argument.
The outpouring of sheer delight and unabated love that flows from my visitors is no less poignant than the unfettered hatred that drove me here in the first place. For every morsel of adoration that I receive from my family and friends, for every cheery reminiscence at my bedside, for each enchanting monologue and anecdote of football-field heroics or gymnastic feats, for the hundreds of quiet assurances that I am loved and that my family is well cared for, there remains a dark spot on my soul. My heart, before the accident, was as black as the darkest country night. Why I had allowed my fetid essence to overtake my outwardly good-humored life still eludes me, but it did. And when my melancholy—the short and practically unnoticed interlude that separated my two states—broke for evil, it did so with such ferocity that I could feel the eighth circle of Hell open within my chest.
While it took me some time to recognize that the movement of muscles that I ordered within my mind was not followed throughout by my limbs and extremities, I am certain that I am, in fact, still alive. Though living, I am not completely confined by my body. I am relatively certain that my physical eyes are closed, yet I see my surroundings. I am relatively certain that the synapses connecting my ears to my brain are short-circuited, yet I hear. I am relatively certain that my fingers and toes are gone, yet there are moments in which a pain indescribable with even the words of a thousand libraries consumes me.
I surmise that my spirit has been set askew from my corporeal existence. Slightly de-tethered, my consciousness sits infinitesimally above my body. While I’ve worked through the possibility that this de-tethering has allowed my good and pure being to escape from my Chillingsworth’s blackness, I am uncertain that it is that metaphysical. Neither is this separation purely the physical from the sprit: I feel. I have sense and thought, but no control. I cannot float above my body and look down, so I know only the positions and movements that others have forced upon me. Although I am uncertain that my heart or lungs work anymore, when I am alone with my thoughts, I hear my pained heart beat. I feel it.
My darling wife took the loss so much better than me. Something in the womanly constitution makes the pain of loss somehow as endurable as the pain of birth. For her, these pains arrived concurrently, with a perfectly still baby delivered from her womb. It never cried, nor even gasped for a first breath. The silent, vacant expression that it greeted us with was as haunting as the ghastly shade of bluish grey that tinged even his tiny toes.
I could not forgive like she could. I did not have the pain of birthing to shadow the pain of loss. I did not have the pain of loss, even, to shadow it. In only a few instances in my life had I even lost an arm-wresting match, let alone lost a loved one. I could not move on without somehow recouping some value for my loss. I had been consumed with a misplaced quest for vengeance—one with which the vigor of perfection and accomplishment had become my paradigm. At the same time, angry that I should lose anything and desperate that I could lose everything, I sought the only salve I could imagine—with the irreverence of a child pulling wings off of crickets. The legions of demons welled up and consumed me and affirmed the vengeance that my forsaken relationship with God told me was his alone. My being was not cleaved, but self-ingested.
I plotted with such quiet intensity that even my wife—my perfect and lovely wife—was hardly aware of what I had in store for the Doctor whose profligate actions allowed my son to die. For months after the inebriated Doctor allowed my son to be strangled by his own umbilical cord within my wife’s throbbing womb, I scraped the bottom limits of human sadness. When at last I made love to her again, it was a mocking charade. I could only imagine that I was inflicting pain upon that Doctor: a weird combination of asyncopated carnality that surely affected new pains upon what should have been the tenderest moments with my divine beau. I plunged a dagger deep into his heart, then deeper, then deeper until his vapid haughtiness—that subhuman object of my pungent disdain—was at last stilled and his fingers grey. She wept. I robbed her of the only joy I had left to give her, and we never had a chance to try again. Consumed as I was with my fiendish plot, I could not imagine ecstasy but for the utter destruction of my unwitting nemesis.
“There was nothing we could do,” he slouched in my direction, the swill of expensive merlot still staining his lips and burning my nostrils. “It was just too tangled.”
“I’m so sorry,” he slurred.
“’IT’ was my son.” I shouted with the rage of a thousand warriors.
“’IT’ was going to bear my name. ‘IT’ was going to be an Olympic Gold Medalist. ‘IT’ was going to be President, and cure cancer, and be by my bedside when I pass on to Heaven. ‘IT’ was my son.” Perhaps less eloquent and more broken by sobs and grotesque guffaws than I idealize the invective, the sentiments were there. My son had been stolen from me by a careless and unrepentant man during what should have been an easily remedied birthing anomaly.
When the Doctor left the room, my wife and I cried together. Then the nurses left us completely alone. In each others’ arms, time stood still. Even then, I could feel the ability to forgive draining out of me, as though an elixir spilt through my tears. Though I never knew for certain, I imagined the Doctor returning to his dinner with his wife and his children and his bottle of expensive wine. As I reimagined and rewrote the conclusion of the night—through the increasingly myopic lenses of rage—the Doctor’s post-delivery actions became more sinister. Each time I re-lived the moment, his eyes gleamed with more redness and his back more grotesquely hunched. Ultimately, I settled upon a constructed narrative that returned him to a raucous bacchanalia surrounded by the corpses of countless others’ nascent sons and reveling in the despair of their fathers.
When, at last, I completed planning my revenge, I set the date and time. I was insistent that it would be unrelentingly violent. For all the tenderness of the still corpse in my flaccid arms, there would be writhing, dismembering pain to balance it. The Doctor would pay with his body in a way that would shake the universe around him.
The system, too, had failed. The hospital closed every door of accountability available to us. Unsanctioned, the Doctor continued to practice. The institution was as culpable as the individual within it and equally deserving of my ire. My swath of revenge would be exacted with a plow, not a scalpel.
Building a bomb was not difficult. I learned what I needed to know on the Internet. Apparently, the myths about the FBI monitoring searches for terrorist-related inquiries were fear-mongered hype. Nobody ever showed at my door and, from what I could discern, I was never followed or investigated. Slowly acquiring the components gave me special pleasure. Besides making my activities undetectable, each isolated purchase ripped off the ever-darkening scab on my re-exposed soul. When, at last, the contraption was complete, I only needed to place it.
I made an appointment for recurring patella pain. This was my excuse to wander the hospital and search for the ideal location. I wore the most unassuming tan outfit I could piece together and searched the halls for empty rooms. Nobody questioned my exploring. I walked with purpose. I found the Doctor’s office, then found a nearby closet. For all the cleanliness and sterility that a hospital outwardly displays, this closet was the most disgusting space I had ever seen. Clearly, it was used as a repository for outdated instruments, cleaning supplies—an irony that, were my heart not hardened, would have otherwise struck me as hilarious—and old, dirty scrubs. Where rat feces may have completed the cliché of dirtiness, a layer of dust, dander, and sweat congealed to form a gelatinous residue.
My bomb was designed for maximum destruction. It needed to be compact enough to fit into an innocuous backpack but strong enough to blast through interior walls and spread at least sixty feet in each direction. Based upon how I placed it, the maximum blast would concuss vertically or horizontally. I found a closet within two doors of my target’s office. If he was anywhere within a thirty-foot radius, he would be destroyed. There would be nothing left of him. Within sixty feet, he would be killed, though there might be enough of him to work on until his wounds were declared mortal. Though I couldn’t be certain of this outcome, several floors could be destroyed. In a perfect execution, the strength of the blast would weaken the structural integrity of the building, facilitating the carnage of a collapse. There were no innocent bystanders. Collateral damages were to be an exclamation point upon the viciousness of the execution. The institution would pay for the sins of the Doctor. He and his memory would be stained with the sacrificial blood of those who would dare trust him—with even so much as proximity.
After identifying the location for placement, only a detonator remained. I decided on a redundant fuse device. Should the radio-activated detonator fail, a timer would finish the job. The latter, of course, would be destructive but not targeted. The former would ensure the obliteration of the failed healer. My desire for destruction and carnage had, by this point, overtaken my quest for vengeance. Neither of these scenarios was preferred. In fact, I placed the secondary fuse on a random timer that could go off anytime, completely devoid of target, yielding only carnage. I was rather pleased with my ability to construct this secondary fuse. It was date and time sensitive. The only constraint I placed upon the timer was that it would detonate within twelve months of activation. My pride was black. My still-born son’s clenched blue fingers but a fuzzy and almost forgotten backdrop for my planning.
I am doubtful that the bomb has yet exploded. The blackness that once defined my soul has, in this year of corporeal paralysis, softened to a mushy grey. All I can do is enjoy the doting moments from my family and friends while pushing out—save for swirling moments of contemplative doom like this one—the concussive inevitability that looms on the horizon of human misery that I have set in motion. If, but for a twinkling, I could hurl my living corpse upon the ticking mortar, I would. Instead, I know that when the blast finally comes, it will silence more hearts than my own, and will never ever reunite me with the child whose still-born embrace will eternally elude me.