How My Wife Would Not Wake Up
By Michael Kimball - Jul 16, 2018
The following is an excerpt from the novel Us by Michael Kimball, available from Tyrant Books here.
Our bed was shaking and it woke me up afraid. But my wife didn’t wake up and her body seemed to keep seizing up. But then that stopped and her body dropped back down flat on our bed again. She let one long breath out and then stopped moving and breathing. She looked as if she were sleeping again, but she wouldn’t wake up.
I turned the bedroom light on, but that didn’t wake her up. I tried to shake her some more, but that didn’t wake her up either. I laid her shoulders back down on our bed and her head back down on her pillow. I picked her glass of water up from her bedside table and opened her mouth up and tipped a little water in, but she didn’t swallow it. I pulled her eyelids up, but her eyes didn’t look back at me, and her eyelids closed up again when I let go of them.
I picked the telephone up to call for somebody to come to help me to get my wife up. I covered my wife up with the bedcovers to keep her warm. I pulled the bedcovers up to her neck. I brushed her hair back away from her face with my hand and touched her cheek. I held my fingers under her nose and over her mouth, but I couldn’t feel any breath coming out of her anymore. I held onto her nose and tried to breathe some of my breath into her mouth, but there didn’t seem to be enough air inside of me to get her to breathe.
I was afraid to leave my wife there in our bed, but I was also afraid that the ambulance might not find our house. I walked out of our bedroom down the hallway and up into the front of our house. I turned all of the lights in all of the front rooms of our house on. I opened the front door up, stood in its doorway, and turned the light on the front porch on too. I wanted them to know that it was our house and us that needed them.
They came inside our house to take my wife away from me and to the hospital. They banged their way through the front door and into the living room. One of them carried an oxygen tank, an oxygen mask, and a metal box that had drawers inside it that folded up and out when he opened it up. The other one of them rolled a metal gurney inside our house that had folding legs under it and a flat board tied down on top of it. He rolled it inside our house and down the hallway and into our bedroom. They set everything that they had with them down inside our bedroom and around our bed and my wife and they checked to see if she were still alive.
One of them pulled the bedcovers down off of her and straightened her nightgown out. He touched her neck and held onto her wrist. He listened to her chest for her heart. He pulled her eyelids up, opened her mouth up, and looked inside her mouth and into her eyes with a tiny flashlight. He put his ear down over her mouth and close to her nose to see if he could hear or feel her breathing.
The other one got the oxygen tank out, placed the oxygen mask over her face, and turned the oxygen tank on. My wife seemed to take a deep breath in and stay alive. They rolled her over onto her one side and placed the flat board on top of our bed where her body had been. They rolled her back down onto the flat board, lifted her up, and placed the flat board and her back down on the metal gurney.
My wife looked so light in their arms. I wanted to lift her up too.
They pulled the gurney blanket up to her neck to cover her up, but they left her arms out and it looked as if she were holding them out to me. One of them moved me out of the way with his arm and they both rolled the metal gurney with my wife on top of it out of our bedroom, back down the hallway, and out the front door. They carried her down the front steps, rolled her down the front walk, and lifted her up into the back of their ambulance.
I followed them out of our house and down the front walk, but there wasn’t anywhere for me to sit down inside the back of that ambulance, and I could not have climbed up into it anyway. They would have had to lift me up into it too.
One of them climbed up into the back of the ambulance after my wife and the other one pushed the two back doors closed and climbed up into the front. He told me to follow them to the hospital and he drove away from me with my wife. They left me out there on the front walk in front of our house. They left me out there in the nighttime with their ambulance lights flashing red all around me, but they didn’t turn their siren on.
I went back inside our house and then back out of our house through the back door and out to the driveway. I backed our car out of the driveway and drove away after the ambulance. I could see the red lights flashing up ahead of me and flashing high up on the sides of buildings and the tops of the trees that lined the streets. The streetlights blinked off and on and off and on all the way to the hospital. I followed the blinking and the flashing lights after my wife. I didn’t want to lose the ambulance.
I didn’t want to lose my wife. I wanted to see my wife lying down in a hospital bed. I wanted to see my wife breathing on her own again. I wanted to see her get up out of bed again. I wanted to see her get up out of our bed again. I wanted my wife to come back home and live there with me again.