Content warning for talking about PTSD and suicidal ideation.
I’m standing on the lawn, looking out at the lake. It’s the second time in under a month that an ambulance has been called to my Baba’s house. In the end, she’ll be all right. I don’t know that, now.
“Call me and check on me throughout the day,” she asked, worried about breathlessness and chest pain.
“Call the ambulance,” I said and drove over.
I’m standing on the lawn, looking out at the lake I’ve known since the day I was born. I could get in there.
It’s an impulse, not a plan.
It’s twenty-degrees. My feet are freezing in my boots. I can’t go into the house, where the EMTs are evaluating her. I wouldn’t be there; standing by the bookcase, opening and closing every Matryoshka doll, I was running up the driveway three years ago. Seeing the face of the firefighter who had stayed behind with Baba as Papa raced off, pulseless, to the emergency room. I’m no help there, trembling and staring and methodically taking things apart and putting them back together.
I could get in and lay down and never have to feel this way again.
I would never have to remember the face of the nurse at the triage window who’d told me they wouldn’t need my grandfather’s clothes or medications. I would never have to reenact it in my mind, try futilely to change the events that had occurred over three years ago. I would never have to construct a fantasy of shoving those bags at the triage nurse, screaming at her that they would need them, as though I could make it retroactively true.
Baba can walk to the ambulance. Papa couldn’t; his arm had flopped off the gurney as they loaded him in.
I can never go inside that house again, I tell myself. But I do. While the first responders navigate the snowy driveway and my husband trudges to the dumpster with trash that hadn’t made it out that morning, I go upstairs. I confront the bathroom I’ve avoided since the night I cleaned blood off the back of the toilet. They said he had a pulse when they arrived. As far as I’m concerned, he died there, on the floor, bleeding from the head, waiting for the ambulance.
I stare at that spot, fists clenched. “You did this to me.” I blame him out loud for my messed up brain. For how hard everything is now. I blame him for dying and leaving me responsible for answering these calls that pour salt into unhealed wounds. I don’t feel any better.
The ambulance drives away. I go out outside, where the car is already running.
“Are you ready to go?” my husband asks.
The same drive is ahead of me. The same hospital, the same emergency room. Baba is going to be okay, but I don’t know that yet. I look at the water.
I could get in.