Head On

In the waiting room, I told Michelle and Rudy I felt guilty. Not about the accident, but about what I said to Dave right before the accident. He’s been putting on weight for several years and it has gotten to the point that I worry about him having a heart attack going up the stairs. Anyway, I told Dave that I couldn’t sleep with him anymore until he lost the flab. He pushed himself out of the lazy boy without saying a word, picked up his keys from the table and stalked out of the house. He squealed his tires when he pulled out of the driveway and again at the stop sign pulling onto the highway. I wasn’t worried though. My husband is a good driver. I figured it would be good for him. I told myself he needed to get away and think about things, and if he was mad at me that was OK so long as he gets mad enough to do something. I was worried about his health.

The Montana State Trooper who came to my door said the kid who hit Dave had just left a convenience store. He had unwrapped a Hostess Cupcake and the frosting stuck to the cellophane so he took his eyes off the road for a few seconds to try to peel it off. His suburban veered into Dave’s small pickup going about fifty. The kid had his seat belt on so he’s OK. I never could get Dave to wear his. The Toyota is a ball of twisted blue metal and Dave’s been in a coma for almost three days now. They say it helps to talk to him, and I tell him how much I love him every chance I get. But I don’t know if he can hear anything. I can’t sleep and I can’t eat. I don’t think I am making sense to anyone. A nurse gave me a bottle of water and that helped. I think my brain was starting to short out. I read once where people can die from lack of sleep, but the nurse said I would pass out first. I think I may have passed out this morning. Someone brought me a blanket, but I don’t remember who. They’re really nice here. I hope I am making sense to you. Tell me if I just start talking gibberish, will you?

I don’t know what I’d do without Dave. He’s a driller but his job is not what he loves. Dave loves to float the rivers around Missoula in his drift boat and fly-fish for trout.

He’s taken all his friends out for years. He loves to row and just to get out there. He doesn’t ever care if he catches anything and he always throws the fish back anyway.

I go with him sometimes. I like to ride in the front seat and feel the boat roll over the current. It can rock you to sleep, riding with Dave while he oars through the rapids, eddies and riffles. He usually floats the Blackfoot, the Bitterroot and the Clark Fork Rivers, but sometimes we go out of town and float the Missouri or the Yellowstone or the Bighole. He hardly ever hits any rocks but I am a little scared of the Yellowstone River. That river has a lot of power and a lot of boulders.

My husband also likes to shoot gophers with his best friend Rudy in the spring. Every weekend in May they take their .22s and a cooler of beer out to some rancher’s place near the Blackfoot River where Dave has drilled lots of water wells for irrigation. Sometimes the rancher joins them and they shoot gophers by the hundreds. Dave used to elk hunt, but since he put on so much weight the past ten years, it’s hard for him to hike in very far, so he keeps the coffee and the fire hot for the boys back in camp, along with a handy bottle of Wild Turkey, and way too many snacks.

Dave has lots of funny sayings.  When he is surprised by something he likes to say ‘Well, what have we here?’ and he laughs at himself a lot. I’m starting to ramble aren’t I? Have you seen the floor nurse?  They wheeled Dave down for an MRI. I’m kind of nervous. They’ve been gone quite awhile. We don’t have any kids. I can’t have them on account of my condition which is delicate to talk about with some people, but you seem OK. I had a bad abortion done when I was sixteen and it ruined me for kids. Dave says he doesn’t mind though. He’s a sweet guy. And there I go and say something mean to him right before this and now he’s unable to hear me apologize for it. That is the hardest part— I can’t apologize to Dave until I know he can hear me.

Today is Sunday, right? Oh Jesus, I better call work and leave a message. I work at the University of Montana in the kitchen. I am a prep cook for the caterers. Last year we served the President of Ireland when she came to visit. It’s a fun place to work and the crew is fun. We really care about each other. The pressure for all those football banquets and the University President’s formal dinners is real bad this time of year and we all pull together to make each event come off with as much perfection as we can muster. I feel real bad about leaving them in the lurch, but , until Dave wakes up I just can’t leave him.

I called the drilling company where Dave works on Saturday and left a message. Quite a few of the other guys Dave works with and their wives have visited with me here at the hospital, but except for Michelle and Rudy, they go home fairly soon after they arrive once they see that there is little anyone can do except pray. The brain waves look OK so far. There is activity but he’s just unconscious. The doctors assure me that is the body’s way to keep safe for a day or two while the swelling goes down. They have drained off all the blood and relieved some pressure but one of the nurses said when the head gets hit that hard, the brain swells up and creates so much pressure that it would be too painful to be awake, so the circuits just shut down.

Sometimes I count the green tiles when I am pacing in the hallway near his room in ICU.

There are 597 green tiles. I felt a little better after drinking the water the nurse gave me and I went down to the cafeteria to eat some French toast after they wheeled Dave away. I could only eat a little. I tried a yogurt but it tasted sour so I threw it out. My husband hates yogurt but he loves sour cream so I like to keep a lot on hand. I should go shopping so we have some fresh sour cream for dinner tonight. Does it sound noisy to you in here? I think I need to lay down for a second on this couch. Promise you will wake me the minute they bring him back, won’t you? Thanks for listening. I feel a little tired. Is that a gurney I hear? Please turn out the light. I have to get up early. Thanks honey. That’s better. You know I can’t sleep with the light on. You’re a sweetheart.

(C)

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