1, 2, 3, 4, 5… oxygen. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… oxygen. The clock marks 3:50am and I realize I’ve been at it for an hour. The little blue lips get colder by the minute. One minute I’m laughing with Janet about the drunk that comes in every Friday, and the next, the screams from room 301.
I can keep going, but for my own satisfaction. More contractions, more oxygen, maybe some shocking, maybe more medicine will bring the color back to those blue lips.
“Help him, please!” her watered eyes burn me.
She can’t see it but I’m trying. She only sees her baby being beaten in desperation, and not the cold sweat that tickles my back or the way my arms are shaking about to give out.
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“I need help in here,” I say the words but don’t know if anyone can hear.
“Claire, please you have to help him.”
They never tell you that you can’t save them all. They give you all the books and show you the many ways mannequin Joe can die and the 150 ways you can help him.
But what happens when the boy you pick up every day after school is the one on that table. When have you done enough? How do you let go? When the straight line is jumping out of every monitor and all the force and medicine in the world isn’t helping? How do you “sorry, we’ve done everything we could,” to your little 16year old sister?
1,2,3,4,5… more oxygen. 1,2, 3, 4, 5… he has to open his eyes. I believe in no God but now I’m begging.
“Claire, back away from the boy,” Janet won’t dare touch me. “You have to stop. Move. Now.”
4:30am, my arms are aching. My hands are glued to the little chest. I should stop. I know the rhythm of this dance. 4:40am, I’m hoping the clock will stop.
“Time of death: 4:41,” Janet wraps her arms around me. The heat radiating from her skin on my back reassures me the coldness under my hands isn’t normal.
“4:41, 4:41, 4:41,” my arms finally rest.