Pulseless

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By Marina Wang (c2018). Photograph by David Naylor.

I sometimes still see her hand.

She had beautifully manicured nails of deep red. A polished gold ring embraced her ring finger. They were wrinkled with age but well-kept and important. And in my memory they were limp, jerking rhythmically with each chest compression.

I felt her hands brush against me, cold and limp at the edge of her bed. I turned to see them again, pale against the blue of the hospital bed-sheet. And I looked away, back to my own two hands, and I saw that they were flat against her bare breast. A thread from where they cut open her gown open had caught itself in my fingers.

They were trying to intubate her as I pushed against her already broken ribs. I watched out of the corner of my eye—morbid curiosity perhaps. With eyes half closed, her head rolled side to side on her plastic pillow as my shoulders rose up and down. Soon there was a plastic tube swinging back and forth as well.

My muscles grew tired and my mind grew numb. At the next pulse check I switch out and I watch her beautiful nails sway from the back of the line. The line moves like a circle and my soreness grows. Soon I am aware only of the soreness in my body and of the mechanical caress of her soft limping hand.

I was next in line again when suddenly her hand stopped moving—fingers relaxed at long last. And I understood, it was coming to an end. They removed the tube from her mouth and covered up her broken body. And with her bright red nails laid across her blanket I realized how peaceful she looked at last.

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