Jimmy awoke with his head pounding, which was not a new occurrence. The familiar pressure behind his eyes and sour remnants in the back of his throat were a small price to pay from a previous night of exuberant drinking. But when he awoke, he always awoke safely in his bed—until today.
His eyes had to adjust to the unusually bright room. It didn’t take him long to recognize he was in a hospital bed, positioned between the door and a curtain pulled halfway across the room.
In a chair across from him sat a man in a Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and penny loafers without socks. He sat casually with his legs crossed and an open newspaper that covered his face.
“Hello?” Jimmy said, just trying to get the man’s attention.
The newspaper lowered and the man behind it smiled. His hair couldn’t seem to reach the top of his head and his circular lenses magnified his blue eyes.
“Jimmy, you’re awake,” he said. “I thought I’d be waiting here longer. How do you feel?”
Jimmy was more than a little confused. He tried to recall the events of the night before and if this man somehow surfaced into those memories—but the memories were not there.
“I don’t know.” Jimmy brought a hand to his face and felt a bandage over his nose. His left arm was in a cast. “I’m still in one piece. Do I know you? I’m sorry if I met you last night and don’t remember.”
“No, it’s nothing like that—but there isn’t much time. Do you remember anything?”
The pounding in Jimmy’s head made it next to impossible for him to think clearly. He tried to recall. He was at a bar with friends. Some girls joined the group. There were shots between beers. He had intermittent smokes in the alley. After last call, he got into his car alone…
“Why isn’t there much time?” Jimmy asked hoarsely.
“You were in an accident.”
Jimmy bit his lip as flashes of the accident returned like a broken movie reel.
“Did I cause it?”
The man in the Hawaiian shirt nodded. “The lady you hit is on the other side of that curtain.”
Jimmy couldn’t believe his ears. He was always cautious behind the wheel after drinking, on the lookout for cops along his route home. He would never be so careless—and this man was making it sound like he was there.
“Who are you?” Jimmy’s voice trembled.
“The husband of the poor lady is sitting at her bedside. She doesn’t have long, and when she goes, that man in a fit of anguish and rage will come and kill you.”
“So you have to decide—I can take you now, put you to sleep peacefully or you can stay here and wait for him to come for you.”
“You’re insane!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“I understand how you must feel. This is probably unsettling. I’m just advising you of what’s to come—giving you the facts. He will kill you and won’t even try to get away.” The man in the Hawaiian shirt folded his paper and set it on a chair to his left. “So which will it be?”
“I don’t understand what’s happening here! Are you going to kill me, too?” Jimmy reached for the remote control device on his bed and pressed the button for nurse assistance.
“Your button is defective. I’m sorry.”
Jimmy pressed it again, hoping a nurse would get the call. If one didn’t come soon, Jimmy was prepared to scream.
“It’s almost time,” the man said, tapping on his wrist with his forefinger.
“No,” Jimmy simply said, lying back and looking up at the ceiling, praying a nurse was just about to turn in.
Then the high pitched hum of a flatlining heart monitor consumed the room like everything else had gone silent.
“Olivia!” a male voice cried.
Seconds later, several nurses and doctors rushed into the room to perform emergency procedures on the lady slipping behind the curtain. Jimmy couldn’t see what was happening, but he could see that the man in the Hawaiian shirt no longer sat in the chair across the room. The man was gone.
An orderly rolled a smaller bed into the room and, seconds later, the lady was rolled away with great urgency. Jimmy could only assume the man following the gang of hospital staff out of the room was the husband. He looked over at Jimmy before exiting with a morose expression beaten into his face.
Jimmy let out a long breath with the relief of finally being alone. Now he could recollect the broken memories of the night before in peace and hopefully everything would be ok.Not five minutes later, the husband reemerged in the doorway with the same sullen expression as before. The two men stared at each other for a long moment without sharing a word. Then the husband stepped into the room and closed the door.