Psychopomp Magazine Fall 2014 - Page 18

18 | Psychopomp Magazine

the body and thank goodness, thank God you found her in time, they all told you, the nurses, the doctor who treated you like an adult when you felt like a child. She fell asleep in the bathtub with his razor in her hand, her legs soapy with shaving cream. When you shook her awake, her mouth opened and closed like a fish. You called an ambulance. Thank God.

“Can I help you?” You look at the receptionist and blink. She’s a short lady with glasses falling down her nose. You are twenty-something and Dad’s still gone and your mother is taking prescription pills now.

“Ray’s,” you say, “I’m Ray’s niece.” The woman’s face floods with realization, a complicated expression of relief and sadness.

“Erin’s asleep but you can sit with her if you’d like.” Erin. It’s not the name you imagined. Ethel, maybe, but not Erin. It shakes you a little more than you like but you follow the receptionist’s gesture down the hallway until you see the name, Erin Shalwat. Ray and Erin Shalwat. The door eases open to your touch.

Just like the woman said, Erin is asleep and sunken into a hospital bed. You know it’s a hospital bed despite Ray’s attempts to decorate it with quilts and pillows and plastic flowers. She looks dead, a gray body surrounded by bright fabric and you wonder if she’s donated that body to science, whether or not she’s decided to offer herself to fledgling students with clumsy scalpels. Maybe she’s talked about it with Ray and he won’t let her. Or maybe he will. You move closer.

Unlike Erin, Johnny looked good when they rolled him in. He looked good because he died of a heart attack. You imagined his motorcycle wreck like you imagined everything else. Along with the sandwiches, you thought Ray’s wife liked Diet Coke and peppermint candy. You’re not sure about the candy but the only drink in the room is a sad Styrofoam cup on her side table. It’s half full of warm water. Your mother’s hospital room was littered with cups like this. She was always thirsty. She sucked on the ice and picked apart the cup once it emptied.

Even if Erin does drink Diet Coke the cup of water is still here and eventually it will become stagnant and refilled. Not Coke and not coffee either, which is what you thought Ray drank but now you’re not so sure. Maybe he buys beer to get the tuna taste out of his