Cups with Coriander: Refill of Decaf
I waited as long as my dignity would allow. Cori usually ran a few minutes behind, but an hour was extreme, and her neglecting to respond to my texts made me equal parts annoyed and worried.
In hindsight, I wince at the callousness with which I texted our mutual friend, Catherine: “She better be dead in a ditch to be this fucking late.”
As I gathered my bag and scarf, the phone buzzed, and I answered while simultaneously scurrying out the door, so as not to be that person chatting loudly in a coffee shop while others are doing God knows what on their laptops.
“Ellen…where are you?”
“I’m at the Has Bean…What’s wrong?”
“Cori is in the hospital. She tried to kill herself. She’s at Cedars; she asked for you.”
I stared at the café table on the outdoor patio and tried to focus on the drop of cream drying in the sun. My breathing sounded unbearably loud, and my heart felt as if it were trying to push through my sternum. The white ring grew transparent on the glass; I watched anxiously as its nucleus shrank to a pinpoint, and slowly, slowly, my composure returned. I shook my head; the voice on the other end of the phone was insistently punctuating my pulse pattern with,
“Yes, I’m here.”
“Can you come?”
“Of course, of course…what room is she in?”
I opened the Notes app on my phone and tapped in the information. I hung up as quickly as I decently could and ran to my car.
The line of chairs in the hallway attested to the ghosts of the many visitors who’d already been hovering over Cori, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I pictured her looking tragic and haunted, yet still perfectly made up, in her hospital bed, offering protestations like a proper martyr on the unworthiness of their attentions.
Then I was ashamed of myself, and taking a breath, I pushed opened the door. I stepped in, then stepped back. I felt my hands shake and my mind race as I quickly rewrote the script I’d constructed in my head. The figure in that room was no disingenuous martyr.
Under a pale blue sheet, Cori was sleeping; tubes coming out of various places, hair disheveled, bare faced… small. Sad.
Quietly, I moved to the side of her bed and sank into the chair placed there. Her hands were bruised; various cuts with congealed blood at their edges marred her knuckles. Around her closed lids, dark circles, so deep that she almost appeared to have black holes instead of eyes, made me shrink back again into the depths of the vinyl chair. What. Had. Happened?
My eyes darted around the room for some kind of clue. Flowers covered nearly every flat surface, thus, I nearly missed the medical chart, which hung from the end of the bed. I tiptoed gingerly towards it, just as the door swung open.
“Hello! Um…I’m Ellen Pinson. I’m a friend of Cori’s.”
“I’m Dr. Uteroth.”
“I…can you tell me…what happened?”
“Ellen, let’s go get a cup of coffee.”
Cori’s mother had slipped into the room unnoticed behind the doctor. I nodded to her, and we exited the room and headed to the cafeteria.
previous: Cups with Coriander – Sip Two
more by VK LYNNE
photograph by Daria Nepriakhina