This is a work of fiction.
The truck’s engine won’t start, so I’m going to be stuck here for a while. I see a woman talking on a cell phone and wish I had one. While she can call wherever she’s going and explain she’s stuck in traffic, I have to sit here and wait until the truck can be moved.
Aunt Bev drove to the hospital and found the right floor. She approached a nurse and explained who she was.
She was shown into a room and saw me lying there under a pink blanket.
“What’s her name?” Aunt Bev whispered to the nurse.
“She doesn’t have one yet.”
Aunt Bev thought for a moment, and said, “Alexis Georgia Freemont.”
Alex was my dad’s name, and my mom’s name was Georgia.
“That’s a pretty name,” the nurse said. “She can go home any time. I have a stack of papers—”
A code was called and the nurse rushed away, leaving Aunt Bev standing there, unsure of what to do with me.
An older woman walked by in the hall, and Aunt Bev dashed to intercept her.
“Excuse me, I’m here to take my niece home. Could you help me learn how to mother her please?”
The woman smiled and said, “I’m an administrative assistant, so I can help you find the right papers, but I’m afraid I don’t know much about children.”
She was on her way to a meeting, but she helped Aunt Bev to find a chair she could bring into my room, and also showed her which forms needed her signature, and then she made sure Aunt Bev knew about all the follow-up appointments.
When she’d finished reviewing all the papers, Aunt Bev said to the woman, whose name was Nancy, “I’ve never even held a baby, let alone cared for one. My sister was just a year younger.”
“I’m sorry I have to go now,” was all Nancy said before she exited from the room, leaving Aunt Bev alone with tiny me.
The clock ticked. Aunt Bev sat there and watched me breathe, but didn’t touch me, for fear of doing something wrong.
Ten minutes went by, and then somebody else came walking down the hall.
Maybe it would be a nurse, Aunt Bev thought.
She stepped out into the hall and saw a woman carrying a baby.
“Oh hello, I’m Becky, and this is my daughter, Amanda. We’re just on our way home. Are you also a new mom?”
“No, I’m a new aunt. I’m Bev. My niece’s name is Alexis and she’s sleeping in that room.” She pointed. “I’m taking her home, but I have no idea what to do with her.”
Becky smiled and said, “I’ve got three at home, so I can help you out.”
She did, and that’s how Amanda and I became best friends.
Besides two older sisters and one brother, Amanda got a younger brother before her dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away when Amanda was three.
By the time I arrive at the hospital, almost an hour has gone by since I took the call, and I still have to find out where she is, since I didn’t get a chance to write it down, and my memory doesn’t seem to be working properly.
I approach a woman at a desk, give her Aunt Bev’s full name, and tell her who I am.
She clicks keys and then looks up from her computer, her face sad.
“I’m afraid she was pronounced dead twenty-five minutes ago.”
Dead? This isn’t possible. Aunt Bev wouldn’t want to die in a hospital. She always told me she wanted to go at home, yet here I stand, being told she’s gotten exactly what she didn’t want.
A few minutes later, I see my aunt’s body, and I have to accept the truth. She’s waxen and still, but it’s definitely her.
I need to arrange a funeral.
This means I should call the minister.
Do I have his number?
Oh, right, I can call the church.
Where’s the phone?
I don’t want to leave Aunt Bev here and go home.
Oh, right, there’s a phone here, somewhere.
I finally manage to ask somebody where it is, and I’m directed to a tiny room with a phone hanging on the wall. There’s no phone book.
Is this where criminals make their last phone call before being thrown into jail?
No, of course not. This is a hospital, not a police station, but the walls are so dingy and bare, and the phone looks old and dirty.
Gingerly, I pick it up, and put it to my ear. I dial 411 but get a message informing me that that extension does not exist. I’m about to hang up and try again, when the automated voice tells me to dial 9 for an outside line.
I hang up, pick up, and dial 9 and then 411.
An operator answers.
“Hi, I’m looking for my church.”
“What’s the name of your church?”
It’s a little white building with hard pews inside, friendly people, and wood floors that creak merrily when you walk on them, but what is it called?
“I know the address. Will that help?”
I give it to her and she gives me the number, but there’s no pen.
“Can you repeat it please?”
She does, and I try to memorize it.
I thank her and hang up, but now I can’t remember the number.
Did it end with 2022 or 2220?
I try the first version and get some man’s answering machine. He just says to leave a message.
I hang up and try the second version, which connects me to another answering machine, but at least this one’s for a church, and I hear our minister’s friendly voice.
After the beep, I say, “Hello, this is Alexis Freemont. Um, I’m not, oh, I can’t receive calls here. Um, er, I’ll try again, like, later. Sorry. Um, goodbye.”
With red hot cheeks, I hang up and leave the useless phone hanging on the wall in the useless little gray institutional room.