bring you back to me

i got lost on my way to the morgue.

you'd laugh at me, chalk it up to my inability to decipher maps or directions.  you used to chide me for being unprepared for our dinner dates, eagerly buckling my seat belt and jamming the key in the ignition without even knowing where the restaurant was located.  you'd look it up for me, half-exasperated, half-enamored by my relentless flightiness.  i'd back out of my parking space clumsily while you twiddled through maps on your phone, accidentally turning right when you tell me left.

and you'd always say, remind me to drive next time.

i should've looked up directions to the hospital on my phone, but i dropped it after that call.  the glass shattered against the concrete sidewalk, and i think the battery case cracked and split with an ugly sound.  i left it where it landed, and pushed mechanically through the crowd.  somebody behind me said miss, you dropped your phone, but it became white noise through the rushing in my ears.  and it seemed i couldn't get to my car fast enough, as if every air molecule became a grain of sand and my legs wobbled as i fought to move through.  a dream sequence running, torturously slow wading.

i made countless u-turns to find the place, scraping my tire against too many curbs because of my car's awful turn radius.  several people honked at me as i lunged across lanes or cut sharply through traffic in my confusion.  a man in a silver audi tt rolled down his window to berate me with a shout.  asshole!  he barked at me, his sunburnt face livid with road rage.

i thought about his face for several more hours.  i only caught the briefest glimpse of a receding hairline, hawk-like nose, straight white teeth, and sagging jowls.  but it was this face i saw when they unzipped your body bag, pulling away the crinkling plastic as brusquely and effortlessly as peeling a banana.

and it was you, but it wasn't you.  your face was more still and expressionless than i had ever seen it.  even through the nights i stayed up to grade papers, watching you sleep on the couch, your brow was always wrinkled with dreamscape concerns, twitching fitfully through the hours.  but in that bag, on that shelf, underneath those eerie fluorescent lights that were just as stark and sickening as they looked on television crime dramas, you looked like a waxwork of your former self.  an unreal artistic rendering of the person you used to be.

i didn't want to remember your face like that, so i closed my eyes.  and all i could see was that angry man who glowered at me from his rolled-down window.  and i thought that it could be him, and not you, here in this hospital morgue.  and that i could drive home and find you back in our apartment, standing in the kitchen in that ridiculous apron shaped like a chicken that your mother sent us last christmas.  you would be starting dinner at this time in the evening; you were always the better cook.  and i'd take my shoes off in the hallway and call out, baby i'm home.

and i could tell you about how i got lost on my way to the hospital, and you'd roll your eyes but hold me in close for a hug and say,

remind me to drive next time.