You checked the box indicating your willingness to be an organ donor. So
naturally they took your eyes, your kidneys, and your recently beating
heart. You didn't give up the ghost as much as they quickly took it away
in coolers to various hospitals to various recipients.

They whisked you through dented metal swinging doors three days ago and
the receptionist asked me to wait in the lobby - demanded that I wait in
the lobby. Now that you're gone, the receptionist asked me to leave the
lobby - demanded that I leave the lobby. I will not leave the lobby.

Exit signs are alarmingly numerous and shine curiously bright. I imagine
you left the building under these various signs - a piece of you on its
way to a frail little girl, a piece of you on its way to a mother of
four, a piece of you on its way to a handsome fireman. So I sit here, a
place holder, a book mark for the memory of you whole.

Each day of our twenty-one year marriage ended with a forehead kiss at
the front door. I couldn't bear the sound of a door closing tonight so I
remain in the waiting room where all the doors slide.  And whose
forehead am I to kiss? I would have to travel to several states to
gather you in my arms again. No, I'll remain in the lobby, enduring the
violent stare of the receptionist.

Tucked into the folds of my wallet is a picture of you. I pull it out
following the lines of your face with my finger. Brown eyes. White,
wispy hair. Easy smile. I look deeper and see your laughter, your kind
way with strangers, the way you like your coffee. Deeper still,
twenty-one years of commitment, the love making, and the way you said
goodbye with your eyes while we waited for the ambulance.

Everything true of hospital waiting rooms is true of this one: coffee
vending, fluorescent lights, the smell of ammonia, and no smoking signs.
The distinguishing thing about this waiting room is a tattered poster of
a single whale. There is no caption. There is no frame. The image hangs
by four strips of yellowing scotch tape on the wall opposite my
spoon-smooth plastic chair.

I remember a great deal about blue whales; it was the documentary we
were watching when you fell to the living room floor three days ago. And
while calling for an ambulance, the narrator's British accent described
how the male blue whale sings long, low pitched songs to their mate over
great distances. Later, doctors said words like "aneurism," "life
support," and "pull the plug," but all I could hear was the low hum of
you calling to me from a faraway place.

Now you're scattered. And because you're everywhere, I gather myself in
this powder blue, waiting room chair. And while I wait, I contemplate
the whale poster. In my mind, I climb through the blow hole searching
for its enormous heart. I crawl through the aorta, the sluggish lub,
dub, lub, dub loud in my ears. There are rushes of blood and everything
is close and warm. I push the fleshy flap of its ventricular valve aside
and am swallowed into a hugging chamber of the cetaceous heart. Curling
into a fetal position, I fall asleep listening to the lonely song of the
blue whale calling to his mate across long distances through the lonely

Eric Bennett lives in New York with his wife and four children.  He loves melted cheese and the silence between
previews at a movie theater. His work appears in numerous online literary and art journals including
Bartleby Snopes, Old City Cool, Prick of the Spindle, Dogzplot Flash Fiction 2009 Anthology, LITnIMAGE,
and PANK.

The inspiration for this story comes from my recent obsession with blue whales: the enormity of their heart and the way they call to one another across watery distances.  The sad beauty of their isolated lives prompted me to write about the possibility of being separated from my wife and to explore how I might respond.  This is one of the most personal stories I've written and therefore, close to my heart.




Copyright 2009