He turned and walked slowly through the doorway to the room. His mind was a blank, sorrow swept through him like a crashing tidal wave, taking everything with it except the pain of loss. He couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, everything in him had shut down as he paced down the hallway. He found a corner and slid his back down it to sit on the floor, and he pressed his face into his thighs and covered his head and wept. The waves continue to crash in him, never lessening or slowing, but building an unbearable pressure from deep in his chest. They crashed where it felt like something that had been in him his whole life had been ripped out but he, unfortunately, kept living. The waves filled the hole with a dark, thick, water that choked his throat and stifled his heart. Alone, with his eyes closed, he could hear the people down the hall embracing and crying and speaking meaningless words. But he never wanted to be touched again. Never wanted to feel an embrace unless it was his father’s strong arms around him again.
At the same time, he knew what was expected of him. What he agreed to do before his father had entered that room. So with an empty chest full of viscous pain, he pulled himself up. He wiped his tears and washed his face with cold water the way he was taught as a child to keep the tears from coming back. He went and exchanged the meaningless words with his relatives. He droned his way through the sympathetic apologizes and hugs and tears and acted the way they all needed him to, because he knew that this was hard for them too. Despite the chronic lump in his throat, he let everyone know that he would be O.K., he comforted his sisters and mother, and he allowed the nursing staff into the room to take care of their jobs. He walked with his mother to the front desk as she signed the appropriate paperwork and soon left out into the chill of the midnight parking lot. That’s when things really started to make their way into his thoughts and not just his feelings. He understood, and didn’t just know. No night would ever feel the same again with him gone. No parking lot, no hospital, nothing would ever quite be the same again. This place would forever be cemented in his mind as a place of insurmountable pain. And yet the thought of never seeing it again brought a new round of tears.
These were clean tears, not the inky ones from before. He was full to the brim with an impossible kind of grief, so difficult to handle that it was shut out for a time, for now. He could be a man later, the man that he was taught to be by the greatest there ever was. Right now he didn’t have to be. These were the innocent tears of a child who doesn’t quite grasp what’s going on, but knows the sting of sorrow. He knew it might be days before he could even begin to work through the pit inside him. So for a time, he took solace in these tears, and left them fall in the parking lot underneath a starry sky that would never shine as brightly as it had before.