Flash Fiction by Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
God has forgotten me.
This revelation sought me out gradually. It began the day I could no longer turn over in bed.
“Good morning, Ms. Ruth. How are we feeling today?”
I liked when my nurse, Karen, patted my shoulder. Her gentle touch soothed when she lifted or bathed me. She recognized me as a person. I once could see her smile, but I’ve lost that. I can no longer see past the foot of my bed. Now Karen has vanished from my life, replaced by a nurse who doesn’t see me.
God has forgotten me.
The fact didn’t come in a reverberating crack from the heavens. It didn’t come with any sound at all. Days and years drained my senses to a trickling stream. My failed hearing could scarce discern the tone of a voice, and dumbness had long since sabotaged my tongue. No one pats my shoulder or speaks to me when they administer a shot or change my bedding. They have forgotten I’m still inside this withering shell.
So has God.
I will never know an answered prayer again. I am left with nothing to do but breathe. In. Out. In. Out. I cling to the hope of taking the next breath as my last.
Sometimes I wish for enough vision to see the framed photos covering the far wall. Images of loved ones in my mind’s eye has blurred and faded. They live so far away. The children in the pictures now have children I’ve never met. The last years have brought few visitors. They’ve forgotten I’m still alive. So has God.
I breathe. Another night drags into morning.
A squeaky voice fills the drainage in my ear. I struggle to focus on the speaker. Dried sleep in the corners of my eyes makes the battle painful. Young faces crowd near my bed and one child slides something onto the medicine cart constant by my side.
“Merry Christmas!” the voices sing out.
Christmas? I breathe and grunt a reply. They stand near enough for me to see their uncertain expressions at the gurgle of my sucking inhale. They wave as each backs out of my vision range. All but one.
She looks young. No more than twelve, if such youth is still possible. She steps close to my side and extends her hand to cover mine. She squeezes with the tenderness found between mother and infant.
The warmth from her hand flows through my body and tingles down to my toes. She speaks; I catch bits of her sentence.
“My name…Cindy. I saw…the label…you’re Ruth Anderson. I hope it…okay…call you Ms. Ruth.” She stops, and I fear she will leave. I don’t want her to release my hand. With all my concentration, I find enough strength to squeeze with two fingers. Cindy smiles and begins to circle her thumb over the wrinkles of my spotty skin. The action bunches it together then smoothes it out as fine as a baby’s. I almost forget to breathe. My chest vibrates with the effort.
“…need…catch up with the oth…Ms. Ruth. But first is…okay…pray with you?”
Her study of my face stirs my heart to life. Perhaps she searches for signs of comprehension. I struggle to show with my eyes what my tongue cannot say.
Our eyes connect, and Cindy nods her head before bowing it. “Dear God I...Ms. Ruth up to you. I don’t know… she faces everyday…You do. I pray…You will meet her needs. Lord, please help her know…You have not forgotten her and…why you sent us here today…Jesus name...”
As Cindy squeezes my hand, pats my shoulder, and promises to visit me again, I realize breathing is not the only thing I can still do. I can cry.