If I let go and allow my mind to wander, I can still smell that room.  Cracked ceilings, the beeps of the monitors whisper things you don’t want to hear, and the smell of the old skin permeates the air. Strangers come in and out, to take vitals, to remove trash, to deliver food, and to write their name on the dry eraser board in the room.  The television set acts as a megaphone to the room, blurting out the news of the world. I am not listening.

I find every excuse to leave that room. “Dad, do you want an extra blanket? I will run to the nurse’s station and see if I can pick one up.”  I don’t wait to hear him say yes or no, my footsteps shuffle ahead, while my body tries to keep up, the door closing behind me. I can breathe outside the room, my stomach feels less tight, the air doing hula hoops around me.

When I try to look for refuge, I find little comfort. As I curve around the hallways, I hear nurses and doctors talking about normal, everyday stuff. The doctor saying, “Hey did you catch that game last night?” The nurse laughs and says, “Ya, we pulled it out. Great game.”  I don’t go to the nurse’s station because I don’t want to interrupt the rhythm of their conversation.

Instead, I walk into the break room, trying to distract myself, looking at choices of coffee, tea, sodas. It surprises me the array of choices and for a minute, I believe I am in line at a breakfast buffet. The sobbing from a young woman confirms that I am still breathing the air of a hospital, not a Las Vegas Buffet.

I don’t look at my watch, but the heaviness of the second hand moving tells me I need to go back to my Dad’s room. I don’t want to. Oh God, I want to be anywhere, but here.

I lust for a world before cancer infiltrated it.