The Reconciliation

By Katie Yamamoto

The man was tired. He lay supine in the hospital bed, staring up at the washed out ceiling. Smells of disinfectant and weak coffee, fresh flowers and blood floated on the stale air that filled the private room. The various monitors that hovered over his bedside gave the occasional beeping or whirring, reading his heartbeat and blood pressure, keeping him alive. But other than the machines, the room was silent. The man could no longer speak, as the tracheostomy tube protruding from his neck funneling life-giving oxygen into his lungs made it simply impossible. A nurse on the night shift came in, and for a moment he was unbearably glad to see her, but remembered that he was supposed to be miserable. “Hello Mr. McCraney, how are we doing tonight?” He didn't bother answering her, giving a non-committal shrug. In his mind, he knew the nurse didn't really care, that she felt pity for an old man stuck in the hospital over the holidays. The nurse, Linda it said on her name tag, moved swiftly around the room, straightening his sheets, checking monitors, writing all the information on a small chart. There wasn't much to tidy; Robert rarely had visitors. The small bedside table was empty but for a few, wilted flowers one of the volunteers had brought in. Finished, the nurse hung the chart on the back of the door, and with a “Goodnight, Mr. McCraney,” she left, shutting the door firmly behind her.

Now that she had gone, Robert McCraney, for that was his name, resumed staring at the ceiling. He pondered what dying would feel like and truthfully, at his age, in his advanced 90's, it was quite a possibility. Robert decided that it would preferable, highly preferable, in fact, to wasting away in this hospital filled with nothing but emptiness for him. No sooner had he decided this, when a faint light appeared in the corner of his vision. He didn't bother turning his head, thinking it just a passing car's headlights. However, the light swelled to a blinding glare, its' brilliance filling the room. Robert reached up, shielding his eyes, and moments later when the light had faded slightly, a being stood in the room.

The being gave off a sort of androgynous air, of being neither male nor female, adult or child. It had a softly glowing aura about it the colour of forest green, his favourite colour, he realized. Who are you? Robert tried to say, but the air whistled past his vocal chords, making sound unattainable.

Approaching the bed, the angel, for that was what he had decided it was, reached down, its hand coming closer and closer to Robert's face, the palm outstretched, almost as if it were offering him something. When the angel's hand touched his face, Robert felt the most curious sensation of being separated, his soul and consciousness removed from his physical body. Moments later, it was over, and Robert stood in the room on his own two feet, his body whole.

Touching his hand to his throat and feeling no tube, he turned to the angel and spoke.

“What are you? Who are you? What have I done wrong?” The words fell unchecked from his lips, spilling out in a great rush. There were many questions, but no answer came forward. Instead, the angel simply asked him a question in return.

“If you could change any decision that you have made in your entire life, what would you change?”

Robert was stumped. He hadn't expected this. He'd grown up believing that when angels appeared, you were either dead or crazy. There hadn't been stories about choices, or regretted decisions, just a one-way track to either heaven or hell, according to the Bible.

The angel was still waiting patiently, its faint forest green glow softly illuminating the stark white hospital walls as Robert tried to figure out why in the hell this was happening. Several minutes' hard contemplation brought nothing to mind, so instead he reverted to answering the being's question.

“What do you mean, 'any decision'? I've made hundreds of 'em. You can't possibly expect me to choose only one. Besides, I'm dead anyways, right? You can't be here for any other reason.”

The angel listened to Robert's complaints without a word, then spoke. Its voice was like water over rocks, a cool symphony.

“There is one choice I know you regret, Robert McCraney. If you cannot recognize this yourself, then I will simply show you.”

At that precise moment, the floor seemed to suddenly drop out from beneath them, and in split seconds, was replaced by an old cobblestone street, grandiose buildings rising up on either side of the narrow roadway. It was nearing dusk, and his shadow stretched up the wall to his right, bathed in fading golden rays.

Robert looked down at himself, and was surprised to see his body as it had been when he'd been 60, still rather trim and able. He was dressed in dark dress pants and a crisp shirt, his jacket slung over his arm. A quick look told him that he was the only person in sight. The angel had vanished, but as he came to slowly recognize his surroundings, a faint whisper in the back corner of his mind gently reminded him why he was there.

“You can't change the present Robert, but perhaps changing the past may influence the present. You have 3 days. Good luck.”

Suddenly, Robert knew what to do. He was in Rome, and he had only one regret linked to this particular place. He knew he had recognized this place from somewhere, but now he strode purposefully towards a small restaurant in the centre of town, where he witnessed the exact scene he knew would happen.

An angry girl of about 25 rushed out of the swinging doors, tears streaming down her face. She ran to a blue motorbike parked outside, swung her leg over the seat, and took off through a small back alley, the sounds of the engine quickly fading. Not a second later, Robert watched as he himself burst out of the joint, looking around wildly. Not seeing the girl, he swore, and stuffed his hands into his pockets as he started for his hotel.

Robert watched himself leave, then immediately began to run after the girl on the bike. He almost felt as though he was flying, and after a few minute's hard running, he heard the sound of a bike up ahead. Following the engine's growl, he arrived at a small, gated archway. There was graffiti everywhere, and he could see the blue bike parked next to one wall, a brilliant light illuminating it. The girl sat beside a small potted plant, her head in her arms, quietly sobbing. Her dark hair, so much like his, cascaded around her face, and as he approached her she looked up at him, fresh tears welling in her eyes.

He spoke only two words, but these would change his entire life.

“I'm sorry.”

The girl looked up, and smiled slightly though her tears.

“I'm sorry too, Daddy.”

He held out his arms, and they embraced, but as he felt the stirrings of happiness in his chest, he was yanked away, floating up and up, and he knew it was time.

The journey back was not so abrupt. He floated through his new past, watching different happy moments; holiday dinners, fishing trips, playing with his grandson. And in every moment, he and his daughter laughed and talked and shared precious memories.

He finally reached his body in the hospital after what felt like years, and settled back into it, into the present, feeling the trach tube, the old bones, the weakness in his chest.

This moment, Robert knew, was close to the end. He didn't have much time left. But for a moment, he opened his eyes, and saw that the room had changed. Flowers and cards filled the once bare table and as his eyes wandered about the room, they fell on his daughter, asleep in a chair, and he no longer felt alone. He watched as she smiled in her sleep, and wasn't at all startled when the angel appeared by his bedside, glowing now with a soft, welcoming light. It beckoned, and Robert stood, leaving his broken body behind, standing tall and strong. He walked over and touched his daughter's cheek, whispering 'I love you' softly in her ear, then turned and walked towards the light. As he rose up once again, he saw her jerk awake, and touch her cheek, then, her eyes glistening with unshed tears, she whispered softly back into the darkness;

“I love you, too.”

Did You Know

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