December 10th, 2010 is a day I will never forget. It was the day that changed my life forever. That’s why I know it was a Friday. I also remember that a group of pirates hijacked a Liberian ship and that a new archive was unveiled regarding the genocide in Rwanda.
But that is all somehow unimportant. It’s just the background to my own personal tragedy, because that Friday was the day my husband died. Till then, I had lived comfortably in the cocoon of my daily life, but all of a sudden that cocoon was ripped apart and destroyed.
Josh and I had been married for eighteen years and had three beautiful children. Iris, the eldest, was seventeen. Josh Jr was thirteen and going through the worst adolescence in the history of humanity. And then there was sweet, innocent Emma who was only five.
I met Josh at the hospital where we both worked. I was an ER doctor and he was a nurse. I was also a lot more ambitious than he was. That’s why, when Iris was born we decided he would be a stay-at-home Dad and I would keep on working. It made perfect sense.
Josh was a natural with children. Me, not so much… Don't get me wrong. I love my kids, but I need to leave the house and meet other grown ups from time to time.
The morning of that ill-fated Friday was like any other morning.
I showered, got dressed and went down to the kitchen. Josh was standing, his back to me, making school lunches.
‘I don’t want a chicken sandwich, Dad. I’ve decided to become a vegetarian,’ Emma said.
‘Well, I guess you’ll have to start tomorrow, sweetie,’ he answered.
I went up to him and we kissed. My husband was a gorgeous-looking man. I still couldn’t believe he had chosen me. I mean, I’m not ugly or anything, but he was film star handsome. Tall, black hair, green eyes. It must have been his Celtic ancestry.
‘How are you, love?’
He smiled at me and I melted inside. After all the time we’d been together, I was still madly in love with him.
‘What are you thinking?’ he asked me.
‘That I love you.’
‘Right back at you, princess.’
Josh always called me princess and I thought it was cute. It reminded me of that Italian film about a concentration camp my daughter is crazy about.
He kept on packing lunches and I sat at the table with the children.
‘Ouch, you just kicked me, little idiot,’ Iris said to her brother.
‘Calm down, kids. I want some peace,’ I said.
‘Do you remember the school recital is today, Mum?' Iris asked me after a while.
‘Of course,’ I lied. It was always Josh who reminded me of those things and this time he hadn’t.
I finished my coffee and my two pancakes quickly and stood up. I kissed the kids and hugged Josh.
‘I’ll call you at lunchtime. Maybe you can pick me up at seven and we can go to the recital together.’
‘Good idea. See you later.’
My morning at the hospital was hectic as usual. If you have ever watched ER, you can imagine what it was like. Minus the handsome doctors, that is.
I ate a sandwich for lunch. I didn’t even bother to go to the canteen. I just swallowed it as fast as I could standing in the ambulance bay.
At six thirty, as I was getting ready to go, Minnie, my favorite nurse, came up to me.
‘Thinking of going home? Don’t. A building just collapsed in Harlem. They are bringing some of the victims here.’
‘Let me call Josh and I’ll be with you.’
Josh wasn’t happy. He asked me if there were no other doctors on call and I said no.
‘Okay, okay. But Iris will be terribly disappointed.’
Iris plays the piano and is very good at it. Till Josh died I missed most of her concerts.
The evening proved to be extremely busy. Two of my patients died. One of them was a little girl who had been crushed by a beam.
When things calmed down at around nine, I was heartbroken. I’ve never got used to losing patients, especially children.
I was sitting behind the reception, drinking some tea before heading home when I saw them. Two uniformed cops. They walked towards me and, before they spoke, I knew what they were going to say.
I started crying hysterically and then Minnie gave me this pill and I don’t remember much more. Just a huge pain that started in my stomach (or was it my heart?) and reached every single cell of my body.