Dictionary

"Would you like something else to read?" the blue smocked nurse asked me, leaning over to stare at the heavy bound book in my arms for the fifth time since the officer had hustled me into this waiting room. "Peter Pan perhaps." she suggested.

Once again, I shook my head, tucking my shiny white sneakers behind the metal legs of the hard uncomfortable chair and looking away in hopes that she would mistake this for shyness and leave. I did not tell her that I had already read the book several times. Adults don't like to be told such things. They rather think of you like as a normal child then believe that you could read at three or multiply at five. They rather picture you as frightened and clueless then believe you understood words like aneurysms, stroke, and surgery. They rather not comprehend that you know there is a good chance your daddy is going to die tonight.

But I did know and to keep myself from thinking of such things I stared at the dictionary sitting in my lap, flipping through the pages and studying the words written in the ink black as death. My teachers use to say that knowing the meaning of words would allow you to understand life. And if there was one thing that I did not understand today it, life was it. Flipping through the pages, I jabbed my finger on a page. Ordinary: having no exceptional quality, normal, common, average, plain.

Looking at my feet, my mind traveled back to the events of what began as an 'ordinary' day. The relatively normal bus ride to school. The hard but common math test. The unnormal way my heart had pounded when my name rang out through the loudspeaker. The exceptionally silent stares of my teacher, the principle, and the officer who stood in a circle in the middle of the room, their voices barely rising above the soft whirl of the air condition. Most of all I remember the dark looming walls of the hospital which looked nothing close to plain as it appeared between the branches of the trees. During all this time, not a word was spoken to me. I was too young to understand, they told me. But they did not have to tell me that something bad had happen. I knew, and as much as I asked questions, they refused to acknowledge me. Instead, they leave me in some corner of an abandon waiting room to 'be good' until a 'responsible adult' shows up to take care of me.

Sighing, I glace over at my 'responsible adult' slumped over in her chair, her thin shaking hands still clutching the passport in a vice grip. Dressed in a thin dress much to light for the cold Boston evenings, my grandmother stared at the nameless doctors that scurried past with a tired expression I could not name. Flipping the pages again, my eyes found the perfect word. Weary: exhausted, tired, to make or become tired. Yes, that's a good word. She had stared wearily at the doctor as he tried to explain that my father had collapsed at work, his hands clutched to his head. Her expression was weary as she studied at the important looking forms that the doctors had pushed so hastily into her had, apologizing for the lack of a translator. She gave him the form that permitted them to take my father into surgery, weary of this whole mess. Staring at the word, I wondered if she even knew what she was signing or if she just wanted everyone to go away. People still passes dressed in blue, white, and green, but now they all ignored us with the same dedication. Occasionally, a nurse would stop to talk to talk to my grandmother, to offer some beverage or ask to take me somewhere more 'appropriate' only to receive a few broken lines of Spanish in return causing them to scurry away shamefaced.

Meanwhile, my grandmother sat there silently, staring at the doctors, the walls, anything to avoid looking at me. Occasionally, she would glance down at a small heart shaped pendent around her neck and her eyes would go misty. A picture of a young girl with raven locks shone against the gold backdrop. Looking at it, her eyes would go blank and I knew she wasn't seeing the waiting room with its puke green walls. She was seeing a mangled car lying on the side of the road. She was seeing my father staggering back and forth still dressed in his evening wear, the smell of wine still clinging to his breath. She was seeing my mother in a cocktail dress, her face bruised and broken only moments before the plug was pulled for good. And then she would look at me and her eyes would flare with anger and hatred at my red hair and bright eyes before softening to shame. Forcing a smile, she would call me "Mi pequeno." in a cheerful empty voice and mutter some other equally meaningless words before glancing away again.

I never saw my grandmother much after that. When I asked my father why, he had said that my grandmother had a vendetta against us. Another good word. I looked it up. Vendetta: a fight or a feud between blood-relatives, usually involving revenge killings. I once asked my father how it could be a vendetta if grandmother wasn't out to kill anyone and he just smiled sadly at me without answering. I knew that my grandmother blamed him for my mother's death and that caused him a lot of pain. I also knew that because I looked like him that hatred spread to me as well. I knew what she was thinking. She was thinking how she was going to care for me if my father did not pull through. How she could stand looking at me with my pale skin and red hair the same color of the man who killed her child. How could she raise me and pay for my schooling when she clearly wanted nothing to do with the family who stole her only child away. Would she abandon me completing her vendetta? Even now as she whispered the words, "my little boy" like my mother use to I could still see the worry in her face. A face so worn from jagged years, dark eyes concealing a mind that spent more years in past then future and knew it.

I didn't respond to her kind words. Instead, I glance back up at the clock. The black ticking hands read one o'clock. My father would be almost out of surgery now. I got to look at him once before he went in. My grandmother had taken me back under the doctor's insistence. He was lying on a bed in thin green clothing, his eyes closed. My grandmother in another attempt to be soothing whispered the word tranquilo in Spanish. Tranquil: calm, quiet, free from disturbance. Sitting here in this empty desolate waiting room, somehow the word tranquil no longer seemed to fit. All I could do was picture during surgery. I pictured the doctors calmly picking up the shiny interments and press them carefully against the flesh. I pictured them watching quietly as crimson blood welted up around the blade as they dragged it across my father's skin. I pictured my father strangely undisturbed by all this. In fact, he was just still. Unbelievably still.

Suddenly a flash of white broke me out of my thoughts. I glanced up to watch the doctor walk my grandmother's way. My heart began to pound and I quickly looked down again staring at the words on the page as if they would provide me with the answers. Desperate to ignore the doctor's words spouted in crude Spanish, I flipped the pages one last time, blindly stabbing at a page. Looking at the word my finger landed upon, my heart almost burst in my chest. Orphan. Just then, my grandmother released an ungodly scream. A scream not so much of sorrow as it was of anger. A scream that sent me vaulting up in my chair. The dictionary tumbled from my lap to hit the floor with a loud bang. I did not bend to retrieve it.