So I'm taking a Studies in Fiction class this semester, and I'll be putting up my stuff like I did with my Creative Writing class so the stuff doesn't clutter up my computer.

My Father's Necklace

The waiting room had no clock anywhere on its baby blue walls. The designers probably thought future occupants would do nothing but watch the time fade away on their loved ones. Instead, a small television hung in the corner, but no one watched the program. In any case, the television was muted; the only thing that broke the heavy atmosphere was the shaking of shoulders of those crying quietly.

An antiseptic smell pervading the air. Everything seemed to mock me. The other mothers and daughters, their faces hidden by curtains of hair or masks of hands, were obscuring bitter smiles. I read the words on the baby blue walls that described the pain I couldn't seem to feel at that moment. I was numb. I had felt numb since I got the call from mom during my early afternoon class, telling me the horrible news.

Now I sat in a row of chairs up against a wall with Mom, who had finally exhausted herself after hours of sobbing. She was able to show her grief and fear. Mom rested the back of her head against the wall, her swollen eyes shut and dry lips pressed together in a thin line. She looked very old—her skin was pale, and the laugh lines around her mouth had gained new acquaintances on her forehead.

I held the necklace my dad gave to me recently on my sixteenth birthday, an intricate one made in Africa. My parents had gone there during their honeymoon, and my dad bought one for any future daughter he would have—because he had always wanted a daughter. The braid around my neck was made of zebra skin; the pendant hung just below my collar bones, an African symbol of the power of love carved out of elephant tusks. The symbol looked like a turtle with a tiny head and two back legs sticking out of a shell. Atop its back, two holes had been drilled.

When my dad had given it to me on my sixteenth birthday, I, with my teenage mind, had been absolutely devastated. I had wanted a new pair of Heel Glow sneakers. But my dad's face glowed when he watched me open the small white box. All I could do was try not to cry or let my voice waver as I said how cool the necklace was. He later told me where and why he had gotten the necklace, but I had never worn it. My dad must have assumed I had kept it out of sight underneath my clothes or something, because he never asked about its absence.

I had actually forgotten all about it until Mom called me, and then suddenly its missing presence had flooded my mind. Now, in that awful waiting room with all those sad and grieving people, I wore that necklace and clutched the pendant in my hand as if it were a lifeline.

Finally, Dr. Asch stepped out of the ICU in blue surgery get up. His face was grave. Mom and I prepared ourselves in the time it took for him to walk over.

"How is he?" Mom asked. "Can we see him?"

Dr. Asch held up a gloved hand. "We have to monitor him closely, Alice. We were able to perform the open spinal stenosis surgery, but there was a minor complication."

"Complication?" I repeated. At last, emotion sparked within me. It was anger. "How the fuck was there a complication? Aren't you supposed to be professionals?"

"Maya, stop that," said Mom in a tight voice. "Don't make a scene here."

I stopped myself from mentioning the hysterical, sobbing scene she had made only an hour ago. Instead, I asked Dr. Asch, "What sort of complication?"

Dr. Asch sucked his upper front teeth. "You see, he lost spinal fluid during the surgery," he began. "Losing some spinal fluid is not uncommon with any spinal surgery, but due to the high risks associated with open spinal stenosis surgery, it is likely your father can have severe brain ischemia which may lead to a stroke or even death—"

"I want to see him."


"I want to see him now."

Dr. Asch's hazel eyes went from me to Mom, then back to me before he turned around and led the way to the ICU. Dad had been sectioned off at the very back of the room. He was lying to the left of the windows, which showed the night sky beyond the cold glass pane. There were other patients in the ICU, but they didn't matter. I hurried over to Dad's side with Mom a hair's breadth behind. Mom and I took a side of Dad; Dr. Asch disappeared.

As I looked at my father, I felt the wall of numbness crack.

Dad had suffered a severe spinal injury during a plumbing job. He had been working on a high pressure kitchen sink pipe. Mom says he only turned his back on the pipe for a minute to look for his wrench, but that had been enough for the fucking pipe to burst. Wendy, our family friend who was the unfortunate owner of the pipe, found Dad sprawled out on the floor with a pool of blood slowly growing out from underneath him. A chunk of the pipe got lodged in his back, so close to the spine that one of the disks had broken.

Dad looked so peaceful on that hospital bed. But I hated how the sheets covered his entire body except for his head. It felt as if any moment a nurse or Dr. Asch would hear the heart rate monitor flatten and come over just to pull the rest of the covers over him.

I reached over and folded the sheets down to his waist. Even after Dad wakes up, Dr. Asch says he'll have the rest of his life filled with frequent hospitalizations and a long, arduous recovery.

Finally, the numbness crumbled and broke down. I broke down. I took Dad's hand, the other hand returning around the pendant of the African turtle, as tears swelled in my eyes until I couldn't see Dad through them. I shook and sobbed. When Mom came over to wrap her arms around me, I didn't shrug her away. I wanted Dad to wake up and show me he was still alive. I wanted him to wake up to the rest of his life full of pain and misery just so I can have another day with him in my life.