The cup fell from his hand.
"Sir? Are you all right?"
No. He definitely was not all right.
His knees buckled. He was leaning back against a wall, sliding down. He hit the floor.
There were feet all around him. Somebody turned him on his back and was lifting his wrist and touching his neck. A young woman's face came into view and she was speaking to him, asking him questions, reassuring him.
He couldn't move. He wasn't in pain, but there was a disconnect between himself and the situation around him. His body was simply one of the players, one of the pieces of the scenery. He was watching it from within, wondering how it was all going to play out.
It was several minutes before the paramedics arrived, and he was soon lifted onto a gurney and placed into the ambulance. One of the paramedics pulled something from his pocket, his wallet, and studied his driver's license. "Mr. Walters?" he said. "Can you hear me?"
The paramedic flashed a blinding light in each of his eyes.
"Can you talk, Mr. Walters?"
Mr. Walters stared up, no longer able to make the connection between the words in his mind and his voice.
The paramedic painlessly slipped an IV needle into his hand. The ambulance ride was short and smooth, with the siren blaring until the last couple minutes.
Mr. Walters had no idea what was happening.
At the hospital, Mr. Walters fell asleep.
He woke with a start. He was on a gurney but his shirt was ripped open. Someone was calling out numbers. A doctor in a mask was holding two corded pads. His breathing was labored, he wasn't getting enough air. A tube was pushed down his nose. It was painful as it made its way down into his lungs. It was the first pain, the first thing, he could remember feeling all morning.
A doctor was calling out strange terms, medical terms. Another doctor pushed one injection after another into his IV, and Mr. Walters felt explosions of cold and then pain sweeping through his veins.
The next time Mr. Walters awoke, it was a much gentler awakening. He was in a bed in a dimly lit room. He lifted his arm to look more closely at the IV in his hand, but it felt heavy, absurdly heavy. He could only hold it up a few seconds and was spent by the exertion.
He noticed his wife sitting in a chair, reading a book. She looked up. "Jack?" she called, but he fell back asleep before he could respond.
He woke again to a parched dryness. There were tubes below his nose, but the breathing tube was no longer there. His throat was hot and raw. Jack's wife stood when she saw him awake. A doctor was looking at a clipboard.
"How are you feeling, Mr. Walters?" It was the doctor.
Thirsty, Jack thought. Incredibly thirsty. But no words would come.
"You're lucky," the doctor continued. "We almost lost you."
His wife was standing next to him. She was smiling, but her face was worn as if exhausted, as if she'd aged years in the past days. He could see the lines of worry around her eyes and mouth.
Jack swallowed. It hurt. He needed ice. He needed water. He was tired.
"I want you to rest, today," the doctor said. "Tomorrow, you'll be starting therapy."
Therapy? There was a Styrofoam cup on the table.
"I'll be honest, Mr. Walters, it's going to be a long, hard recovery."
"Jack's a hard worker," his wife said.
Yes, I used to be, Jack thought. Before I retired.
"He could work circles around men half his age." The pride in her eyes showed.
"Good," the doctor said.
Jack was thirsty. But he felt so tired.
"Because he has to chose to do this."
In truth, he'd been tired for years.
"Get some rest, Jack."
He eyed the cup on the table.
"I'll check on you later."
And Jack understood. This was his chance. A chance to do something with the time he'd been given.
"Thank you," said his wife.
A chance at a new beginning.
The doctor turned and walked toward the door as Jack slowly reached for the cup.
"Doctor...?" his wife said.
He touched it. He put his fingers around it. He embraced it.
The doctor and Jack's wife gazed in silence as he took it to his lips.
It was the start of his new life.
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