My wife died at a hospital which is part of a system that I now work for. I just happen to work for a different affiliate.

A year or so after I started, the hospital closed. As such, I was asked to go there and pick up a bulletin board and bring it to my affiliate. I kinda gulped but told myself that “I can do this”. I was at a good place in my life and thought this might be a good milestone to pass.

I got to the hospital, and followed the directions to where the board was. The labyrinth of hallways and stairways (since the elevators were all turned off) brought me to a familiar place. I found myself right there in the hallway of the critical care unit. In a hosptial that size, with eight floors, I just happened to wind up in the critical care unit.

As I entered the hallway, I experienced a distinct feeling of tunnel vision. My eyes fixated on the signage at the very end of the hall, and I walked. The same hallway I had paced countless times. The same marks on the walls. The same spots on the floor. The same smells.

When I got to the end of the hallway, I faced the entrance to the CCU. There was a chain across the door (the hosp was closed, and homeless people were a problem). I looked at the chain. I pulled it. It opened.

I entered the ward, and went to the very room where Melanie died. The bed was there. And I stood beside it. Staring.

I don’t remember a single detail after that moment. The next thing I knew, I was back at work. People asked if I retrieved the board, and I just said that I could not find it. I had no memory of even seeing it. I didn’t even remember driving back to work, and the clock told me I had been gone for two hours. A trip that should have taken 30 minutes somehow consumed two hours.

When I went to my car to go home that day, there in the back seat, was a plastic sign displaying the visiting hours for the CCU. The one sign that I stared at, and reread thousands of times during my visits to the hospital somehow wound up in my back seat.

I still have that sign. And visiting hours were over 30 minutes ago.

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