She exited the automatic doors, possibly for the last time. The letters on the front of the building were bright against the nighttime sky. “BARNES MEDICAL CENTER” lit up the sidewalk, illuminating her trip home.
This park had become to familiar. The rusted trash cans that lined the perimeter, the big oak tree that hung over the few benches that weren’t covered in graffiti, and the cramped playscape with run-down equipment–they were always there.
She made these trips to and from the hospital every single night for the past seven months. Her university was on the other side of the city so she visited him on her way home, but it still wasn’t enough. She didn’t know how much time he had left, but she knew it wasn’t long.
“He’s been having more trouble breathing,” the doctor said, and she nodded.
“He hasn’t been sleeping very well either.” She nodded again.
“The heart is starting to be affected…”
“…not responding to treatment…”
“…we’re just trying to make him comfortable.”
She had wanted to say something back to the doctor, but she just couldn’t. So she nodded. She knew this was going to happen eventually. Most parents don’t outlive their kids, but she wished he would.
She sat down on the tattered swing he used to push her on when she was still a kid. Every Sunday her parents used to walk her down to this playground, just a few blocks from their house. They would play on the slides, swings, monkey bars, even the half painted teeter-totter that made a loud creaking sound whenever it moved. But now, she was an adult. Her height made her feet drag in the sand beneath the swing, and she was about to lose the one parent she had left.
She looked at her watch; it was getting late. The light from the moon shone against the chains that held up the swing as she pulled herself up. With one last look at the playground, she turned around and walked home.
Artwork by Katie Paterson shown at the Guggenheim museum as part of their Storylines exhibit.