The Brazen Word

It was Monday at 3:22 p.m. Upon receiving news that my uncle was “not going to wake up” from a day-long coma, I packed my books and jumped onto the Q46 to Kew Gardens. I had two Metro Cards-who knew how much cash was on either of them-so I chose the one with the latest expiration date and swiped my way onto the bus and then the F train to Manhattan.
“He isn’t going to wake up” I thought.

It was the beginning of rush hour. After standing for the duration of the bus ride, the train was relatively empty and I was afforded a seat in between a napping 30-something-year-old man and a studious looking young girl-perhaps a St. John’s student-reading from a photocopied pamphlet.
I began to write frantically. I couldn’t stop. Words melted into one another and my cursive handwriting no longer resembled that of a Catholic school girl.

Nervous. Agitated. Heart-wrenched. I was scared.
The only thing more jittery and agitated than me was the bustling train that jolted the thirty or more people sharing the subway car.

“He isn’t going to wake up.”

I looked up from my notepad-36th Street. Was I headed in the right direction? I knew I should have stopped and made sure I actually got on the F heading into Manhattan. It didn’t matter much. I didn’t care whether I got off on Lexington Avenue or in Lexington, KY. I just needed to move-quickly.

I got up to read a subway map. After a middle-aged woman politely moved out of my line of sight, I found the F line. Before 57th street and after Roosevelt Island-that’s where I wanted to be. The train halted just seconds later and the platform read “Roosevelt Island.” I had just one more stop left.

“He isn’t going to wake up.”

I hustled out of the subway-up three flights of stairs-and found my way onto Lexington Avenue. Three, maybe four blocks later was the 6 train I needed to take to 33rd street. This train was packed to the gills-I could hardly move, let alone write.

After a 15-minute train ride, I came out at Park Avenue. It was about a five-minute walk from there. I passed restaurant after restaurant-boy was I hungry-before spotting the sign above the parking garage that I was looking for: “NYU Medical Center.”

I crossed the street, headed towards the revolving doors, and spotted my grandfather-Vito Luigi Siciliani (his name describes him better than I ever could). Smoking his pipe, glaring into Manhattan traffic, my grandfather gave me a hug, asked me how I was-seemed like a trick question at the time-looked me in the eyes and plainly said “fifteen four”– or so I thought.

1504? A room number? 15-4? Another room number? I didn’t comprehend this code until my mother told me they were on the “fifteenth floor.” I guess my grandpa’s Italian accent doesn’t take any days off.

So I, along with my mother and sister Michele, headed up to the fifteenth floor.

There I saw my Uncle Paul. I remembered the times when we went bowling, when we played basketball, when we would be called into dinner at my grandma’s house drenched in sweat from a head to toe. Now, he lay motionless on his bed, breathing out of a respirator, sleeping like a baby. Watching his vital signs and his methodical breathing became rhythmic and soothing. He had been battling a brain tumor since the middle of this summer and it seemed as if it would finally take his life.

My grandmother hugged me and told me that she had “prayed too hard” the night before. She, like all of us, wished for Paul the most peaceful and painless death. It seemed as if he was now receiving our prayers.

“He isn’t going to wake up.”

After a series of bus and train rides, plowing through commuter traffic, worrying over missing classes and stressing over my family, everything slowed down in the Intensive Care Unit.

The moment resembled a train ride in which the conductor slams on the breaks and people are thrown forward. It was as if I was propelled against the front end of the train and now sat motionless.

I realized that in life, we are constantly living in a state of agitation and conflict. Only in death are we able to experience the tranquility we seek throughout our lives.

It was time for Paul to stop battling, stop struggling, and begin his first and last moments of utter tranquility. I stopped, prayed, and thanked God for being so kind. It was only when I saw him that I became comforted and hopeful in knowing my Uncle Paul was not going to wake up.