I was standing on the corner smoking a cigarette in heavy rain. I was already soaked anyway. I’d walked from Astor Place all the way up to Bellevue only to be told she wasn’t there. I was supposed to be at Beth Israel. I’d forgotten the ambulance driver said Beth Israel. By the time I got down there I weighed an extra thirty pounds from my clothes. Then I just stood outside. I kept my hand cupped over the cigarette to protect it from the rain. I tapped my foot and felt my fat sock slap against my sole.
Staring down First Avenue I saw Benny emerge from behind the wet curtain. I’d called him only a little while ago. As he got close to me he was out of breath. He asked if I was ok. I gave him a look that said, take a guess. Benny pulled a half-empty clear plastic flask from his coat pocket and said, here, it’s Woodford. I took a drink and handed it back. He took a drink then said, what’s the story? Not sure, I haven’t gone in yet. Is she alive? She was not long ago. I can go in with you. No, this is going to be a long night. Jesus.
We stood in the rain in silence as I finished the cigarette. I’d given Benny the gist when I phoned him but neither of us knew what was supposed to happen next. How long do suicides take? From his other coat pocket he pulled a small blue book. It was Travels through France and Italy by Tobias Smollett. For your long night, he said. I took it, said thanks, and he put his arm around me. He offered me the flask but I said no. Benny stayed with me a bit longer, then squeezed my shoulder and disappeared back into the rain. I turned to face the hospital.
Robert Overbey is a writer of mostly short fiction. His stories have appeared in Alexandria Quarterly, Sakura Review, and Paris Lit Up. His debut collection, A Life Without Seasons and Other Stories, was published by AQ Press in 2016. He received a BFA in writing from Goddard College. He lives in New York City.