From my story-in-progress. This passage is 98.6 autobiographical with a thin veneer of disguise.
PART I: BLAISE RETURNS TO OKLAHOMA
I just got a call from my son that Maria is extremely sick in the hospital. I am going to the US to see her right away.
I am traveling 3000 miles back from my hideout in the Philippines. I suspect I’ll never see my little village again.
I did not bother to pack anything and rushed out the door, only pausing to say goodbye to Marguerite and kiss her on the cheek. I once again hopped clandestinely aboard an Eastern European cargo plane at midnight. I sat among the nets and boxes.
Even though the pilot pushed the speed the ride was too long and I sank into morbid thoughts. When I got there my son told me the full extent of Maria’s condition, that she had been placed in a coma to insert a breathing tube down her throat.
But then the news was updated to tell me she had had a pulmonary embolism, that her blood flow stopped due to a blood clot temporarily stopping her heart, and that she was brain dead. I rushed over to the hospital to visit her but she was gone, gone.
Then for the first time in 40 years, I remembered a Bible verse, or rather it pushed itself into my brain. "Where two or more are gathered, there am I."
My son told me what church she had been going to, and I called their pastor and tried to get at least one more person to pray over her with me – not to heal her, but to commend her soul and show respect.
I called her church's pastor first. “I would like you to meet me at the hospital and pray over Maria. They are pulling the plug on her tomorrow. I am distraught. I want to pray over her to commend her spirit though she is probably already dead."
He did not answer so I called again and again, and I guess I woke him up, but he yawned and demurred.
“The hospital chaplain has prayed over her many times. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else I can do.” Then he hung up.
Then I called all her church friends my son recommended. No agreement or no answer.
Maria, I am sorry. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am” and I couldn't even find one. I have been calling church members all night, No one has answered my request to pray over you. Not one scripture-memorizing back-slapping shit-grinning church goer. Not one.
So it looks like I am a denomination of one. I will say prayers over you alone tonight. Fuck you, pastor. Fuck you, for not coming and then not answering my calls. Fuck you for not coming when I am sweating blood. I'll handle it myself and establish the 1001st Non-Denominational Church of the 100th Periphery of the Ozarks. It will be as legitimate as yours but without hypocrisy.
I got to the hospital just before she died, walked into the wing with its wide-halled grey-floor and a huge window at the end of the hall that somehow strangled the sunlight it let in. There was no one at the nurse’s station nor any security guard to stop me. I could have just been a skulking perv or ghoul who gets off on bodies.
And when I entered the room it was plain she was already gone. Everything about her was uneven: propped up sagging in bed like a ragdoll, mouth open but hanging on the right with a glisten of saliva, eyes open but sightless and pointed in two different directions. Her head titled to one side - dead dead. My dear girl of 17 mostly happy years. Fuckers told me too late.
I loved her abruptly with all my heart and wished we had had a chance to make up. I had not been there to defend her, which I had always done before. My role for years had been as her man and guard dog.