John died the same day Jenny’s name moved up on the waitlist. She’d waited three months to reach the top of that list, and was unconscious for most of it. I didn’t see any difference whether she was the one to receive his heart or not. It could’ve been anybody. ‘His last act on earth will be to save the life of another’ is what everybody kept saying, or some variation of it at least. I don’t know why they thought I would care. When my grandfather died and my nephew was born a month later, it was the same thing. My grandmother’s suffering wasn’t any less because of it, but her new life contained more ups and downs than before. I wasn’t receiving any ‘ups’ from the death of the only other person in the world who loved me. Jenny’s life was completely disposable compared to John’s, of course it would be. Like I said, it could’ve been anybody, and anybody’s life would have meant less than nothing next to my husband’s. But still, it was his life taken randomly and given to her.
Technically, it was the second time that he should have died. Long before we met, when John was a teenager, he and his skateboard were sent flying in a hit and run that by all means should have killed him. It wasn’t until he’d hit thirty-two and was inside the car that fate would come back to claim him. I wondered at that. In some parallel dimension, he’d died at seventeen. And in another, he’d never been hit at all. And in another, he was still here, with a rebroken femur and twenty more stitches holding together his skull. But I was in this one. This one where he survived only to meet me and become the one human being that made me feel like a person, only to be taken in his prime. It’s nothing to say I would die for him. I don’t and never have cared much for my own life, an early onset of depression untreated for decades will do that to you. I would’ve died for my cats. But there was nothing I could do to trade my life for John’s. The prospect I had now was to at least join him. It was repulsively unfair that I should go about my life while he, empty-chested, laid in the ground. What made me so special?
I’d thought about this moment before. Everytime he stood at the curb, or leaned into the subway tunnel to look for the train, or walked on red towing me behind him, I thought of it. What if something happened to him? What if, in a split second, he was mangled under a semi, unrecognizably torn into nothing but fleshy meat, while I melted into the cement wishing to all god I had a gun in my hand? I’d thought about the situation multiple times. John, lying in a hospital bed, legally dead save for his lungs pumping and heart beating, while doctors and family talked over ‘the next steps’. I’d be on that hospital roof in a flash. Every ounce of love and grief I had for him would smash into the pavement at the same time my body did. But that’s not how it happened. John had decided to be an organ-donor.