I stared at myself in the hospital bathroom mirror. The florescent lights illuminated my face, which was currently filled with only flaws as far as I could see. My eyes were as swollen as Mike’s from crying and trying to sleep all night. The whole left side of my face was dotted with zits, bubbling and exploding like little solar flares on the surface of the sun. At that moment, I could not help but think that I actually looked worse than Mike. I looked terrible, like absolute shit. It really didn’t matter to me.
I used the hand soap to wash my face a bit, brushed my teeth, and popped in my Invisalign braces. I was exhausted and my lower back hurt. When I had first gone into the intensive care waiting room, all of the recliners were occupied so I laid out on the floor with my hospital-given pillow and blanket. I fell in and out of sleep, never actually hitting that place where you get rest. Eventually I noticed that one of the recliners had been vacated and decided to try that. However, that proved to be just as uncomfortable because my body was not heavy enough to keep the back down. It repeatedly popped me back up to a seated position. At some point, I think I got some sleep, as some of the night is simply blackness in my memory.
I gathered what I had back into my purse and made my way out to go into Mike’s intensive care room. His parents were already in there.
He was still out in a coma, but by this time, they were keeping him in it; according to them, for his own good. When I entered the unit and made my way down to his room, there he laid, tracheal tube down his throat, oxygen hooked to his nose, different IVs making their way from different parts of his arm, neck brace securely fastened to his neck. The doctors were supposed to come at any time and explain better what the CT scan had revealed.
Most of this day I spent talking to him. He was still unable to respond, but I just told him everything: where I slept, how hard it had rained on my drive up there, how Kyle had started fantasy football, what I had eaten, how slow we were at work, all of the well wishes people had sent to me to relay to him, what I was thinking about being for Halloween, that Sarah had a crush on some dude, how I needed to get new jeans, how soft my new slippers were, what I had done for the week that we were apart. Everything.
It’s funny, because I had always assumed that we didn’t have much to talk about. Yet, there I was, and I had topic after topic to rattle off. (I told him that, too.) It’s amazing how far from center two people can get without realizing that they were right there for each other all along.
I made the decision that day that once he woke up, I was going to come clean to him- as I always have done- about anything that may or may not been considered indiscretion. Most of everything having been done on any breaks we had, but still, I have found that if you’re honest, then no one can throw something in your face. No one can call you a liar. You can still look every person in the eye, and for what it’s worth, there is something to be said about that, no matter what one is confessing.
That was one thing about me and Mike that had always been true, and admittedly, you can see a huge difference in relationships that have a foundation in honesty and relationships that have a foundation in the sugar-coating of half-truths. Mike and I could be brutally honest with one another, and then we could talk it out, without one another freaking out like a lunatic. (I mean really, if you can’t do that, why are you even in a relationship?) As cliche as this may sound, this is one of the most important things I have learned in all of my life; don’t live a lie. Every single time that Mike and I had come back to center together, we discussed what wrongs we had done, and how we could avoid the situation again, and I had already seen firsthand how beneficial this proved to be. No one could hold anything over our heads.
I thought about this a lot.
I thought about Mike and I a lot, too. We were broken up. Did I want us to get back together? This was a looming question that sat heavy in my mind, and I knew even if I avoided it, it would eventually smash back into the situation. Did I want this? I knew that I would be with him until he needed me no more, until he was capable of living life without having a person help him tie his shoes, but after… ? Could we fix the issues that we had such a hard time resolving before? I looked over at him, his face swollen and a rainbow of colors.
“Good morning!” A doctor wearing a long lab coat proclaimed as he bounced into the small unit that we occupied. Mike’s parents and I looked up, waiting, expecting some sort of an answer for a number of questions. “So, we had some time to look at the CT scan results and the bad news, you already know. There is internal bleeding in the frontal lobe here, and a few fractures lining his eyes, forehead and a small one in his nose.” He circled the areas with a pen he held just above Mike’s face. “The good news is, we don’t think these things are going to get any worse, and we are positive at this point, we will not need surgery to correct them.” Sighs echoed. “Now, I am going to have to ask everyone to wait elsewhere, because we’re going to remove the tracheal tube and that will probably cause a little ruckus in here. We don’t have the room. We’re probably going to do another CT scan as well just to make absolute sure it’s not getting any worse. We’re also going to have the trauma team come up and clear- hopefully- his back and neck and get him out of that brace.”
We stood, thanking the doctor, and headed out. My main objective was to get some food and hopefully a cigarette, since neither of those things had been in the cards for me yet.
The Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities are much different than any other hospital that I have ever been in. Parts of it is like a little mini-mall with a food court and shops. It seems that any wing that could remind you of a hospital were sectioned off by a door that needed to be opened by a swipe of the hand. At certain walks through, I was almost capable of completely forgetting that I was in a hospital altogether.
Mike’s mother and I made our way down to the uh, food court, I guess. Not cafeteria, but food court, equipped with a Sbarro and a fancy deli, surrounded by different shops to purchase all sorts of different trinkets or whatnot. Mike’s mom was rattling off lunch choices and this and that. She’s the sweetest woman, never a negative thing pops out of her mouth, but let me tell you, a lot does come tumbling from her lips. She can talk and talk and talk and it doesn’t much matter to who I don’t think. So kindhearted, she’d talk the ear off a complete stranger.
The amount of medical doctors and nurses and attendants and students and other workers and patients shuffling around was quite stifling at points. They talked. Everyone talked and talked. That was one of the most interesting things to me. Life just kept going on. Nurses gathered and discussed what time they would get out. Doctors talked about their kids winning spelling bees or practicing for the junior football league. Students exchanged phone numbers for sharing notes and meeting for coffees to study over. Patients talked about what tests they had to endure that evening and how much longer they had to be locked up.
Life just kept going, no matter how much it felt my world had seemed to pause. It didn’t pause. I still had homework due. I still had to figure out work the following weekend. I still had to answer texts to some of my girlfriends in regards to dudes they made out with the previous night. Life doesn’t stop for anybody, any instance, or anything. It just keeps moving forward, evolving, changing, and being.
“I’m going to go out to the car and get some soap and things for us to clean up in the bathroom. I’ll meet you back up in his room?” Mike’s mom asked as she crumpled the wax paper that came surrounding the cornbread she had eaten. I nodded and shoved the fork around in the salad I had been trying to eat.
I tried to use the alone time to update people who were concerned with Mike’s progress. I sent out a bunch of texts. I called Sarah, Celia, and Kyle, three people who were giving me support from afar. I checked my Facebook… and that was a mistake.
Everything seemed so trite. Status updates seemed to be void of any meaning whatsoever. I have a cold. Poor you. Karma’s going to kick my ex’s ass. Yeah, right. Today is the worst day of my life because I got a flat tire. Are you daft?
Everything seemed more ridiculous than it normally does, and it became even more apparent than it usually is that the world is partially full of complainers who think that any problem, hiccup, wrong doing by another, is the absolute end all, be all of issues. Fact is, you’re still alive which means you have the tools and ability to fix and change your problems. Take better care of yourself. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and make an attempt to meet someone else. Get a new tire. You’re not going to die, and until you actually are, stop dwelling on shit because it’s only making it worse for yourself.
At that very moment there were a number of things I could have complained about aside from the fact that Mike was strapped down to a bed severely injured in a coma. I hadn’t gotten any sleep. I really needed a cigarette. My hair was greasy and glued to my head. They put too much dressing on my salad. Some dude kept sending me texts asking me out and after I ignored him, sending me texts that said it was rude to do so. The nurses at the table next to me were talking about TV shows obnoxiously loud. I had a headache.
It all really doesn’t matter unless you let it.
I watched Mike’s mom make her way passed the register for the deli and there was a young nurse trying to explain to the clerk that she would come back and pay the rest of the money. She was short $1.35. She swore she had it. Mike’s mom turned around while digging through her wallet and handed the clerk two dollars. She smiled big and cheerfully and said “enjoy your lunch!” to the young nurse.
And that was it. I vowed right then and there that I would do the right thing- no matter- and I would always do it in the kindest manner possible. To say that I wasn’t already headed down this road would be a lie, because I had been. I tried to surround myself only with people that I thought were good hearted, and unfortunately this caused me to lose a couple friends. I tried to volunteer some time at least once a week, but sometimes I just couldn’t. I tried to do right by others, but I’m not (always) perfect.
There were a couple situations in my life that I had to rectify. Mike was one of them. My mother was another. I was going to try even harder to not let petty and superficial things bother me. (Although, I was still going shoe shopping…) No more complaining about stupid shit. No more letting angry people affect my life. No more of anything that wasn’t well, just good.
I pulled out a pen and began writing on a napkin: It all really doesn’t matter… unless it’s about kindness.
I gathered my belongings, leaving the napkin on the table, and made my way back to Mike’s room, praying to no one in particular, to help me fix my shitty situations without anyone getting hurt.
The young nurse, who was short $1.35, sat eating her sandwich, grinning the whole time.
(To be continued…)