The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of
“They’re coming,” Markie ran ahead to tell them.
Becky was doing CPR and rescue breathing. Andy was holding his hand and praying, tears rolling down his cheeks. The paramedics came and climbed to the first level.
“Keep working until we get set up.” He said to Becky. He continued to set up noticing the amount of blood pooled behind his head. He stopped and took his penlite and shined it in his eyes. First one, then the other. He sat up and took a breath and laid a hand on her shoulder. “You can stop now. He’s gone.”
Andy Screamed, “NO! He’s just knocked out!” And he started CPR and breathing as his mom had taught him to do. Becky laid her hand on his shoulder, “Andy, Honey.”
“Com’ere son, Andy’s your name?” The paramedic said coming around and taking him so gently into his arms. “He’s gone. Nothing can be done. It happens that way sometimes.” He held Andy’s head against his shoulder and let him weep. “It’s alright son, let it all out.” Becky just sat back stunned.
The other paramedics showed up with the gurney. They saw the young paramedic with the weeping naked boy in his arms. He gave them a look and shook his head. They knew. They called for the coroner and the Sheriff. The young paramedic set down on the stepping stone and held him. Becky was amazed at the compassion the young fireman had for her son. She was glad for it. This was something a man could do better right now. She just looked down at the vacant body that was so vibrant just a short time ago. She stood up and looked around, not sure how to get down or even how she got there in the first place. The paramedic said, “Andy, I need to set you down now for a minute so I can help your mom down. Are you alright enough to let me do that?”
He stood, “Hey Mike,” he called to another fireman, “Mike, could you hold the ladder so we can get her down?”
“Sure Pat, I’m on it,” was the response. Mike held the ladder and another fireman came up the ladder. He smiled at Becky, “Hi, what’s your name ma’am?”
“Becky Harter,” she whispered.
“Becky, I’m Bill. I’m going to help you down. So if you will turn around so you are facing the ladder and step carefully, I’ll guide your foot to the first rung. Pat there will steady you until we get you all the way on the ladder. Alright? It’s not far but ya can’t see where to put your foot until your there. I’ll guide your foot.”
Andy heard those words. The same words Tad said to him, it was the moment he became Tad’s. “NOOOOO!” Andy screamed. He breathed out as he ran off the parapet into the icy cold water. He felt the stinging cold and it made him gasp. He took in water, his lungs filled. Pain! Terrible pain! Spinning, black.
“He didn’t come back up!” Pat said kicking off his boots and his yellow fireman’s overalls. It left him in a t-shirt and boxers. He took a breath and dove in towards where he thought he saw the boys floating body. The water stung his skin. I am not going to lose this one. These people will not loose two today. He saw the boy’s naked form and reached for an arm. Seizing it, he raced for the surface with Andy’s lifeless body in tow. He raced for the side where the guys were waiting. They pulled him out and took Andy from him and pulled him out. Becky was down now and Bill went back up to get the kit.
Pat took Andy and laid him out and pressed his stomach to get the water out. He did it again. Bill was looking at his watch, “How long has it been?” Pat asked.
“About three minutes I think.”
“The water’s near icy; I think it bought us time.” It sounded to Bill more like a prayer than an objective medical opinion.
Pat continued to work frantically, pushing his legs up to push water out. He began rescue breathing and CPR. He breathed a breath into the boy’s lifeless body and saw the chest rise. He turned his body on its side and it forced more water out. He breathed in another breath turning him on his other side. Again water emptied out of the boy’s lungs. He pushed another breath in and watched the chest rise and began chest compressions. “Get the paddles ready.”
Bill handed them to him, “Ready, charged to 270.”
Pat placed the paddles on his chest, “Clear!” he yelled. He pushed the buttons sending a jolt of electricity to try and jumpstart his heart. Bill handed him a stethoscope. He listened. “Nope! Give me 300!” He gave Andy another breath, the chest rose. Another breath, the chest rose again. He did chest compressions, two more breaths, fifteen more compressions. “OK, give them too me.”
“Ready, 300!” Bill yelled as he handed them to him. Pat took the paddles and pressed hard on the chest and pushed the buttons sending electricity through his chest cavity to his heart. Again his body jerked as the muscles contracted from the jolt. He listened, he heard a heartbeat. He breathed for him. The chest rose. “Get me an ambu bag stat! Call for air support, he’s back with us but I don’t know for how long.”
It was Bill’s show now, “Get those field markers out there! He’s going to need to know where to set down. Watch for wires!”
Pat talked to Andy as he worked the ambu bag. “Andy, don’t you do this. You hang on buddy. Fight damn you, don’t you dare give up. You hear me? You are NOT ALOUD TO DIE ON ME ANDY. LISTEN TOO ME! FIGHT!” Pat was yelling at him. As they got him on the gurney, one of the other firemen got him a towel. The other got his boots and overalls. He was working the ambu bag right to the field where they waited for the helicopter.
“I got it,” Bill said as he took over the ambu bag squeezing it to pump air in the boy’s lungs.
“Thanks,” Pat said as he quickly toweled off and stepped back into his boots and pulled his coveralls up and slipped his arms through the straps. Then he held the stethoscope to Andy’s chest again. “Weak and thready,” Pat said. “Where is that damn helicopter?”
“It’s on its way,” Bill said. “He’s three minutes out.”
He listened again. “He’s not going to make it. Get the paddles out and ready. 300.”
“On it!” Bill said. Pat got into the kit and was tearing packages open and getting a syringe ready.
“Andy, don’t you die on me! It’s too early for you. It’s not your time yet!” Pat was yelling again at Andy.
“Bill, rub his legs. Let’s see if we can get some circulation going. Jerry, come work this Ambu for me. Easy and steady 6-8 times a minute. Right, just like that, good.” He listened, “Andy, wake up damn it!” Pat was rubbing his rib cage trying to stimulate circulation. He listened again, “Shit! Keep doing the bag Jerry.” He took the syringe he prepared and felt the space around his second rib. Placing the needle between the ribs, angled under the sternum, he plunged it into his chest cavity. “Paddles!” he said reaching.
“Charged, ready, 300.” Bill said.
“Jerry, get clear, CLEAR!” He yelled as he watched the charge pass through the muscles. He listened. “He’s back with us. Sounding solid, still not breathing,” Pat flipped him over and slapped his back a few sharp times. Andy coughed and gasped.
“GOOD! Stay with me Andy. I know it hurts a lot to breathe but you just keep doing it.”
The helicopter had landed. “Let’s get him in. Is that the Mom? Get her on board. Bill, call ahead. Tell them we have one collapsed lung for sure. Maybe a partial on the other. I’m running straight O2 and I’ll get a pulse on him en route. But, they’re going to need a pediatric specialist on this one. Tell them to call him and get him on the move.”
“Hi, I’m Sheriff Daniels. Is that my DB taking off in that bird?” he said to Bill.
“I wish it was. No that was another young boy. You almost had two. Don’t know what happened. First we have a boy who obviously fell and unfortunately cracked his skull. This other little guy was in hysterics. My partner, Pat, managed to get him calmed down and set him aside to help his Mom get down from the rocks. The next thing we know, we have another person needing rescued. Neither one could be more than thirteen or fourteen.”
“Got any names?” Sheriff Daniels asked getting his pad and pen out.
“Tad is what I heard for the one going with the coroner. Andy is the one in the airship on his way to the hospital. There’s a bunch of folks over here, they were with them. I figure they know the rest.”
“Thought so. Too bad, nice kids both of them. This is a small town Bill; those two have made quite a mark here. They were lovers. They riled the church, riled up the school, heard tell even took on half the school. But they loved each other. I guess when you are fourteen and in love, the world had to look like he was supposed to get off too, since Tad was gone. He’s going to have a real tough time of it. I’m not sure you did him any favors bringing him back.”
“Ms Harter, you’re the guardian and Ms Hester you are the sister, blood kin right?”
“Yes sir,” Hester said, answering for both of them. The coroner came and took pictures and got the firemen to help get the body into his hearse. “Such a shame,” the coroner said. “Just buried both of his parents a few weeks ago. Been a tough couple of months for this bunch, Sheriff.”
“Hester, are you going to be ok with them two boys? I just don’t know what to do, Tad gone. I can’t believe it. Right before our very eyes. Just gone. And then Andy. Now poor Becky is there all alone, she was trying to save him and then her own . . .” Gladys just cried. “I don’t know if I should stay and help you with the boys, or go be with Becky and Andy. I just don’t know what to do here.”
“Come on, best we all be together. Let’s jump in my car and head for the hospital.
Sheriff?” Hester asked, “You done with us? We’d like to go to the hospital to be with Becky and Andy.”
“Yes’m Hester, I’m so sorry for your loss, a true tragedy. They just radioed. They took him directly to the children’s hospital. He was still holding his own when they got there. They said that they were taking him into surgery now.”
“Thank you, Sheriff. Come on boys, let’s get in the car. Gladys, let’s get some of that recipe of yours. I think we’re going to need it.”
Bright lights. Where am I, what happened? Why can’t I move? Oh God I hurt. What’s that noise? My head is pounding. My throat hurts, I can’t swallow. What happened? Bad dream. Where’s . . .TAD. Tears! Choking. Can’t move. Let me die.
“Andrew, I’m Doctor Fairchild. You’re in the hospital. Seems you had an accident and almost drown. You can’t move because you were fighting us, so we had to restrain you. We have tubes down your throat to help you with your breathing. You had a couple of collapsed lungs. They don’t like water very much. They’ll come out probably tomorrow. Don’t try to talk, just rest. Your Mom is right here too. I’m going to remove the gauze covering your eyes. It was in place to hold the tubes. Give me a moment to fix it up.”
He started to cut the gauze and took tape and secured it out of his eyes. “There you go. Andrew, do you understand what I am saying? I want you to squeeze my hand once for yes, twice for no.”
He squeezed once.
“I can remove the restraints if you promise to behave. Will you behave?”
He squeezed twice. The doctor just looked at him. “Andy, I know you hurt a lot right now, but you are young, with a full life ahead of you. I know it seems bad right now. But you have no idea what awaits you.”
Andy closed his fist except his middle finger. “Andy, I am going to give you something to help you rest.”
“Hey there Andy, I’m Doctor Raburn. I’m a psychologist. My job is to help you sort all this out. I know right now you hurt bad and want it to end. I’ve given you something to make your head a little fuzzy so it’s easier to sort it all out. Your tubes are out, but Dr Fairchild said you may still have a really sore throat for a few days yet. Doctor Fairchild says you wouldn’t promise to be good, so he left the restraints on. Your Mom had to go home, she couldn’t bear to see you in pain, and then to see you restrained. She really loves you. She really loved Tad too. She doesn’t want to lose you both. Do you want to see your mother in pain?”
Andy shook his head no.
“Good, she’s grieving too. She’s very afraid for you. She doesn’t know if she could live, losing both of you. You wouldn’t want to influence that decision would you?”
“Then, let’s decide to live for now. OK? Give me a chance to try and help you find a reason to go on. Will you do that for me? Please? I know it is asking a lot. You can always change your mind down the road, but for now, can you put yourself in my hands? Trust me. I’m very good at what I do. I know I can help you. Please look at me.”
Andy turned his head slightly and saw a young man in his early thirties. A good looking man, with a kind smile, holding up a face with two very large brown eyes and beautiful eyelashes. He had the kind that looked like he used eyeliner, but you know he didn’t. He had a strong chin and very thin lips under a pointed nose.
“Will you try and choose to live today, for your Mom, for Aunt Gladys? For Hester and the twins? They all care for you dearly and they are so scared right now. So scared they are going to lose you too. Will you try for me too? Please?”
Andrew looked at the man. His heart was in his words. He felt he really did care. Andrew nodded yes.
“Excellent!” The man smiled. “Then we won’t need these anymore,” and he undid the restraints from the bed. Then he undid the ones on his feet. “Would you like the head raised up a bit?”
He nodded yes. Seeing that he intended to behave, he moved around to remove the restraints from his wrists and he set them on the tray. “I was supposed to leave these on your wrists in case you changed your mind. But you’re not going to change your mind, are you?”
Andy paused for a moment. The doctor was getting a little nervous, though he tried not to show it. Then Andy looked him in the eye and gently shook his head no.
“Good start. You trust me and I trust you. We can get you through this. Just keep on trusting me. Try a sip of water. They said it will hurt a lot, but it will heal faster if you can drink.” He handed Andy a glass with a straw. “Just a sip at first, because it’s gonna hurt. They had all kinds of tubes down your throat.” Andy looked like he was trying to speak.
“That may take a couple days too. Seems vocal chords don’t like tubes either. But go ahead and take your time. I have paper and a pen too, if you want to write it.
“How long here now?” Andy managed to rasp out.
“They’ve had you sedated for almost a full week. It is Tuesday. They didn’t take the tubes out until yesterday.”
Andrew just looked at the doctor, “I don’t know if I can do this. It hurts too bad.” He rasped out with barely any volume to his voice. A single tear welled in his eyes and started to trickle. “I think put back. Break word.”
“Andy, I hate those things. Can we try me just holding you until you think you can keep your word? We can try it a little at a time. We can put them back any time, but let’s see if we can just go an hour.”
The doctor let the railing down on the side that didn’t have the IV and scooted in beside Andy. He snaked his arm in behind him and rolled Andy too him. Andy felt the warm skin of his arms touch his and the intimacy had an immediate effect. Andy cried and hugged the doctor. The doctor was caught up in the young boy’s passion and wept silently also. Andy became aware that there were tears falling on him from the doctor. He looked up.
“Why are you crying? Did you know Tad?”
“No, I’m sorry to say I didn’t know him, and I so wish I had. Anyone who could foster this much love from anybody must have been really special.”
“So why are you crying?”
“You are in pain. I see myself a very long time ago. I know your pain very well. That’s why I am so sure I can help you get through this. I have walked here myself, when I wasn’t much older than you. And I loved him with every cell in my body.”
“How did you make the hurt go away?”
“I didn’t, that’s why I am crying. The hurt never goes away completely. It’s always there. What I have done is learned how to live with it. I’ve learned how to not want to die.”
“It sounds harder than giving in to it. If they had just left me. Why did they do it! I was there! The hurt was gone!”
“Andy, they did it so they wouldn’t hurt. And they did it because there is hope that you may do great things to help ease the world’s suffering. No life should be wasted until they see everything it is capable of. Andy, the list of people, single individuals, who were just like you and I, that have done great things that changed the world is endless. Andy, how old was Tad?”
“Fourteen, just like me.”
“He sure made a difference in your life didn’t he?”
“Obviously,” Andy was now questioning the doctor’s intelligence.
“Andy, he was only fourteen and I heard that you only knew each other a year! Would you say he changed your life a little or a lot?”
“He changed my everything.”
“Alright, so thirteen years you didn’t know him. So in less than one year he brought about this huge change in your life. Now, I know he was special, but if he was in a crowd, what made him different than anybody else? Was he born with super powers?”
“Was he born a millionaire?”
“Was he a genius? All straight A’s in school, invented a time machine on weekends in his garage?”
“No.” And he actually found a little grin to go with this one.
“Then what made him so special that he could affect your life the way he did?”
“He loved me.”
“Ah! So he loved you for less than a year and did all that to you?”
“No, he loved me for two years before he met me. He had seen a picture of me and told Aunt Gladys I was his. He loved me from that moment on. How odd that must have been. To love me so completely, and then to find me actually standing in front of him. I can’t get my head around that.”
“Wow, he was one of a kind. I really wish I had met him. But, getting back to it, because there is an important point to be made here. He was only with you for a little less than a year. His love changed your entire direction in life. You are fourteen. Let’s say you live another seventy years. And if you could change someone’s life like Tad changed yours, every ten years you would change seven people’s lives and your changes in each person affect every person in their lives. In a very short time, just by loving someone, you have changed the world. You are as great as Tad was. You rocked his world. You have a mission yet. You can’t go yet. There are seven other people waiting for you to help them.”
He moved around in front of Andy. “You’re one of my seven. But you have to help me help you. It will hurt, but it does get easier. Now, I see your Mom just got here. Her stress level is through the roof. I think she needs a huge hug and she needs to know she doesn’t have to worry about losing you. I have to go, but I will come back tomorrow.” He picked up the restraints and looked at Andy. You gonna need these?”
Andrew shook his head no and reached out to hug the doctor. “Thanks”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then. OK if I bring a friend along?”
Andy nodded with a puzzled look. The doctor winked and went out the door.
“Hi sweetie,” Becky said very happy to see the restraints off. “Glad to see you. I love you.”
“Hi Momma,” He reached for her and she responded in kind. “I’m so sorry momma, I was so stupid, I just hurt so bad and I just overloaded. I won’t do it again. But Momma?”
“I’m gonna need a lot of hugs, probably for a real long time. Cause there are gonna be times like now when I just can’t seem to make my eyes stop leaking.”
“Shhh, it’s alright baby, I’m right here for ya. It’s alright. You let them leak anytime they want. Just no more trying to leave me, OK?”
“Ok, Momma.” He thought in silence for a few moments. “Momma?”
“What have they done with him?”
“Honey, they cremated him. I have his ashes at home for you. They had to do it honey, too much time had passed.”
“Then he’s gone, I can’t even say goodbye. Momma what if I can’t remember his face?” The tears started to fall.
“Shhhh. I have pictures for you son. We won’t forget. Here, I brought some in my purse for you.” She handed him several pictures.
He took the pictures and looked at them through tear distorted eyes. Trying desperately to keep them silent and under control. “Oh Momma, what am I going to do? I know I promised but I am just so sad. Momma, can you call the nurse? I need them to take my sadness away, there is just no end to it. It is like everything that was ever happy in me died with Tad. What is left inside me isn’t worth keeping.”
“Here,” Becky showed him. “Just push this button and they will come.” He pushed the button and a minute or two later a very pretty young girl came in. She was dressed in red and white and must have been about his age.
“Hi, I’m Kelly. What can I help you with?” She said smiling.
“Please, can you make the hurt go away?”
“I can try. Let me get your nurse. Be back in a jiffy.”
“Hi there, I’m Jackie. I’m your floor nurse. What do you need young man?” Jackie was a black woman with a round serious face. But you could see there was a lot of tenderness in her rough demeanor.
“The doctor said you had medicine to make my hurt go away. Please make it stop, even if it’s just for a little while.”
“Alright hon, I can do that, but first you have to tell me which kind of hurt. Do you mean like your head hurts or your arm hurts, what kind of hurt?”
“It’s my heart, it’s broken and it’s leaking sadness that I can’t stop.” The tears rolled down his cheeks. “Please make it stop, . . . Please?”
“Sweetie, I have just what you need. You hang on for just two minutes while I get it.” She turned and walked away really fast. The young girl came in and came up beside him. She took his hands and held it. She said nothing, but she stroked his hair from his eyes with her free hand. She glanced up at Becky. She had a tissue out and blotted the tears from her face. Andy didn’t look at the girl; he just lay on his side sobbing accepting her ministrations.
Jackie was back and she went to his IV bag and jabbed the syringe in the little tube and slowly she watched him as she continued to push. His eyelids went heavy. “There you go Andy. That may not stop the sadness, but it will certainly stop you from caring about it. Here is your call button. If you need me just push it alright?”
He nodded, “Nurse Jackie . . . Thanks.”
“No Problem, Andy. Call me anytime. You got your cute butt hanging out of that hospital gown. I’ll come in and look at that any time you want.” She said it as she went down the hall. It took a minute for what she said to sink in. Then he realized why Kelly, the candy striper, was still holding his hand. He extricated his hand from hers and reached back to discover it was a full moon. He quickly covered his buns with as much of the gown as he could and then reached for the cover.
“Here, let me. This is what I do,” She said pulling the covers up, taking a last look as she covered it up. She gave it a little pat when she was done.
Becky stifled a laugh.
Before she left, she turned around and asked, “Would you like me to come read to you later?”
“I’m Gay,” he said flatly.
She said, “So, I’m a lesbian. I didn’t ask if you wanted sex, I asked if you would like me to read to you. Sometimes when you’re sad, it helps to climb into a story. And it’s easier sometimes just to have someone around so you aren’t alone with your thoughts.”
“If you’re a lesbian, then why we’re you looking at my butt?”
“Ha! Because I could! Just because I’m a lesbian doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good butt and I gotta tell ya, that is about as fine a set of buns as I have ever seen.”
He thought for a moment. “Yeah, that would be nice. Thanks.”
Kelly left the room.
“Momma,” he said through slits that were weeping eyes just minutes before.
“I’m sorry Momma, but I think I need to sleep.”
“OK honey, you rest. I’ll be back.”
“Good morning sunshine. How are you today? I see they didn’t have to restrain you. I’m proud of you. You kept your word to me. I know it probably wasn’t easy either. So how are ya?”
“I’m . . .ok. Doc, I was doing real well and then just all of a sudden the sadness came over me and I just wanted it to stop. I called Nurse Jackie and she made it so I didn’t care. I don’t like being sad doc. There has to be a way to at least not make it hurt so bad. Doc, when it hurts that bad you’ll do anything to make it stop. If Nurse Jackie wasn’t there, I don’t know what I would have done.”
“Do you think you might have hurt yourself if she hadn’t given you the medicine?”
The doctor got really quiet and listened.
“Yeah, I would do anything to stop that.”
The doctor smiled, “You’re going to be alright. I think you are right on the money. And I thank you for your honesty. I knew the answer to that one. I just wanted to see if you were going to be upfront with me. It will be a faster recovery if you are working the program. The reason the sadness came over you is the medicine wore off.”
“Doc, I can’t be on that stuff my whole life, I’ll never be out of bed. That stuff knocks my dick in the dirt.”
“Well right now you need to have it a little heavier. The wound is still fresh. You’ll get used to it after a while and as time goes by, we’ll break chunks of the hurt off and we’ll make it smaller.” Andy listened intently.
“Look, I need your help. Remember yesterday, I asked if I could bring a friend by?”
“Yeah, so what’s up with him and how can I help? I can’t even go to the bathroom without passing a mirror and breaking into tears.”
“Why do mirrors do that to you Andy?”
“I don’t know. I see myself all empty, like Tad isn’t in my eyes anymore. God, I miss him.’
“Right. Look, about my friend, he is right down the hall. He has been through some stuff like you have. Worse stuff if you can imagine that.”
“First of all, I can’t imagine anything worse. Second, I can’t handle my own sadness and you want me to listen to someone else’s? Doc, I don’t even know what his problem is and I’m already depressed by it.”
“Look, you guys can talk. Share your grief. Andy, I can’t tell you about his sadness because it is protected. Just like I couldn’t tell him about you. But he is in a bad kind of pain, worse than you can imagine. But he doesn’t trust me and I’m afraid that if he doesn’t talk soon he’ll do something. Even if he doesn’t talk to you, maybe he’ll see that you trust me and that I don’t betray it ever and then he may start talking to me. Please. This is a chance for you to change someone’s life. I want to park his bed right here. Can we do that?”
Andy thought for a minute. “Sure. It will be nice to have another person around. Maybe if he’s sadder then I’ll feel happier by comparison.”
“Hi Andy, let’s get you out of bed. You can sit in the chair while we change your bedding. And, the doctor said we can lose the IV Bag.”
“What about the sadness medicine?”
“Well we are going to leave this little one on your hand and you just won’t have to deal with the bag. You can get up, wander around. You can’t leave the floor though, it takes a key, so don’t even try.”
“We’re locked in here?”
“Yep, when you came in here your aim was to hurt yourself. Ours is to keep you safe until you figure out what a stupid idea that is. There’s no future in it.”
“Oh boo!” Andy said.
“Good! A sense of humor returning. You got a pretty smile too? I like that. And here comes your new room mate. Andrew or do you prefer Andy?” Andy took a quick breath pursed his lips together and the tears started to fall. “Oh oh sorry hon. Bad question.” She moved to give him a quick hug. “How about Mr Harter?”
“Andrew will be fine. Only Tad called me Andy. I don’t think I’m ready to share that memory yet.”
“Andrew it is then. Michael LeSalle, meet Andrew Harter. I now pronounce you room mates. We’ll leave you two to get to know one another. You know where the button is.” She was gone.
“Hey?” Andy said to him.
He just rolled over with his back to Andy.
“No worries man, I don’t care if we talk or not. You don’t need my sadness and I sure as hell don’t need yours. But if you change your mind, I’m Andrew.”
Michael said nothing. Just kept staring at the window. He never looked away. He watched until the sun went down. It was rapidly approaching the time for meds and the sadness was once again finding a place on Andrew’s face. He managed to keep it silent. Nothing but sniffles. He pushed the call button. It was getting pretty bad. He wondered if they waited until he called.
“Hi Hon, is it time?”
Andrew nodded and he couldn’t hold back. Grand tears along with grand sobs. He buried his face in his pillow, to try and hide his weakness from his new room mate.
Nurse Jackie showed up and administered his meds to his IV shunt in his hand. His eyelids went heavy almost immediately.
“Jackie?” he said quietly.
“Yes Andrew?” she leaned in and whispered.
“Will I have to have this the rest of my life?”
“Oh, honey, that’s a tough question. It’s a different answer for each person. That depends on you and your ability to deal with the grief. As long as it keeps dealing with you instead of you dealing with it, yes. Maybe not as much or as strong, but yes, you may need some help. Look, you keep working with Doctor Raburn, he’s good and he cares. He will never betray your trust. Let him help you and you’ll get through this. You rest now baby. Your spooks won’t bother you anymore tonight.
“STOP! STOP! DON”T HURT HIM! IT’S NOT HIS FAULT. STOOOOP! You’re killing him. No. No, don’t shoot. No don’t. Jimmmy!” Michael was having a night mare.
Andrew heard it; it was just like when Tad’s parents died. He had nightmares. Andrew got out of bed and climbed in with Michael and scooted up against him and pulled him into him and cuddled him. He stroked his hair and kissed his head, “It’s alright. I’m here, I’m right here, you’re alright. Shhhh. It’s alright, just a bad dream.” Michael buried his nose in Andrew’s neck and an arm over his chest followed by a leg. And then he wept until he fell back asleep.
The breakfast cart came around and they brought in two trays, one on each table. Andrew and Michael woke up still nuzzled together. Andrew didn’t say anything. He just got up and went back to his own bed after going to the bathroom to take care of his morning wood. They ate their breakfast in silence. When they were finished, Andrew pushed his tray away and rolled over with his back to Michael. It was getting close to time for his morning meds. He didn’t want Michael to see he had a crybaby for a roommate, but his sobs started. He tried thinking about Michael and what demons he could possibly harbor. What could be worse than this?
A knock at the door. “Hello! I’m here to see Michael.”
She walked over to his bed and pulled the little sheer curtain to give them some privacy.
“Hi Michael, how are you?”
“Fine” he said flatly and without emotion.
“Well, they have given us a court date.” She said.
“I have nothing to say.”
“Michael, if you don’t testify they’ll go free! My God, he shot your brother!”
Ms. Carmaletti, I know exactly what happened. I see it every night when I close my eyes. I see the horror of it every fucking night. If I testify, will it bring Jimmy back?” She remained silent. “Will it bring Terri back?” Again she remained silent. “Will it make my father talk to me again? Then tell me Ms Carmaletti, what do I get out of it except more nightmares. Don’t you see, I don’t care if they go free. I want them to go free. They promised to kill me. My silence is their payment for doing me the favor. Now get out.” He said with tears in his voice.
Andrew was trying to put all the pieces together. There was a Jimmy, he was shot. He remembered from the dream too. He mentioned a Terri and he said it just like Jimmy and Jimmy is dead, so Terri must be too. And his father will no longer talk to him and two guys who shot Jimmy and maybe Terri were going to go free and come kill Michael and he’s happy about that. None of it was making any sense. The nurse came in to give him his morning meds. He made it! The blue funk didn’t get him. He lasted until the meds came. “Are you early?”
“No, every day, ten o’clock, on the button.”
“Yes!” He said pulling a fist from the sky. “I made it. I dealt with it until the meds came. I’m getting better!”
She smiled and pushed the medicine into his hand and he went drowsy quickly. He slept until lunch came around. Grilled cheese, tater tots and green jello with carrots in it. “God they must get the reject school cafeteria workers here. This sucks.”
A knock at the door. It was a good looking paramedic. “HI!” he said with a huge smile. “How are ya doing today. Remember me?” He asked.
“Yeah, Pat right?”
“Yeah, that’s right. How are you holding up?”
“Well, up until this morning, I hated you. I’m still not up to the place where I can forgive you, but I’ve stopped wishing you were dead.”
“I understand. I’m sorry it’s not what you wanted, but it’s what I do and I’m very good at it.”
“Yes you are, and I’m rapidly returning to wishing you were dead for what you did to me. So if you don’t mind, get the fuck out and don’t ever touch me again. I don’t care if you see me fall through the ice, stuck under a bus or dancing with a chain saw, stay the fuck away from me.”
“Right, you’re welcome. See ya round.” He left wondering if the kid was right. He stopped and did an about face and went back in the room. “Hey kid, let me ask you a question and if you answer it I will promise to never save you again.”
“Shoot, ass hole.”
“You said until this morning you wished me dead. What happened this morning that made the change?”
“I outlasted my meds.”
Pat looked at him with a jaundiced eye. “What does that mean?”
“Every eight hours, Pat, every eight fucking hours, I relive the loss and experience a sadness that is so great that I would rather kill myself by peeling my skin off in one inch strips until I bleed to death or die from the pain. It is a sadness that I cured and you inflicted it on me again. Well, the only thing I can hope for now is a commuted sentence.
This morning, my meds came before the great sadness. It gave me hope. Something I had lost. But right now, I will grab hold of anything. I’m adrift in a sea of loss and it’s not that the shore is not in sight, but there is no safe place to land. Pat, do you know how old I am? I’m fourteen. I have a long hell ahead of me. Thanks for giving it back to me and saving me from being with the one I love. Eternally.”
Pat went over and sat down on the side of his bed and pulled him into his arms. Andrew went stiffly into it, turning his head away. Pat just hugged him and cried. “I’m sorry. I only know how to save them. I’m so sorry.” He released Andrew and ran from the room.
“Damn, you were a little hard on him, weren’t ya? I mean, how’s he supposed to know. His job is to save people. He was just doing it. What if he hesitates on his next call? That was really fucked up.”
“How the fuck would you know? I heard you and that Carmaletti lady. How would you like it if your plan worked? They got free, came and killed you. You were suddenly free from your torment, what ever it is. Then some Good Samaritan comes by and takes that peace away from you and sticks you back in hell! Now imagine that you didn’t have killers to do it for you. So you try and do it yourself, but you can’t. It didn’t work. Then the world turns right for two days and then you are back in hell worse than before. You muster up the courage to do it this time and you are successful! You’re doing the white light and the tunnel, you are moments away from eternal happiness and somebody brings you straight back to hell. I may find hope, I may find a way to deal with this great sadness, but I will hate him every day with every breath I take, as long as I live.” He rolled his back to Michael to hide his tears. They were tears of anger this time. He liked those even less than the tears of sadness.
Michael climbed out of his bed and walked over to the side of the bed, unsure if this was right but he had to try. He climbed in and crawled under the covers and spooned Andrew, wrapping his arm over him and pulling him back. This time it was Michael shushing, kissing, caressing, holding. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” He reached the nurses call button. When she came in she stalled for a moment looking at the two of them together.
“My friend needs his sadness medicine; I came over to hug him until it comes. Please hurry.” Michael stayed with him until the meds were delivered and his eyelids went heavy.
Michael went back to his bed and wept. Not for the trauma he had witnessed, or the loss he had suffered or for the parent that would never touch him or hold him again. Tonight he wept for a young boy so distraught over life, that he tried to take his life twice and finally made it, only to be cheated out of it through a rescue. He wept for a boy that put all of his pain, all of his hurt, and all of his grief aside for him; and came to comfort him when his demons stalked him in the dark of night; even before he had said anything kind to him at all.
He wept out of fear for a boy he could so easily love. And he wept because he was afraid to fall in love with him.
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