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My favorite song is on the radio. John sits in the seat next to me, driving us to a party after prom. “You look so beautiful,” he whispers.
This past night has been the best one of my life and it isn’t over yet. We are going to party all night long, I guarantee it. I hope he can’t see the blush that just came over my cheeks. I like him so much and I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself. “Thank you. You look quite dashing yourself,” I answer. I’m nervous, that was such a ridiculous answer.
He reaches out and takes my hand. I feel my skin flush and lightly tingle, this night has been so perfect. Bright lights show on the road before us. I don’t pay any attention to them. John’s thumb is tracing circles on my small hand. My heart is thumping. I’m trying so hard to stay calm. The lights get closer, closer. John flashes his own lights at them, His face contorting into a glare. We are both blinded by the high beams. He slams a hand down on the horn, ripping his hand out of mine, trying desperately to get the other driver’s attention. The car is coming right at us. At the last second, John swerves. TREE! CRASH!!!
I lay here second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour, permanently entombed within my own body. The ceaseless beep… beep… beep of my heart monitor is my only clue that this torturous lifestyle isn’t just some cruel, sick dream. That endless, incessant beep is the only thing keeping me from withdrawing into the deepest depths of my mind, succumbing to the depression.
It is not even my fault that I am here. It’s not my fault I’m stuck here contemplating time. Those headlights that are my last memory, were driven by a man who was drunk, very drunk. I’ve heard my parents talking about it. He had to be drunk. Why else you he be driving almost eighty in a forty-five zone? He swerved over onto John’s side of the road. Partridge Drive is narrow enough to begin with. There was nothing John could have done. After we slammed into the tree, the drunk driver hit the rear of the car. John died on impact, I am stuck here as a terminal vegetable, the drunk driver walked away without a scratch. Tell me, somebody please tell me, how that’s fair in the slightest.
It has been three weeks since the accident. John has already been buried. But not me. No, I’m stuck here. My spinal cord was severed in eight places, and much of my brain was destroyed. I can’t move anything now, not even my eyes or tongue.
Everyone believes I’m gone. They all believe only my slowly dying body has been left behind, but Hello People! I’m still here. This sick joke of a life is all I have left. There is nothing I can do about that now, except savor the small amount of time left to me. Before too much longer my parents will pull the plug on me. They’ll have the doctors flip the switch on the only thing keeping me here, the life support system. They think it is better to die, than to live like this. I used to agree with them, but that was before I realized just how scary death is when you know it’s coming and there isn’t anywhere you can hide from it.
I have spent much time contemplating the fickleness of time since my admission to this hospital. Back when I was still the naïve and foolish me, time was always in the way. It always seemed to speed along much too fast, just when I really wanted it to drag by or it would barely trickle by when I wished time would just blur by me. Now time is so important to me. I know my breaths are numbered. I just don’t know the final count. I can’t see clocks anywhere from my current position, so I measure the time by the beep… beep… beep of my heart monitor.
Footsteps! Someone is behind me, but I don’t know who they are. I try to turn over. I will my body with all my might; come on hips, ROLL! Curse my immobility. A second set of steps. A third. A fourth.
“Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery,” Doctor Winehouse greets my parents in his low rumbling voice.
“Doctor Winehouse, Doctor Payne,” my father answers.
“Anything new?” my mother asks hopefully.
“Mrs. Montgomery there really is no hope, we’ve done everything we can,” Doctor Payne answers her.
“But what about the tests you ran, didn’t they turn up anything?” my father demands.
“Yes, they showed very minimal brain activity,” Doctor Winehouse answers.
“So, she is still there. Sarah, can you hear mommy? Come on baby, I know you can hear me.” She is sobbing.
“Mom!” I yell with all my might. I could have yelled until I went deaf, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. No matter how hard I try my mouth just won’t move. I wish I could scream. I wish I could cry. I wish I could just blink once more.
“No, that means that because of the life support machine stimulating parts of her body, her brain is just registering the movements. I’m sure your daughter is gone,” Doctor Payne corrected her. He sounds sad to most people, I’m sure, but all I hear is the lies. Both these doctors are all but murders.
“Is there any chance at all the brain activity is still Sarah? She could just be locked within her own brain,” My dad all but begs the doctors.
“No, I’m sorry,” Doctor Winehouse says gravely.
My mom collapses crying. They’re wrong, they’re both wrong, but how can I make them see? I’m still here; please don’t turn off the machine.
“Give us a moment won’t you?” my father asks the doctors.
My mother can’t even talk anymore. My heart is ripped out of my chest at the sudden anguish that tears through me. My own parents are going to kill me. It’s not like I can blame them though. It’s the lying doctors’ fault; they are too stupid to realize I’m here. Really it’s not even their fault though, it all goes back to that drunk driver.
“Of course, we’ll be right outside the door whenever you are ready,” Doctor Payne says as they leave.
“Joan, we have to shut her off, you know she wouldn’t want to live like this,” my father rumbles.
“I know, but she’s still my baby girl,” my mom sobs.
This is tearing her apart just like me. I would be crying along with her if I could. Mom, come on believe. You know I’m not a quitter. You know your Sarah. You know I’d never give up.
“Joan we have to,” my father presses. “She’s suffering.”
Daddy, no I’m not. I can’t feel anything. Please don’t shut me off.
My mother nods. She has finally stepped into my view.
“Doctor,” my father calls.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Doctor Payne asks.
NO! I’m not ready to die. Move, you dang motionless corpse, move!
“Yes,” my dad answers.
Doctor Winehouse walks into my view. He is standing next to the life support system.
“We need a signature from both of you,” Doctor Payne says quietly.
Pens scratch on a page.
“I love you,” my mother whispers into my ear.
“You will always be our little girl, my little angel,” my father chokes out. Tears have blocked his throat, I can tell. They gently rest a hand on me for a moment, then tenderly kiss my hair and leave me.
I love you too. Mom, Dad, I’ll be waiting for you just beyond the bridge. I hear a sigh. It was Doctor Winehouse. His hand pauses for a second, then flips the switch.