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Logan Clark could tell he had been asleep for a long time. He just didn’t know why.
His muscles felt stiff and heavy. Trying to move them was trying to move another person from across a room. For a moment, all he could manage was a twitch here and there. He was just so tired, even after such a long sleep.
After failing to move an arm or leg, Logan decided to start small and work on moving fingers. This had much more success: he twitched his index and middle finger a fraction, then spread the rest of his fingers across the bed.
“Logan? Logan, can you hear me?”
The voice started out fuzzy at first, like Logan’s head was submerged in water and someone was calling out to him from above, but as he focused on his surroundings, his senses cleared: the sounds of steady beeps, the light scent of outdoors, and the feeling of coarse sheets and a thin gown on his body. One of his arms felt oddly restricted. But Logan wanted to hear the voice again, for it to clarify more, like where he was and what he was doing there. “Hnn.” He didn’t want to open his eyes yet—the semi-dark was too comfortable.
“Logan,” the voice breathed. Warm fingers wrapped around his. “Thank God,” the voice half-laughed. A familiar woman’s voice that conjured the image of a person into his mind. Short blonde hair. Large brown eyes flecked with shades of hazel and green. A smile with a slight gap between the front teeth and bitten fingernails. Naomi.
Logan finally opened his eyes. He blinked against the sudden light that made his eyes sting, but when they adjusted, they found the woman that had been in his head, but the image was slightly altered. There was no makeup on her face, which bore two shallow scratches on the right side of her forehead, and the brown eyes had dark rings under them. The eyes above the rings, however, were shining with unshed tears of happiness.
With her free hand, Logan’s wife reached over a side panel on the bed and pressed a button. Logan closed his eyes again to control the stinging until it finally subsided. Before he could get too comfortable, a voice that wasn’t Naomi’s spoke, this one unfamiliar. “He’s awake?”
Logan opened his eyes again to see a short man wearing a white coat and round glasses. He looked to be in his mid-forties with thinning brown hair graying at the temples. “Yes, just now,” Naomi answered.
“Excellent,” the doctor said as he neared the hospital bed. “Hello, Mr. Clark. I’m Dr. Turner. How are you feeling?”
“Uh—” Logan started, but he had to clear his throat before continuing. “Alright, I guess. What happened?”
“What is the last thing you can remember, Mr. Clark?” Dr. Turner asked instead.
“Um... I remember....” Logan squinted as if the words he wanted were written in tiny print on the walls, but it didn’t help. He shook his head and admitted, “I don’t know.”
“That’s okay, Mr. Clark. You were in a car crash. A semi truck struck the tail end of your car. You weren’t wearing a seat belt, so you suffered brain and heart damage when you went through the windshield and hit the pavement, along with a broken arm. Surgeries were done just in time to save your life.”
Logan nodded along, listening but not really thinking. Why hadn’t he been wearing a seat belt? He almost died because he was so stupid. “How bad was it?” he asked. His curiosity wasn’t so strong that he had to know—actually, it wasn’t there at all. He just felt like it was something he should know.
“I’ll try to keep it simple for the sake of understanding,” the doctor said. He sounded smug, like hidden in that sentence was the implication whispering, "You don’t have the education with helping people and doing something with your life that I do."
Maybe that was just Logan.
“The lower part of your brain called the temporal lobe and several parts of the limbic system took some damage when you flew through the windshield. With immediate brain surgery within the hour, swelling was prevented, and oxygen and blood flow were maintained.
“Now, your heart.” A gleam appeared in Dr. Turner’s eye, as if the subject of Logan’s heart being damaged was somehow pleasing. Logan couldn’t imagine why, but maybe he was a bit biased. “Broken glass pierced your heart—” Naomi flinched, but Logan just listened to the doctor’s words without reaction “—and cut all the way across. What the surgery accomplished was replacing the heart with an artificial one made of machinery. Yours is the first successful surgery of its kind.”
“Weren’t there other options?” Logan asked; it was just for the knowledge, not a strong need to know.
The question didn’t deflate any of Dr. Turner’s enthusiasm. “With the heart’s damage, you wouldn’t have survived long enough to receive a donated one. As for other artificial heart options, what we did was far more affordable, and rejection wasn’t an issue.”
The doctor paused, looking from Mr. to Mrs. Clark. Seeing as no one spoke, he continued on. “Right. So, you’ll be staying here for a few days, then discharged, but under observation to see if you have any lingering brain damage or heart complication. After being cleared, you can go back to your normal life.”
Naomi threw the door open and flipped the foyer light on. “Welcome home!”
It had been a week and a half since the accident, but it seemed much longer to Naomi. She stayed with Logan almost the whole time, only leaving to shower and change clothes at home before hurrying back. At least, that’s what the first few days of Logan being conscious were like. Logan almost had to make her leave for her to go, but it hadn’t been done in a nice way, and Naomi found herself taking her time when she left the hospital.
In the entire time there, Naomi realized, Logan hadn’t smiled once. When she talked to him, he seemed indifferent, almost bored, or even annoyed. She tried talking to him about his job at running his own art gallery, getting back to cooking, people he may have been eager to see, but he replied with one-word answers or a shrug. He was just so distant. Maybe the trauma of the crash got to him. He would get better with time, Naomi thought to herself. He would come back to her.
They both continued to the kitchen. “Are you hungry?” Naomi asked. “I could make something really quick.”
“No,” he replied flatly. “I think I’ll just go to bed. I’m tired.” Without looking at his wife, Logan turned and disappeared around the corner and down the hall.
Naomi sighed and leaned against the counter. Time. He just needs time. Then she stood up straight and followed Logan to their bedroom.
When she found him, Logan was sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at the wedding photo in a frame on the nightstand. Naomi smiled when she looked at it. They were in front of the church, Naomi held bridal style by a broadly-grinning Logan. It really had been the happiest day of her life.
Naomi’s smile disappeared when she glanced back at Logan. His eyes were still on the picture, but they were completely void of their usual sparkle. They looked dead, in fact. He didn’t smile like he always did when he stared at the picture. It might as well have been a blank piece of paper in that frame instead of a documentation of their life together.
Trying to salvage some sliver of hope, Naomi sat next to Logan on the bed, but didn’t touch him yet. “Remember that day?” she asked tentatively. “How happy we were?”
Logan dropped his eyes to the carpet. “Yeah.”
Naomi barely held back a violent flinch. His voice sounded as dead as his eyes looked. She tried telling herself that he was just tired, but she couldn’t believe that. Did he lose some of his memory in the crash?
Naomi stood. “I’ll be right back.”
Logan didn’t seem to hear her—or maybe he didn’t care—as he took his shoes off and got under the bed’s covers. Naomi rushed from the room, desperate to get away from her worries, and went to the kitchen for her purse. Once she found the card inside her bag, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number on the card. Two rings, then: “Rush University Medical Center, how may I help you?”
“I need to talk to Dr. Turner, please.”
Two weeks later, Naomi sat in a waiting room while Logan was tested. This was more of a psychological test, she was told, to see how his brain was doing. Her stomach was in knots that no calm breathing could loosen.
When Dr. Turner entered the waiting area, Naomi jumped up from her chair and met him halfway. Wasting no time, she said, “Well?”
“We showed him the pictures you requested,” he said in a hushed tone, “and he was able to recount the events, but with no emotional response. The crash did some damage to his limbic system in the brain, which is key to a person’s emotions. This damage is irreversible.”
Everything to Naomi stopped. Her breath stuck in her throat, her eyes stayed frozen wide, her hands stopped fidgeting. Even the clock on the wall to her right seemed to have stopped ticking. Logan would always be this way. He would be cold, indifferent, uncaring. He wouldn’t be able to love her like before, which meant she couldn’t love him like before. He wouldn’t come back to her.
“Mrs. Clark?” the doctor asked carefully, trying to get Naomi to say something, but what was there to say?
Dr. Turner cleared his throat. “But a good thing is that the heart seems to be giving him no trouble.”
Naomi narrowed her eyes in disbelief. He just delivered the news of Logan never being the same person again, and his stupid science experiment is a “good thing”? “Is your big success all you care about? My husband will never be the same. You just told me he won’t be able to feel.” Her face contorted in disgust for the man. “He might as well not have a heart.”
Dr. Turner looked just as incredulous as Naomi. “Mrs. Clark, I saved your husband’s life. He’s alive because of me.”
Naomi shook her head, shaking tears from her eyes. “No,” she whispered. “The real Logan died in that car crash. He was dead when he got here.” She swiped at the tear streaks under her eyes. “Tell him I’ll meet him outside.” She left the doctor to gape after her.
Naomi found the nearest bathroom, locked herself in a stall, and cried for the part of Logan that would be gone forever.
For the next week, Naomi did her best to avoid the shell that was Logan. This was easy, considering the fact that he was doing the same. At the moment, he was at the gallery while Naomi was at home, trying and failing to distract herself with reading. Thankfully, the phone rang; hopefully it would be someone that she could actually talk to.
Naomi made it to the phone on the third ring. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Clark,” a voice sighed.
Naomi’s voice turned chilly. “Dr. Turner.”
“It’s about Logan,” he said gravely, ignoring Naomi’s tone. “The heart, it just... gave out. There was nothing we could do. He was dead on arrival.”
The words coursed through Naomi’s blood like morphine, making her numb. It was like being told a stranger had died. All she could really think was: How could someone who couldn’t love die from a broken heart?