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James Penyon. That is a name that does not belong to me. I used to wish it did, but sadly (or more recently fortunately) it does not. Instead, it is the name of the closest thing I have to a brother.
People don’t realize often how lucky they are to have things, and I’m not just talking about items, or even people, I mean anything. The air, the sights you see around you, or most importantly, that ticking clock on the wall. We’re always in a rush to get somewhere, to get out of somewhere that we tend not to see how worthwhile those painful moments can be, but I wish so much I could still be in pain.
People don’t often wish for pain, that’s for sure, but sometimes you need it. You need something that’ll tell you “Hey kid, your alive and you won’t be too much longer”. That is the idea of pain right? A biological fire alarm that tells you when something not-so great is up so you know to get that thing fixed. I have a deep respect for pain, I really do, now that it’s saved my life, and now that one of the most important moments I can remember was when I was in pain.
It’s hard to recall too much after I hit the ground and my head cracked open on the sidewalk. I do remember clearly though how it felt when that baseball bat cracked my shins in two and how painful it was when that knife tore my arm to shreds. That peaceful after-school after-noon became a bloody impressionistic painting, up to the viewer to make up what happened. All I know was that me and James, we were hurt, bad.
I don’t know why they picked us. One normally doesn’t and one normally doesn’t have the time to think about that during the attack, when the signs are most obvious. A person is normally more focused on one thing, staying alive, keeping your breath steady, making sure you feel your heart pumping blood around your body. Or seeing the look on your friends face right before he takes a bullet in the chest. Right when you know he’s gonna take a bullet right to the heart. The instant I saw that gun go up my breath stopped, I was pretty sure I had died, but my fire alarm rang in my shins and I felt that bat smash right into them. Time started to move in slow motion. Me and the bullet were moving at the same speed it seemed, me towards the floor and the bullet towards James’ heart.
At this point your going to expect me to say that the look I saw on James’ face was panic, fear, sadness, etc. It wasn’t. Actually, there was barely any look on it, it was kind of…blank; and that’s what made it so painful. The last thing I can remember of James before my head hit the sidewalk and cracked open was almost a look of peace on James’ face. No matter how much pain I was in I wish I could just see that one more time. I wish I could live in that moment forever, that last second before the streetlights blurred into stars and the black curtain fell down over my eyes.
Out of the darkness emerged white, ghoulish, masked faces hovering above my head with knives and string. Blazing lights were blinding me and as I slowly regained consciousness I found myself to be in a hospital.
“Jhaghmas,” was the word that came out of my mouth, followed by a quick flow of vomit. I thought I was being completely understandable and didn’t understand why the doctors kept telling me to calm down and that it was almost over. All I was asking was where James was, I didn’t care if it was almost over or not. As long as James was still alive I wouldn’t mind if it lasted an eternity - I’d actually love that.
As soon as the stitches were in my head and the casts were on my leg I somehow convinced the nurses to wheel me over to James. What I saw wasn’t James though, it was dying. James couldn’t die. I wouldn’t let myself believe that James was actually dying, right there in front of me on a hospital bed. His wounds were sewn up, but his vital signs were dropping. He had developed some type of infection in his heart and he had lost so much blood that the doctors knew there wasn’t a chance of saving him.
The last words we said to each other were painful and to be honest I’m not sure I understand what he means. I was begging him to stay, to hold on to whatever life he had. I told him I wanted him to stay there forever, and how I had wished that he could live in that moment before the bullet hit him forever. And do you know what his last words were?
“Forever’s dreams are of tomorrow.”