Involuntary Heartbeat

December 20, 2009
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The lights of the ambulance rushing you away from me. The blinding flashes of reporters fighting for a good story. Consoling adults. Worried friends. Sympathetic paramedics. All fade into the blurry snowfall. Here I stand, staring at the road where they took you away. ‘..It’s the only way.’ They said. ‘I can’t believe it’s come this far.’ They whisper. All the while I clutch at the hole forming in my heart, as I stand, frozen, terrified that this will be our last memory. With my arms wrapped about myself, and my skin prickling from the cold, I break into a run. Wiping these horrific visions from my mind. I’m going to see you one last time.


I find myself in a chair, an uncomfortable chair. It reminds me of English class where you were always complaining about the uncomfortable wooden seats. But that seems a distant memory as I look at the figure crumpled and covered in tubes and IVs. You hated needles. I remember in eighth grade when you had to get your tetanus shots. You had this nasty way of wanting to see the needle go into your skin, but not wanting to feel it. We were different that way. You always had faith in me. That I would make it through my problems. You always said that there was a light at the end of every tunnel. Looking at you now, I find it agonizing to think about you never coming out of your tunnel. I wince back into my seat, sliding down with my eyes closed. Every look at you makes me cringe with physical pain. You were my protector. And I can’t be yours. In the time you need me most, I am of no use to you. All I can do is look helplessly at your feeble form hoping you will come back to me. For some reason I have the thought in my head that if you really wanted to, you could summon up your deep love for me and find the strength to revive. But this is a mere fairy tale and only makes me shrink farther into my imaginings.

My bloodshot eyes are leaking new tears onto my already mascara-stained cheeks as the nurse comes to replace your IV. If you could you would be moaning in protest. It pained me to think you could maybe feel it and not be able to do anything. I wish I had the energy to tell that perky nurse that you do not like needles. That she isn’t being gentle enough. But I can’t. They would throw me out for sure. And I cannot leave you. They’ve tried to make me go. But you know what? I didn’t let them take me. I told them that you would be terrified if you woke up here without a friendly face. They only looked at me sympathetically like they thought you wouldn’t wake up. But I know you. You will, because I’m waiting for you. Right?


I had thought I had felt pain. I thought that seeing you crumple to the ground in front of me on our night would emotionally scar me forever. But now I see that a new searing agony has come over me. It seems to rush through my veins like an adrenaline. A survival adrenaline. For your survival. My blood boils beneath my skin and I watch as your finger twitches in your unnatural sleep. I wonder what you are dreaming about. I wonder if there is any room for dreaming in your pain. I wonder if you can feel the pain. I see a doctor come into the room, another doctor. The sixth I think. In my confused state, with no rest for two days, I stand unsteadily and walk over to the doctor. I clutch at his coat. He turns unfeeling eyes toward me. It startles me the difference in his look than in the nurses’. You wouldn’t like it. I move my hand from this hard man’s arm and look at him with my pleading eyes I’ve used so much.

“Doctor, this boy means a lot to me. He may be another patient face to you, but he is my friend. One of my only. I see that trained look of disconnection that you’re looking at me with. You don’t want to become emotionally attached to a patient and I’m not asking you to. But doctor, I have an emotional attachment to him. I love him and I’m not going to have him die if there was anything you could do. So please. Help him. ” The lump in my throat made my voice crack in the end, but I think you would have been proud of me. That doctor turned around, with seriousness and carried about his business with more urgency than before. I was always good at getting what I wanted wasn’t I? I still remember persuading you to trade your fruit snacks with me for those gross granola bars my mom always packed for lunch. If this was only that easy. I decided that the doctor would take good care of you, so I lay my head down for some well deserved sleep.


I wake up to the sound of muffled moaning and shuffling feet. Your mom is standing in the corner with her eyes wide and vulnerable, holding a tissue to cover her shrieks. I look over to the bed where you were laying; there are a three nurses crowded around and the one doctor standing closest to the head of the bed. I scramble to my feet and I am overcome with dizziness. I stumble to your bedside where the doctor is trying to force a heartbeat. He is pushing into your chest with amazing force and sweat is beading off his forehead. The sound of a bone crushing beneath the force brought a wave of nausea over me. It was you. My one and only. With your bones being crushed to keep you alive. I could see your limp body trying to fight against Fate. Your skin had lost color. And your lips were cracked and in need of Carmex. I was aware of a tube of the chapstick in my back pocket. I reached silently and pulled it out. Then I reached over the worrying nurses and the sweating physician, and put some on your lips. That was when the doctor stopped. The nurses quietly shuffled out of the room with their gazes downcast. I could hear your mother’s intake of breath. The doctor started to shake his head, when through the silence, I distinctly heard a heartbeat. The doctor stared at me, with a baffled expression. Your mother rushed over to the bed, her shrill cries indecipherable. All I knew was that in that moment, when your eyes fluttered open, I knew it was over. However many more involuntary heartbeats you had after that I don’t know. But what I do know is that before you left me to face the world alone, you saw me. Protecting you. I had always known the only thing that could part us was death. But I never thought I would come so soon. I reached over and kissed your forehead awkwardly over all your tubes and needles. Silly to do while your mother screams in pain. I wiped the tears from my eyes, taking one last look into your beautiful green eyes. The eyes I had come to love and understand. The ones that I saw love in for that final moment. The memory of which carried me through till the end. And I was sure that if it wasn’t for that last involuntary heartbeat, I would live with a million ‘what ifs’. By the way. I love you.

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