- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
I am sitting next to her, my best friend, staring out her hospital window, listening to her breathing as she sleeps. There is a pause between her sharp breaths, and I glance quickly at her, my muscles tightening, not relaxing until she takes another deep breath, returning peacefully to normal.
The walls around us are pastel, monotonous artwork hanging from hooks. It has the feel of a hospital; even for as long as she has been here, as long as I have been visiting her here, all our efforts to make the room more happy and inviting were in vain. There was no disguising the true identity of the place.
Despite the fact that she is now a teenager, she is still in a children’s hospital, as she has been for months. She has spent birthdays, anniversaries, holidays in this room; we have had sleepovers, meaningful best friend conversations in this room, and there were times that we had both forgotten reality, had dared to dream that her fight was over. But time had continued to turn, and we both aged, together, in this room, her in her time and I in mine.
I glance back out the window, feeling a longing to be out of the room, the sanitary walls of this place, among the new green of spring, to smell the thawing of the earth, hear birds chirping cheerfully. It was late March, and it had been a long winter. She is so happy about the change in season. Spring has always been her favorite.
There is a tap on the doorframe and I turn and find her mother, standing alongside her doctor. The doctor steps in, still glancing at a chart, then looking at the monitor by her bedside, and then scratching words on the clipboard in his hand. Her mother motions for me, and I stand from my chair by the window, hearing my knees crack from sitting for so long.
I follow her out the door, and into the hallway. Other families are there, gathered outside rooms, some smiling, others tearful. I had never gotten used to this—the constant reminding of sorrow and loss. And yet somehow, it has become my life.
We sit in two hardback chairs, not far from her room. Her mother stares at the floor, and I look where she does, seeing several pairs of feet walk by every now and then. It is a moment before she speaks. When she does, her voice cracks.
“She,” her mother begins, clears her throat, and then tries again. “She wanted to tell you this herself, but she hadn’t gotten around to it yet, and I want to be fair to you.”
I look up from the floor, a knot forming in my stomach. She is like my mother, so often have I been with her these past few months. It is a moment in which I feel everything slow down, waiting only for what she is going to say. Waiting for what I know will stop my world.
Again, she had trouble speaking, and this time a sob escapes from her mouth. I look around us, and see people glance toward us, looks of pity and remorse in their eyes, although none stop. They have seen this too often, and know it is not their place to offer condolences in a place such as this, at a time such as this.
“You have to have noticed that she’s not any better,” her mother continued after a moment. She cleared her throat again. “The doctor says that she doesn’t have much time left.”
The news should not surprise me, should not overwhelm me as it does, but I feel my stomach clench, and my hands tighten into fists. My eyes begin to burn with the tears I hold in for her sake, to be strong. The world around me slowly disappears, and I have flashbacks of better times, before her cancer had set in.
I feel my head shake back and forth, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, until it is so fast that my neck begins to hurt with the force of it. I feel the pain in my hands from my nails digging into my palms, blood in my mouth from biting my lip. I feel her mother’s hand on my back, almost comforting.
“No,” I whisper. My voice is hoarse and cracked.
I hear a muffled sound, like that of a choked cry. I stare at the floor again, and listen numbly as she says, “It’s helped her so much, you being here. I know how much you’ve sacrificed, all those parties and other friends. Schoolwork and weekends. It’s meant everything to her. I think you’re why she’s…why she’s still with us.”
I hear words but they do not register. They play over and over in my head, without recognition. She is dying. She has been dying. All along, all the time I prayed for her to heal, to be well again, all the times that we hoped and had faith. She had always been dying.
When it finally does set in, it hits me like a smack to the face. Tears are spilling from my eyes, and I stand quickly, and run down the hall, ignoring her mother as she calls my name. I bump into people, but do not pay mind to them. No matter how fast I run it does not help me escape. Finally I reach the door, blowing past others on their way in.
The spring air cools my face, dries the tears that have run lines down my face. I slow to a walk, but stare at the ground, wandering aimlessly until I come to my car, that she had helped me pick out, giving input from her room over the phone as I searched the used car lot without her.
I sit inside it for a long time, not thinking of anything but what I have feared, and that it has come to life. An insurmountable fury rises inside me, and I smash my fist against the steering wheel, letting out a cry as I do so. All the time, she had not been getting better. Even as the color returned to her face, as her hair grew back, and she gained energy, she had been dying. And she led me to believe that she was all right, that she was better.
As my rationality increases, my anger subsides, and I feel like a selfish fool for blaming her, as if she had been the cause of this. Tears begin to fall again, and stain my cheeks with wetness. My forehead rests on the steering wheel and I stay there, sobbing mindlessly, looking up only when I hear my cell phone vibrating, and find the sun has crept high into the sky, signaling noon.
I recognize the number and slowly get back out of the car, walking towards the hospital. I do not have to answer the phone to know what is happening.
Inside, I am calm as I walk back into her room. But I feel it slip away as I see her eyes, sunken and almost lifeless, as if she has lost all strength in knowing her fate now that I know.
She does not say a word, only watches as I summon a nurse, and speak convincingly to her for a moment. She glances at my best friend, but then nods and disappears, appearing momentarily with a wheelchair. It is several minutes before the two of us can help her into the wheelchair, but once she is situated, I drape a blanket from her bed across her lap, and then thank the nurse.
I wheel her slowly out of the room, and as I look down at her, notice the trouble that she has holding her head up; it bobs constantly from side to side as we travel down the hall, towards the exit.
People stare as we pass, but quickly avert their eyes. It angers me that they are afraid to look at her because she is sick and dying. Her breathing is shallow, and I quicken my pace.
We finally come to the courtyard door. I pause, letting her look out the window before wheeling her outside. Her breathing slows and it is as though she has found strength in nature. Her head moves freely about, the sun warming her face and giving her life again.
I stand behind her, watching as she lifts her face towards the sky and smiles. I feel the corners of my mouth turn up at watching her. We listen in silence as the birds sing merrily, and hear the wind move through the area. The buds are pink and rosy on the trees and bushes, threatening to burst with green sprouting leaves.
And then, she turned her face back down, and I kneel beside her, damp ground soaking the knees of my pants. I look anxiously at her face, waiting for her to open her eyes. My heart quickens, her breath not returning. Suddenly, her eyes flutter and she looks at me. Her eyes are smiling, almost serene. Her mouth curls and her eyes close again.
This time I know that she has left me behind as she dreams, and I stand alone in the spring.