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Check My Mind
THREE HOUR(S) BEFORE
“Where the heck are we going?” I panted, plopping myself down on a rock that I could barely see in the dim light and then jumping up with a yelp of pain as something sharp dug into the seat of my jeans. Laughing, Jamael, or Jamie as I call him, my best friend since I was four, brushed the prickly branch that had violated me off of the rock and watched as it slowly danced and twisted down the side of the hill.
“You okay, Aleya?” The words were not tender, heartfelt, or alarmed. That wasn’t Jamie’s way. He didn’t give concern where concern wasn’t needed. His voice was casual, only asking because if he didn’t, I’d get mad at him, and he hated that.
“Yeah, fine.” I replied, yawning as I raised my eyebrows, waiting for an answer to my previous question.
“What? You want me to ruin the surprise?” He asked in mocked exasperation, twirling his flashlight in his hand like a baton and sending rods of light in every direction. The day Jamie got upset about something of unimportance would be the day pigs actually did transfer swine flu.
“Yes, actually, I do want you to ruin the surprise,” I shot back, sitting down on the rock again with caution as I checked for additional pokey objects. “I hate surprises.”
“I know,” said Jamie with a grin that lit up his whole face and made him look like a big goof, “That’s why I love giving them to you. Come on, we’re almost there.”
For my eighteenth birthday Jamie had woken me up at five in the morning, thrown clothes on my bed and ordered me to get dressed. “We’re going for a walk.” He’d stated, darting out of my room and rummaging through my bathroom drawer as he looked for my tooth brush, trying to speed-up my “getting ready” process.
What he should have said was that we were going for a drive. We drove for at least forty-five minutes until we’d passed the boundaries of our small town and had flown through the miles and miles of small hills that separated my bubble of life from the rest of the world. Stopping abruptly, he’d leaped out of his rusted truck and, jumping over the back, opened my door for me, impatiently taking my hand and pulling me along as he’d run across the road and started to climb one of the biggest hills around.
“Here it is,” Jamie skidded to a halt and waited for me to catch up with him.
“Where?” I asked.
“Right there, Way.” Of course Jamie was the only one alive who was allowed to call me that, because when he’d met me he had a terrible lisp, which turned my name into Aweya, so I let him call me Way. He has ever since.
“I still can’t see anything, Jamie.” I stated defiantly.
“Oh, my, gosh,” he sighed in slight irritation, “look,” taking my arm, Jamie drug me towards him, pulling me around a boulder that had been blocking my vision. I gasped.
A salmon colored pink had eclipsed the far-off mountains in a veil of misty brilliance. Veins of orange, purple and red shot out of the half-exposed sun like tentacles of an octopus, snaking through the pink and making their own course across the rest of the dark sky. “Breath-taking.”
“Aleya means sunshine. I wanted to get you something with a metaphor,”-that’s another thing, Jamie loved metaphors- “So I thought I’d find you the most beautiful sunshine I could find.”
“Ah, Jamie,” I breathed, not able to take my eyes off of the millions of colors as they began to shoot across the sky above us, the sun rising farther into the air. “It’s amazing.” Giving him a hug I yanked him onto the hard ground, not wanting to leave. “I never knew anything could be so gorgeous.”
“I did.” Jamie said vacantly, and then hurriedly added, “You want food?” This was a rhetorical question, I always wanted food. Jumping up he ran to the bolder and grabbed a basket that had been hiding in the shadows. Talk about being prepared. “Toast, hash browns or dry cereal?” he asked.
“All,” I said smiling, standing up to help him. “Hot chocolate?”
“Duh,” he replied, smiling as he threw an old blanket down and began pulling things out.
“Yesh?” I answered, my mouth completely filled to the brim.
“How are we still friends?”
“What kind of stupid question is that? We’re friends ‘cause we are exactly what the other person needs. You keep me in line and I keep you from being bored.”
“That’s what I mean.”
“What?” I could barely see him in the slowly-brightening vividness, but I could tell he had turned toward me. I swallowed hastily and choked on my hash browns. Crap. Grabbing my thermos of hot chocolate I washed everything down and turned back to Jamie. “What were you asking?”
“Nothin’.” Was all Jamie said as he turned back towards the sunrise and pushed his dark hair out of his eyes as he ate a bite of toast. Leaning slightly back on the palms of his hands he repeated, “Nothing,” under his breath.
SIX DAY(S) AFTER
“Nothing. He can’t hear anything at all.” The doctor affirmed me as I sank into a chair next to the crisp white bed and took the hand of its occupant. “I’ll give you a little time to yourself.” He added before he left.
“Oh, Jamie.” I whispered. “What the hell have you gotten yourself into?”
“Mom, I’m going to the hospital!” I called, grabbing my coat and a piece of toast before rushing to the front door.
“Honey, you just got out of there last night. You should eat some lunch.” Mom stepped out of the dinning room where she had been addressing Christmas cards and waved a pen at me in remindation. “You need to sign all of these before tomorrow so I can mail them. And,” she added, “you really shouldn’t be driving with your arm.” I waved my piece of toast at her, showing her I wasn’t completely starving myself, and sighed.
“Mom, Christmas is almost a month away, and anyway, my best friend is in a coma in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of him with no one for company except a bunch of relatives. He needs me. I won’t drive; the hospitals only a mile away. Besides, I need to clear my head out.” Not waiting for a reply, I opened the door and stepped out into the crisp air.
I flinched as I pulled my coat on over my casted arm and rolled my shoulder in a full circle, causing my arm muscles to tighten in protest; it’s what I deserved. “Is this a new statement; hiding pain by pulling new muscles?” I glanced around as my friend Haley pulled up in her almost brand new Porsche and opened the passenger seat. “Get in, stranger, there’s no way I’m letting you walk.”
Silence is golden. At least that’s what I’m told. But sitting next to someone who you know wants to ask you a million questions isn’t really the ticket to the city of golden silence. It’s quite the opposite.
“Just ask me, Haley.” I frustratedly set my good arm on the window’s lip, hot air blasting in my face from the vent. I hated that feeling.
“Ask what?” Why act stupid when we both know the obvious?
“Anything; ask me what happened, ask me why, ask me how much it hurt, ask me how much I cried. Ask me anything. I thought we were good enough friends that we could talk about anything.” Tears had filled my stupid brown eyes and started to leak onto my cheeks. “I’ve told the story a million times, I can tell it once more to my friend.” I glanced over and saw drips of water running down Haley’s own cheeks, her nose wrinkling up as she held back everything she wanted to say.
“What happened?” Her voice cracked.
“It was my birthday. He took me to that hill way out of town. You know; the really tall one. We just… talked and ate for, I don’t know, maybe two hours. Then, when we were driving through town at about seven, a drunk who must have been on his way home too, cut a corner real quick, ignoring the light. He hit his side full on. Jamie’s, I mean. The car flipped over and I couldn’t even tell if I was up or down, and,” I started sobbing, “we smashed into Louie’s diner. I tried to get him out, Haley, I did, but you know how his seat belt gets jammed sometimes. My arm hurt and I couldn’t feel my shoulder and finally I just gave up and closed my eyes.” Haley had parked already and was sitting with her white knuckles clenched to the steering wheel.
“The next thing I knew I was in the hospital with a bunch of gifts around me and a cast on my arm. I kept screaming. Trying to get someone to tell me what happened to him. Jamie; you know. But they wouldn’t tell me until I was allowed to go see him. So, two days ago my mom led me to a room up on one of the high floors. We used the stairs ‘cause Doc said it was good for my legs to put in a little work.” I sighed.
“There must have been at least, well, I don’t know, a lot of people standing around the particular room we were headed for. Everyone cleared out when they saw me, thank goodness, and there, in those stupid white sheets, was my Jamie, all bandaged and sleeping. So, I took his hand, sat down in a chair, and didn’t leave his side for a whole day. I didn’t want to sleep because every time I closed my eyes, all I could see were flashing lights and Jamie with his face all smashed-up. So I didn’t, not until they made me leave. They said it was bad for my recovery because I wasn’t eating much and sleeping had been slightly arbitrary. That brings us up to date.”
The silence that followed was so loud that I was surprise the car wasn’t vibrating. Haley didn’t say anything as we wiped off our tears and, arm in arm, headed for the big white doors.
My heart leapt around in my chest when we entered Jamie’s room. “Do you want me to go now?” Haley asked, hesitantly standing in the doorway.
“No, you can stay if you want.” But as soon as I said the words, I wished I hadn’t. I wish I could have been rude and told her to leave. There were things that I needed to say and, even though Jamie couldn’t hear me, I knew that if I said them, I’d feel better.
“Are you sure?” I felt overjoyed that my friend knew me so well.
“No.” Haley didn’t say another word, just hugged me, smiled a sad sort of smile that didn’t seem to fit on her sun-tanned face, and left, her blonde ponytail swinging back and forth as she turned the corner.
“Jamie?” I crept to the side of the bed and sat down in the chair, a spot I was getting very familiar with. “I know you can’t hear me, or, maybe you can,” I groaned in frustration, “I don’t know, but, if you can, you should say something. ‘Cause I’m freaking out here and I really don’t want to lose you and if I did I wouldn’t even know what to do.” I took his hand. It was warm and soft and full of lifeless feeling.
“This should be me conked out, ya know? I was the reason we were even up then. If you hadn’t wanted to give me something so perfect then none of this would have happened! Ah, why?” I put his hand back on the bed and slumped back in my chair, running my hand through my dark brown hair. Tears slid slowly down my cheeks again. Would this nightmare ever end?
Through blurred vision I glanced up at Jamie’s face. His eyes were open. “Jamie!” I cried, grabbing his hand and pulling it towards me.
“You need to wake-up, Way,” He said, gently removing his hand from mine. “You need to wake-up.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, utterly confused and wondering if he was hallucinating.
"Wait right here.” Getting up I ran to the door; there was no one there. I ran down the hall, checking in each room. But every single one was empty; no bed, no TV, no chairs. Empty.
I ran back to Jamie’s room, but it was just like the others. “Where are you, Jameal Thomas Reutter?” I screamed, hoping that I had simply fallen asleep by Jamie’s bed and was having a weird dream.
“I’m right here, Way.” I turned around. No one. “I’m right here, please, please wake-up.”
“Where?” I screamed again, running down the hall, trying to find a living soul.
“I’m here, Way, please, just come back.” The sound seemed to echo off of my very eardrums, but it wasn’t loud, no, it was a soft whisper. The tenderness of his words tickled my spine, making me shiver.
“Come back where?” I was no longer shouting, I was whispering too.
“Come back to me.” I felt something grab both of my hands; it was then that I realized my arm was no longer enclosed by a cast.
“What is going on?” I whispered into my upheld palms, as if they would give me the answer.
It was then that I realized that my eyes were closed. But I could still see. I tried as hard as I could to get the sensation of my eyelids against my eyeballs away, but I couldn’t. I grabbed at my eyes with my hands, only resulting in making them water as a scream filled the air. “Way, stop! Please, you’re gonna hurt yourself.”
Everywhere invisible things grabbed onto me, holding my hands away from my eyes. “No,” I cried, the ringing of my voice echoing madly off of the walls. “No!”
“Sh-h,” Jamie’s calming voice nestled itself into my sore ears again, “please, just be quiet. Aleya, open your eyes. Please.”
The last “please” seemed to go on forever, hissing into oblivion and somehow managing to never leave. Open my eyes? This I thought to myself, which would explain why there was no answer, only the whisper of his words still hanging around me.
“Open your eyes.” He pleaded.
So I did.
“Jamie?” My voice croaked out of my throat like a piece of crusted bread.
“Way.” This wasn’t posed as a question, it was a relieved statement.
“Why aren’t you in bed?”
“I’ve been out of bed for days,” Jamie laughed, “you’ve been in a coma for the passed two weeks.”
“What?” I yanked my eyes the rest of the way open and sat up much too quickly. My head started to spin as I laid back down, trying not to faint. When the room stopped spinning I could just make out a figure sitting next to me. His dark hair tousled across his face, his silvery eyes flashing; this was my Jamie.
“You talk a lot while you sleep.” He stated happily, taking my hand again. “It was kind of funny actually, every time you mentioned my name you’d start crying and grab my hand. Not that I’m complaining, but…” not until then did I realize the Doc hovering above Jamie’s head, along with my parents, who were looking anxious and tired. My six-year-old twin siblings, Chloe and Marcus, stood on the other side of me, colorful, homemade cards clutched in their chubby fingers.
“Aweya,” My little brother said, “I made this for you.” Placing his creation in the hand not being held by Jamie, Marcus gave me an awkward hug and then stepped back to his place beside my sister.
“Why did you get to give Aleya your card first?” Chloe whined, “Mine has better girl-colors anyway. It’ll be her favorite more than yours.”
“No it won’t!” Marcus yelled.
“It will so, Markie!” She yelled back.
The attention was drawn from me and onto the screaming six-year-olds. While my mom and dad tried to split them up and the Doc left to retrieve paperwork, Jamie and I had a brief moment to ourselves.
“I can’t believe you’re back.” He said, his face breaking into his goofy grin that I loved so much.
“Me neither.” I replied, “Especially since I didn’t even know I left.”
“Well I certainly noticed,” he said, “please don’t do that again.”
“Jamie Thomas, are you pleading?”
“Yes,” his eyes went solemn, “What would I do if you left? I don’t want to have to play another game of scrabble with Haley for as long as I live!” I laughed, my eyes watering and my chest heaving.
Jamie could always make me laugh.