November 18, 2007
The largest tears that I have ever cried filled my eyes and quickly fell as I struggled to fasten my paper apron. The snap of my plastic gloves pierced the silence and echoed in the small entry way to the intensive care unit. This isn’t happening. I repeated my silent mantra in my head as I slowly approached the hospital bed. I was greeted coolly by a proud Puerto Rican woman who only allowed me to stand within ten feet of the hospital bed. The pungent smell of chemicals filled my nostrils as I reluctantly peered down at my boyfriend. His skin was once tan but was now almost as pale as mine and his lips that I once kissed were twice the size of what they used to be, prior to being sliced open and white. I started to weep as I noticed the visibly shattered bones in his nose, jaw, and eye sockets. There was a steady beeping of the machine forcing him to take slow shallow breaths in order to live, which was all that kept me in the present.
All I could think about was the night before, the horrible night of the accident. I was allowed to hold his hand. It took everything I had to squeeze his hand lightly three times, a secret gesture which meant “I love you”. My heart broke when he used all of his strength to squeeze my hand in return. After four years of braces, his perfect teeth that he was once so proud of were now broken, jagged and hanging by the roots. How could this happen? We are young and invincible, right?

“If you love me, you’ll come over.” I said into the receiver. “After you hurt me last night, on Christmas Eve, how can you not even see me on Christmas?” I finished.
“I’ll be there soon baby,” he said back to me with a slight sigh of impatience about my overreaction
“OK bye,” I retorted, hanging up my phone.
“I love you, Meg,” he said back, hoping I heard.
“I love you too. Bye.”

It was eleven o’clock on Christmas night when we hung up and I expected him to be there within five minutes. I put on a new outfit that I received that day as a gift and waited in my driveway. The rain was pounding on my back as I waited and I kept glancing at my phone for the time. It had been half an hour and he was not there. He did not call. I knew something was wrong, I just knew it. At midnight my mom almost had to drag me inside.
“Mom, something’s wrong, I know it.”
“Nothing is wrong. He does this to you all the time. Talk to him in the morning. Just go to bed! It’s Christmas for God’s sake.” My mother said to me, annoyed.
“Mom, you don’t understand. For all I know he could be lying in a ditch somewhere.”
My words echoed in the silence; my mother was already brushing her teeth in preparation for bed. My stomach churned uneasily, knowing something was wrong. He needs me. I ascended up the stairs to my cold bedroom and I opened the window, just in case he came. He never arrived.
I called his cell phone the minute I woke up and his father answered. He attempted to speak to me in broken English.
“There’s been uno accidente.” He said to me with urgency.
“He stole his mother’s car last night to go your house. We wake up and he was gone, no call from police, we find out what happened ourselves.” He finished, emphasis on the fact that he was coming to my house.
I felt like the world was crashing down around me. The person I loved more than anything in the world was in the intensive care unit and it was my fault. That is when I broke down. Tears welled into my eyes and I started to shake. Thoughts about the previous night flooded my head. I stumbled down the stairwell trying to fight back uncontrollable sobs. I raced to my parent’s room and told them the dreadful news. The car ride to the Lahey Clinic was too long and almost impossible to endure.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was surrounded by his Hispanic relatives I had never met before. All I could hear was a buzz of worried chattering in Spanish that I did not understand, with the occasional dramatized sob. The scarf I had been knitting for him lay on my shivering lap and it grew in length with every hour that I sat in the badly upholstered waiting room chair. For an excruciating seven hours of waiting alone, shunned by the Puerto Rican family and watching the Spanish soap opera on the only television in my range of sight, I was about to lose it.
Finally Lydia, his mother, said it was time for me to visit him. I could not cry; Lydia would not let me. She shot me a dagger look if she even saw a hint of a tear in my eye. I just stood there soaking in the hospital’s putrid aroma. His face was almost blue, his jaw wired shut. The intensive care machine was the only device keeping my boyfriend of two years alive. According to everyone there, it was my fault.
“I need to speak to you in the hallway.” Lydia ordered as she gestured for my parents and me to follow her.
“Sit in that chair, there near the window.” Lydia pointed sharply to a cold, metal chair. She stood in front of me, after I sat. She was above me, trying to dominate me. She looked down at me with a disappointed stare. In her mind, she was superior to me.
“You are not a senorita. This would have never happened to my son if it wasn’t for you. Before you came along, my son was good. He never snuck around and he never lied to us. You have corrupted him. You are not respectful to us. We welcomed you into our home and you wear a skirt or a low cut shirt. I don’t know if that’s how you were raised, but that’s not what our culture is accustomed to.”
Lydia was clearly outraged that her son had another woman in his life other than her. Tears trickled down my face as she continued to yell. I was not allowed to defend myself, and neither were my parents. My strong willed, proud mother, who had always been there to fight for me, was not able to speak in my defense. She knew as much as my father and I that if she said a word that Lydia did not approve of, my visiting privileges would be cut off. I saw my father cry for the first time as a result of Lydia’s harsh words. When she saw tears swell in my eyes and my parents’ eyes, I caught a glimpse of a slight satisfied smile on her large face.
“As of right now, you are not allowed to visit my son in the hospital; he is dying because of you. In a few weeks, if he is not dead by then, you can visit only if accompanied by your parents. Other than that I never want to see you again.”

The words she spat at me branded themselves into my heart. She was attempting to scare me away from her family and the boy that loved me. The pain was overwhelmingly hard to take. I should have turned away and left the hospital without ever looking back. I should have listened to my mother instead of following my heart and keeping my responsibility to my boyfriend. I will always regret not leaving and I will always regret not standing up for myself.
When he got out of the hospital a month later, after many surgeries and struggles, it was over. Our relationship had ended and we have never talked since.
Did it hurt, Arnaldo? How long were you waiting before the fire chief noticed you? How did you manage to crash into that tree so far off the road? Do you know how much I loved you? Do you know that I’m sorry that this happened?
These are questions that I have and will always be left unanswered. This day, even though forgotten and undermined by many, will haunt me forever.

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