Monday, November 27, 2006
Ghosts From the Past
Jason stood there, taking in Adam and I holding hands. He stared hard for a moment before speaking, never taking his eyes off of our joined hands.
“My Mom and Dad saw an article in the paper that you had been injured in a wreck. I—I was worried and decided to come and see how you were,” he finished, clearly ill at ease with the situation. He just stayed there by the door and I didn’t know what to say or do.
I felt surprised that he was here. I mean, it’s always nice to see him, but things are different now and I hadn’t yet told him about Adam, remembering the e-mail I received in Italy and hadn’t answered because I assumed I’d have time.
Lissa came to the rescue then and got up and hugged him. Derek stood up then and went to shake his hand. I stayed put, it was too much to try and walk over to him, but I did ask him to come and sit down. Derek and Lissa sat down on the bed, leaving the chair empty that Derek had been sitting in.
I watched Jason walk across the room and thought again what a wonderfully athletic body he has. At 6’1 and about 190 pounds, he is a consummate athlete, he rides his bike and works out almost daily and you can see it in the way he moves. You can easily see that he is confident and comfortable in his skin. His wavy dark blonde hair was a little shorter and a little greyer than last time I saw him. His blue eyes were still startlingly clear, even though there were a few more fine laugh lines framing them, but he wore them well.
I realized I needed to say something and I finally decided to introduce Adam and Jason. I didn’t know what else to say.
“Uh, Jason, this is Adam Richland,” I said, totally unnecessarily I’m sure because I’d bet that Jason already knew that by the looks he was giving to Adam. He actually liked a lot of Adams’ movies. “Adam, this is Jason Daniels.”
Adam let go of my hand then and extended his to Jason, who stared at it for a long moment before taking it and returning the handshake. I don’t think it was because he was being impolite, I think he was pretty surprised to see Adam here in Wichita, not to mention my hospital room.
“Wow Adam, I’m really a fan of yours,” Jase said. “Honestly. I’m just amazed to find you here. There must be a story behind this,” he finished, looking at me questioningly.
“Yes. I met Adam when I was in Italy on vacation recently. In fact, I was on my way home from the airport when the accident happened. Did your folks tell you that Cassie was the one driving?”
“Yes, they did. I thought I’d stop and see her too, uh, when I finished here that is.”
“I’m sure that will make her happy. I haven’t gotten to see her yet, I just started getting up this morning. I’m going to bribe these guys to take me down there as soon as the doctor says I can go,” I told him. I was feeling really uncomfortable about this now and as I sat there I realized I was rubbing my knuckles again and hastily stopped, only to start rubbing my hand up and down on my thigh.
I saw Lissa glance at Derek then, and Adam stood up, clearing his throat. "I think I’d like to get some coffee. Anyone care to join me?”
Lissa jumped up and pulled Derek with her. “Actually I don’t really; I have to leave in a couple of hours to catch my plane back to El Paso.” Derek protested.
“Oh, come on Derek. Just a cup of coffee...” Lissa said, heading for the door. I watched all this with amusement, and then stared at Adam as he walked to the door without stopping to kiss me goodbye. I understood why he hadn’t but I still missed it. I thought it was terribly cool for him to be willing to let Jason and I have a chance to speak privately.
They closed the door behind them and Jase and I looked at one another, each trying to decide what to say.
“Allison and Derek both look great,” he said, using Lissa's formal name. He always did, Jase hates nicknames; which is why I always took such pleasure yanking his chain by calling him Jase! He was leaning forward in the chair, knees spread and his elbows resting on them.
“Yeah. She’s doing well in med school. This is her second year now, you know.”
“I remember that,” he said, nodding. He leaned back in the chair and crossed his leg so that his ankle was resting on his knee. He sat there jiggling his foot up and down, only stopping it when he saw me watching it. “Sarah, uh, you and Adam are...” he trailed off, clearly feeling uncomfortable. I nodded at him and he continued, “I didn’t know. You should have told me.”
“Well, it’s pretty new, you know? And I really haven’t had time.” I looked at him and shrugged. “I didn’t mean to have you find out like this. I was going to tell you Jase, really I was. I’m sorry it’s such a huge shock.” I regretted not answering his e-mail now, but there really wasn’t much to say then, about Adam anyway. And the same other issues we have are still between us. I wasn’t going to get back together with him regardless of what happens with Adam and me.
I let out a huge sigh and looked up at him; hating what I had to say to him because it was going to hurt him.
He looked at me for a minute, and then started to speak hurriedly, “I sent you an e-mail last week, but I guess you haven’t gotten it yet since you were on vacation.”
“Actually, I checked my e-mail one time there, but I didn’t really have time to respond.” I wondered if peace would have been better served by not telling him that, but I felt I owed him some honestly. We sat facing each other, neither of us saying a word.
Finally, he looked away from my eyes and cleared his throat. “Sarah, we’ve been through a lot together, doesn’t that mean something to you? We have history, and we can work through this too. You don’t need him,” he said emphatically, practically spitting the last word out.
“Jason, we never loved one another, were never ‘in love’ with one another. At best we were only marking time, you know that. We never would have made it, we just wouldn’t,” I told him sadly. I felt a twinge of pain for those lonely people we once were and for the fact that we had clung to each other much too long because of that. A solitary tear slipped down my face then and I carelessly brushed it away. I knew that even if I had not met Adam that Jase and I wouldn’t have gotten back together, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much of his fight was only because he didn’t want me with anyone else? I’m sure that is too much of an egotistical angle really, but Jason certainly had some type of impetus behind this.
“I thought we both just needed time—time to figure out what we wanted and needed Sarah. I do want to be with you, not because I’m lonely, but because for the past 2 years I haven’t been able to get you out of my head. Dammit, we deserve a chance. You’ve only just met this guy, what can you possibly have with him?” I could see his irritation and hurt building and I flinched when his eyes seemed to skewer mine.
I could face up to his anger and pain, but there was something deeper there that I couldn’t figure out. I think he almost hated me, and I guess I could understand that sort of; I had hurt him, his heart and his pride, but when, I wondered did it get to that point? Even when we were still together, ‘in love’ was never a part of our vocabulary.
He stood up then and looked at me with an inscrutable look and it made me blanch. “I’m staying at mom and dads for a couple of days if you change your mind, but understand that even if you don’t call, I’m not done with this Sarah, we still have things to say,” he finished, letting out a long breath. He turned then and left the room.
I watched him go in silence, and my mind was spinning, trying to understand what had happened. Jase didn’t usually have much of a temper and this seemed like an enormous over-reaction to this situation, given our past. I shook my head, trying desperately to shake off the chill that settled over me like a fine layer of dust. It felt repulsive, probably because of my own guilt and I wanted it gone.
I felt suddenly tired and cold and I wanted to crawl into my bed and take a nap, but I didn’t feel confident enough on my own to make it the 10 foot to the bed so I sat and waited for someone to come back in.
As I sat there and re-played our conversation, I was more disturbed by Jason’s visit than I cared to admit I realized. It’s almost as if he was a pod person; that really wasn’t the Jason I knew.
What was that all about I felt like shouting!
I was still thinking about it when someone knocked on the door a few minutes later. I couldn’t wait to see who it was this time, I thought sarcastically. I called out, “Come in,” and my mom and dad walked in the room.
I don’t know what is with me lately, but I started crying as soon as I saw them. I needed them I realized and everything that had happened lately made me think about the fact that we are all only visiting this place called earth—that we are on loan so to speak and when we were gone, well, that was it for this life.
Mom and Dad are both 74 and still pretty vital people. They stay active which helps them, but I took a hard look at them as they came into the room and noticed things I had been oblivious to before—dad’s stooped shoulders and thinning hair and mom’s steps that were now much more hesitant than they used to be.
Mom came over and immediately bent down to hug me and kiss me softly on the cheek. Dad sat in the chair vacated by Jason and pulled it closer to me and took my hand in his. I noticed the veins of his hand standing out starkly against his skin which looked thin and papery; another reminder of his age.
I sat there, staring wordlessly at them, tears flowing unchecked. I didn’t know what to say to them, how to start even if I knew what I wanted to say.
Mom took charge of the conversation then and said, “Well, you are looking much better than you were yesterday!”
“You were here yesterday?”
“And the days before that. Why does that surprise you Sarah?” she asked, taking in the puzzled look on my face and the same time digging in her voluminous purse to find the little travel pack of tissues she always carried with her and fished one out for me. She handed it to me and said, “Wipe your tears Sarah,” in her no-nonsense manner.
I knew things would be fine then, that she had it under control. Mom has never really been a crier, but she is not unsympathetic to those of us who are. She just believes in getting it out and moving on.
“Now, what’s this we hear about a fancy man being here with you?” my dad asked, in his best fatherly voice.
I smiled at him then; a watery smile, but still a smile. Dad’s eyes were crinkling at the corners and I realized he was teasing me. They have probably met Adam on their visits. What I can extrapolate from this is that he likes Adam because he was teasing me. If he didn’t like him, I would be hearing other things right now.
“Yeah, he is pretty fancy isn’t he?” I said, probably smiling like an idiot. The trail of men though my life has been harder on them than on me I thought. The first one or two men they got to know and liked, then I would leave them and mom and dad would be left wondering what the hell had happened. Since then, they keep a polite distance, as if they are trying not to get attached to them. I know they worry about me endlessly. They want what practically every parent wants; for their child to be happy and have a partner, someone to share life with, the good times and the bad. Maybe they’ll get their wish this time.
I hope they’ll get their wish this time.
The door opened then and the fancy man walked in, accompanied by Lissa and Derek and also, Tammy the torturer. I groaned softly to myself when I saw her and wondered what on earth she could possibly want this time?
I didn’t have to wait long. “Hi ma—Sarah. I wanted to check and see how you were feeling since you ate breakfast. Are you experiencing any nausea or vomiting? Did everything stay down?”
Oh for God’s sake I thought—did she have to ask that in front of everyone? I admit it, this girl brings out the worst in me, I thought grumpily. Then contrarily I remembered that I had sort of decided I liked her earlier. And for the life of me I couldn’t remember why!
“I’m feeling fine Tammy. In fact, I am hungry and can’t wait for lunch. Please tell me it won’t be more, um, mushy stuff?”
“Oh no. Since you aren’t having a problem with breakfast, it will be a regular lunch. Now, could I get you to come and sit on the bed so I can take your vital signs, please?” she asked, already pulling the hated blood pressure cuff out of its wall storage nook and inserting the thermometer probe into it’s plastic sheath.
I sighed and prepared to get up. Adam put his arm around me and helped to get me up and walked me to the bed. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be gratefully, but maybe that was because of Adam, not me I decided.
I sat down on the edge of the bed and submitted to Tammy and her instruments of torture. Okay, so I opened my mouth and she stuck the temperature probe in and then wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my arm. Before she started pumping the little hand held ball attached to the cuff, the thermometer beeped and she pulled it out and wrote down something on my chart.
“97.9,” she told me. “That’s a little low, are you feeling okay?”
I took a deep breath and wondered how on earth it kept from being somewhere around 150 or so, I seemed to be on a perpetual simmer around this girl. “It always runs about that when I’m feeling fine. Don’t know why!” I shrugged.
“People tend to be like that; we’re all individuals and seem to vary within limits.” She was pumping the cuff up now and I felt it gradually start to squeeze my arm. I concentrated on staying relaxed and breathing deeply, but honestly, I always want to scream when those things are squeezing the hell out of my arm, I thought irritably. Finally she released the valve and the cuff deflated so she could take it off of me.
“Well, that is very good,” she said, folding the cuff and storing it back into its nook and then wrote something else on the chart. “102 over 68, that’s excellent for someone your age!” she said incredulously.
I had a mini fantasy then about Tammy being run over by a Mack truck, but I think I managed to smile at her, very condescendingly. She didn’t know the difference apparently, as she continued to ask me questions about my head and pain and all the other things I was trying to forget. She finally left and I looked over at my visitors who had all been listening to this exchange while trying to appear not to be listening. I stared at them for a moment, contemplating what if anything I had to say.
Lissa saw the look in my eyes and decided to head a tirade off at the pass. She came over to sit next to me on the bed and put her arm around me for a brief hug.
‘Lissa, help me get back up onto this bed please?” I asked her, while trying to pull my legs up and scoot back at the same time. I could feel a pulling sensation around my ribs, but it didn’t hurt too badly. And amazingly, my head felt good, I hadn’t even had a headache. Lissa helped my get settled and asked if I wanted the covers over me, but I was plenty warm and told her so.
We visited for awhile, and then my parents said it was time for them to be going. Derek also reluctantly asked Lissa if she would take him back to the house so he could get changed and then get to the airport, which she agreed to do.
I hugged and kissed my parents goodbye and decided that I really had to see them more often. You know, that guilty promise we make to ourselves when life intrudes and we realize we aren’t getting any younger? But I hoped I would keep it.
After mom and dad had left, Derek sat on the edge of my bed and hugged me for a moment. He let go and I kissed him soundly on his cheek and smiled at him. “I will miss you Derek. Thanks so much for being here,” I told him, a small hiccup covering the sob I didn’t want to let escape.
“Hey,” he said, “It’s the only place I could have been Mom. I’m so thankful you are going to be fine. Pam was sorry she couldn’t be here too, but they couldn’t let her off work.” He was holding both of my hands in his large, strong ones and I felt so proud of this wonderful young man. “Pam and I will be home for Thanksgiving you know, so it won’t be too long before we see each other again!”
I nodded to him and gave him a final hug as he got up to leave. He turned to Adam then and said, “Adam, thank you for being here as well. I know it meant a lot to mom. I’ll be seeing you at Thanksgiving too I hope?”
They looked at one another and both nodded, almost imperceptibly, but it was an acknowledgement between them. Adam walked over to him and shook his hand, touching him on the shoulder as well. “See you then Derek,” he said, smiling broadly.
“Adam, shall I bring us some lunch when I come back? I think it will be 12:30 or so probably.” At Adams nod, she hugged me quickly and they left, leaving Adam and I alone.
Adam sat on the bed next to me and leaned over and gently kissed me. I wanted that kiss to go on forever and wondered how on earth we were going to deal with all this when I got home. Over-whelming desire against aching ribs? That’s going to be a tough one, I decided.
“I want to go see Cassie, will you take me?”
“Are you sure you aren’t over-doing it a bit? We’d better ask the nurse first, okay?”
I rolled my eyes and muttered something about ‘Tammy the Torturer’ and I know I heard Adam chuckle, but when I looked at him, he was hiding it well. I pushed the call button and someone, not Tammy answered fairly quickly. I asked about the visit to Cass and they said Tammy would be in soon to talk to me. “Just great!” I said. Miserably I thought she would probably ask me some other embarrassing questions about bodily functions.
Adam was smiling at me, his dimples just barely perceptible, but it was enough to cheer me up. I leaned over to steal another kiss and was just starting to enjoy it when Tammy came in.
She smiled at us, and waggled a finger as if to say ‘caught you’, but the good thing was that she had a wheel chair with her. When I questioned her about it she told me that it was this or no visit.
“Your friend is in another building on another floor. Right now, you would find it extremely tiring, whether you realize it or not. Adam can push you, okay?”
I told her yes, and managed to slide out of the bed on my own. Adam was right next to me for the three steps it took to get to the wheelchair, and I got settled into it while Tammy locked the foot rests into place and unlocked the wheels. After checking to make sure that Adam knew where he was going, we left the room.
It felt like a true escape and it was lovely!
This feels really weird, I thought, riding around in the wheelchair with Adam pushing me smoothly along.
“We should find you one of these and have a race,” I declared. “Look, there’s one there, lets grab it!” We were both giggling when we got to the elevator and waited for the car to come.
Up three floors and a walk down several long hallways, we finally came to Cassie’s room. I swallowed quickly and for some reason I was scared to go in. I looked up at Adam and he smiled at me.
“It’s okay to be nervous, you know. Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. “You don’t have to, you know love.”
“Yes, I do. I want to.” And with that, Adam opened the door and then wheeled me in.
Cass was lying there on a very strange looking bed, one that was specifically for spinal injures and as we rolled in, she looked up and grinned at us.
“Holy shit, look who you got to push you around? Just your luck Sarah! Totally inexperienced, but I guess he was the best you could get on short notice, huh?” She was still smiling at me, but I noticed tears gathering in the corners of her eyes and asked Adam to push me over close to her so I could hold her hand.
I took her hand carefully in mine, afraid I would hurt her and we both started crying in earnest then, talking at the same time.
“Sarah, I’m so sorry I got us into this!”
“Cass, I’m so sorry you have been so badly hurt because of me!”
We looked at each other, surprised at what we had said and simultaneously said, “Huh?”
“Cassie, you didn’t get us into this, you were only driving me home in the horrible storm. We should have waited it out!”
“But I was driving Sarah. If I had been paying better attention, maybe we wouldn’t have crashed!”
Adam had disappeared into the bathroom and came out carrying a handful of tissues and gave us each several.
“He’s handy too?”
“Yes, he is,” I answered, smiling at her then looking at Adam, who was leaning back against the wall, arms and feet crossed, watching us both. He was giving us his dimple grin and I looked at Cassie and she was responding to it, you can’t help it. That grin is infectious! Her face was full of excitement and orneriness!
“You better hang onto him you know,” she said, a very serious look in her eye. She looked at Adam and he was still smiling. I was happy because this is the smile that he only gives to people he cares about. The public never sees this one and I was thankful for that.
We chatted for a short while then and suddenly there was a knock on her door. At her “Come in”, a doctor walked in. He was wearing a pristine white coat over an azure blue shirt, which exactly matched the color of his eyes. Eyes I might add that wore the most beautiful long and luxurious lashes I had ever seen out side of a Revlon mascara ad. He had short, curly dark hair, with a bit of grey at the temples. He looked very dignified, in a totally cute way. This had to be Dr. Gorgeous I thought.
Cassie introduced us all and I could see that she was crazy about this guy. He was teasing her and she adored every minute of it. A minute of so later, some resident doctors came in and they prepared to examine Cassie. I squeezed her hand and Adam and I left then. I don’t even think she realized it; she was so involved with her doctor!
Adam pushed me back to my room and we didn’t really speak on the way. I was so grateful that he had taken me to see her and I felt reassured by that as well. She was alert and seemed to be accepting it all. I know that if her recovery is at all dependent on her will and spirit, it’s all under control.
When we got back to my room, they were just delivering my lunch. I sniffed the air, trying to figure out what it smelled like and finally gave up and lifted the cover off the plate.
Baked chicken and rice, a roll and a salad. There was some iced tea as well, and I sighed in acceptance and proceeded to eat.
“It’s not like the baked chicken in Firenza, but it’s not too bad either,” I told Adam. “Would you like to try?” I held a piece of the chicken out to Adam, trying to entice him with it, and then laughed. It was a pretty sorry looking piece.
“Um, no thanks. You need to eat, and besides, I’ve eaten in the cafeteria, I can imagine how it tastes!” He was stifling a huge grin, I could tell. It was just waiting to bust through.
It wasn’t the world’s greatest lunch, but it wasn’t the worst either and I managed to eat most of it. As I finished it, Lissa came in with their lunch, some sandwiches from Subway. I was full enough that I didn’t covet those sandwiches too much. But then she surprised me and pulled an oatmeal raisin cookie out of the bag, just for me!
Yummy, my favorite! It was even better because it was contraband.
The nurses’ assistant eventually came in to pick up the tray and she was followed by one of the technicians from CT. They were here to take me back for another scan, to make sure everything looked okay. I was excited to go because if it went well, I could go home!
It took about a half hour in CT and they told me that as soon as the radiologist read the results, my doctor would be notified. I hoped it was soon; I was eager to know.
Adam and Lissa were done with their lunch and were talking about the trip to Italy. Lissa remembered a little about Italy, but not too much. She was 2 when we got there and 5 when we left. Her memories are jumbled and she was enjoying Adam’s stories. She wanted to look at his head when he told her about the accident in Pisa. He tolerantly let her take a look and she thought it looked excellent and that it had healed nicely.
“Mom was always a great nurse Adam. I was 13 before I realized that it didn’t necessarily get better when she kissed it!”
“Really? I found that to work admirably well myself,” he said with a smile. He was sitting on the bed, next to me with his arm around me and we had the bed in an upright position. I was very comfortable, and it felt wonderful to have him next to me. I had my head leaning back against his arm and it just felt ‘right’. My eye lids were rather droopy and I was contemplating taking a nap when Dr. Crandal came in with the results of the CT scan.
“Well Sarah, everything looks fine. You are going to have to be cautious for awhile, you have to remember that you do actually have a crack in your head! There are some things you need to be very careful doing; leaning over too much and then standing up abruptly, lifting anything heavier than a half gallon of milk and absolutely no driving until we are sure you will not develop seizures. For a couple of weeks at least. You can walk and do very light activities, within reason.”
She stopped then and looked at Adam and then cast a glance over to Lissa. “No vigorous activities for a week or so, until I tell you its okay. Do you understand that?” She was looking directly at me and I got the point—no sex.
I looked up her and cheekily asked, “Can you define ‘vigorous’?” Adam and Lissa both laughed and then Lissa clamped her hand over her mouth, like a teenager to stifle the sounds. Adam, pursed his lips together tightly, but his dimples were displayed prominently and I had to smile too.
Dr. Crandal looked over at Lissa again and said, “How long are you staying Lissa?” then turned to look pointedly at myself and Adam. Shaking her head, she finally said, “Okay, no wiggling, or squirming, repeated motions. If you can do it staying completely still with no pressure and heavy breathing, knock yourselves out! How’s that sound for a definition?”
“Much more involved than I planned on thank you very much. Alright, I will behave, I promise!”
“Good,” she said, nodding her head crisply. “Would you like to go home now?”
“Really? I can go home now?”
“Yes, I’ll discharge you but only because Lissa is staying for a few more days and also that half the hospital staff is afraid you’re going to hurt Tammy!”
I tried really hard to keep from smiling at that. Actually I hadn’t realized I was quite so transparent. “I am so ready to get out of here!”
“Alright then. I’ll see you in my office on Thursday, okay?” And she left the room. I was ecstatic! By the time they came in with my discharge papers, I was sitting there impatiently, ready to go. A few signatures and we left the hospital. I got one more ride in the wheelchair, but even that couldn’t dampen my spirits. Adam was taking me home while Lissa was going to let Cassie know what was happening.
It was a beautiful late September day in Wichita. The trees were beginning to turn the vibrant colors of autumn and Adam put the top down in his rental car.
It was a bright red mustang and he grinned like a kid when I had whistled at it at the hospital. The drive home was all too short and soon we were pulling into my driveway. I sighed as I looked at my home, I was glad to be there.
Adam came and opened my door for me and helped me inside the house. Everywhere I looked there were roses, red ones, deep pink ones, every color imaginable, gorgeous roses and the house smelled utterly heavenly. There had to be at least a hundred roses sitting on every available surface of the room.
I looked at Adam, after taking it all in and wrapped my arms around him for a hug.
“Welcome home love.”