Tag Archives: hospital

Mondays are for Excerpts

11 Aug

HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt

Tessa opened her eyes and came up on one elbow. Both Chiara and Alessandro rushed to her bed.

“Here, let me help you sit up.” Chiara lifted and fluffed the pillows. “Better now? Are you hungry? The doctor said you could start eating something light, maybe some broth or yogurt, anything you want. I brought muffins, fruits and coffee. Would you like some?”

Tessa didn’t respond. She stared at the covers, clutching them to her chest, eyebrows pushed together and chin trembling.

Alessandro sat on her bed and lifted his palm to caress her cheek. She flinched and jerked away. His palm froze in the air then dropped in his lap.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. He cradled his palms and swallowed hard. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to . . . to save you.”

She drew her knees to her chest and circled them with her arms. Her ribs felt sore and breathing hurt. A knot formed in her throat and tears rolled down her face. She swallowed hard a few times, then looked at Chiara and whispered, “I don’t wanna be awake; can you get me something to sleep?”

Chiara looked back and forth between Alessandro and Tessa and opened her mouth to say something. The door opened and dr. Ivan and two nurses came in.

“We need to get you out of the bed, Miss Cosma,” dr. Ivan placed the stethoscope in his ears and listened to her heart and lungs. “Just a few steps at the time. A psychiatrist will come see you this afternoon.”

“I just want to sleep,” Tessa said, covering her eyes. “Just sleep.”

“You’ll be able to rest throughout the day,” dr. Ivan scribbled something on her chart. “The faster you recover, the sooner you’ll be released. See you later, Miss Cosma.”

About ten minutes after dr. Ivan left, a nurse brought a tray with food. Tessa didn’t touch it. Her stomach growled, but she refused to eat.

“Tessa, honey, I know you hurt, but life doesn’t stop here,” Chiara pleaded.

“Go away, both of you,” Tessa said.

Chiara exchanged looks with Alessandro. She blinked back tears and said in a cheerful voice, “Come on, how about you get out of the bed? Only a few steps, then we’ll let you rest.”

Mechanically Tessa lifted the bed sheets. She put her feet on the floor, and tried to stand. Her knees buckled, her eyes blurred, but Chiara and Alessandro caught her in time to stop her from falling. She felt her skin crawling when Alessandro touched her. She threw her arms around Chiara’s neck and between shallow breaths she managed to say, “Don’t—touch—me!”

Alessandro stepped back as if her words burned him.

“I have you.” Chiara held on her sister’s skeletal body. She shifted Tessa so she could support her elbow and grip the bed’s edge with the other hand. She walked a few wobbly and slow steps but she tired quickly. She sat, her breath worn-out.

“That’s enough, now go,” Tessa said. With trembling hands she crawled back in and bed pulled the bed sheets.

“I promise we’ll go if you eat.” Chiara took a spoon and the cup of yogurt and sat next to Tessa. “Here, just a few spoons.”

Tessa sat, snapped the yogurt and the spoon away and said, “I can feed myself, I’m not a baby.” She ate half of the cup. “Happy now?” She pretended not to see the pain on Chiara’s face. She pretended not to see Alessandro standing by the window, shoulders hunched.

She just wanted them gone. She wanted to be left alone. With no one around to comfort or care about her. Bad people like her didn’t deserve to be loved and happy. Criminals like her didn’t deserve to live.

Daniel.

He scarred her body. He wounded her soul. He should’ve killed her.

She’d welcome death over the pain.

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The green blanket

25 Feb

Death scares me. Dead bodies scare me, a scare I’ve been living with ever since I saw my grandpa in a coffin. I was twelve at the time and still remember his stench, his body still, and decay distorting his face in ways for years I kept dreaming of.

The other day as I drank a cup of burnt coffee in the waiting room outside my nephew’s hospital room, a family walked in. From the conversation they had I understood that the older, limping woman just lost her husband. Her daughter and son held on both sides as she sat across the room, diagonally from me. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but being just them and myself in the room, crumbs of the conversation reached my hearing.

“You need to take better care of yourself, Mom,” the daughter sniffled.

“I will.” The woman sighed, looking down at her bony hands resting on her lap.

“You need to get out of the house, do something,” the son added.

The woman didn’t respond right away, staring at her fingernails as if she saw them for the first time. After a long exhale she said, “All these years, I’ve taken care of your father. I’ve stood by his side . . . Now he’s gone and I can live again. Maybe I’ll get that garden going. Maybe the library takes me back for volunteering. I have so many books I want to read. Or maybe I’ll travel. There are so many places I want to see . . . Or maybe I’ll have my hip replaced . . .”

“The pastor is here,” a hospital employee announced and the family followed her.

I remained in the waiting room, thinking about the widow, about the family left behind and how they coped with their loss. To the worries about my nephew’s life, somehow sadness snuck inside me. Hospitals—unless when a baby is born—aren’t happy places, and if I never step inside one, I won’t miss it.

I got up and stretched, walking down the hallway, my mind all over the place and nowhere in particular. I stopped at my nephew’s door to listen if he was awake, but he wasn’t, and so I continued my walk.

Patient’s rooms marked one side of the long hallway. Above some doors a red light signaled the occupant needed help. Nurses in colorful scrubs walked in an out, with either trays with meds or syringes peaking from their breast pockets. The other side of the hallway was reserved for offices some closed some open. Further down double glass doors lead to the ICU.

I turned to look at the ICU doors opening with a clicking sound. A nurse pushed a bed, a green blanket stretching over the entire bed. Underneath the blanket laid an obvious form of a body.

I froze in place, the memory of my dead grandpa flashing before me eyes. Walking right by me the nurse pushed the dead body, an emotionless smile plastered on her lips. She was doing nothing but her job, a job like any other job.

For a moment the urge to run strangled me, but fear crippled me, rooting me in that very spot. My own eyes refused to look elsewhere but at the motionless form beneath the green blanket. Feet, legs, protruding belly, shoulders, head, nose . . .

Life has never seemed so fleeting and fragile. One minute you’re here, the next gone. One minute you make plans, build memories, a family, love and work, and just as quick you become nothing more than an empty vessel covered with a green blanket.

I’m still here. Breathing, blinking, walking. And I’m still scared of death. I know it’s natural, irrevocable and part of the circle of life.

No one knows when we are sentenced to go, me included. But what I do know is that I want to live, feel every breath I take, every heartbeat, every tear and smile. Build a different kind of garden; read books, travel, work out, spend time with my parents. Go to happy hour with my girlfriends. Go on dates with my husband. Fall asleep resting on his shoulder. Watch Smallville with my son. See him become the man I raised him to be.

Because after all, life is fleeting and fragile.