More Time To Give
I waited for seven days. Seven long days, in which I didn’t sleep for fear of not being there when she either woke up or never woke up again. All I did was wait. My eyes were fixed on the spikes on the heart monitor. Multiple times, meals that the now-relenting nurses had gotten me from the hospital cafeteria went cold and uneaten. IV bags ran out; oxygen tubes were replaced. All with me watching on the sidelines.
My car sat in the parking lot, but Dr. Hsieh refused to have it moved. She brought up some of my things when she wasn’t busy, but I would have none of it. I let Avril’s brother, Artur, the keys to my car. He drove it around the parking lot for a few minutes before returning it for another few hours.
And then, after those seven days of waiting, I noticed movement in the bed. A stirring.
Then she moved her arm to wrap around an invisible figure.
Her lips parted for the first time since I’d last seen her.
She was clearly dreaming, since I noticed her move in a strange, bed-bound way, but almost like she was standing up.
And then she spoke.
“Mortas! Why are you here, in the dorm? You haven’t even graduated yet.”
Silence. I blinked, pinched myself. But I wasn’t dreaming. This was all real. Well, I was tired. Perhaps I was hallucinating. Perhaps the line on the screen was flat, and all I saw was a hopeless fantasy, playing out only in my delusional mind.
She kissed the air. “You shouldn’t be here. How sweet of you! How did you get up here so fast? Go back before your finals. Don’t miss them! You’re the hope of the century; why are you skipping your finals?”
My heart pounded as I listened to her melody of a voice for the first time in so long. Not only that, but she was talking to me. Well, a dream version of me. She spoke to Dream Mortas Wayworde the delinquent student. What she didn’t know was that Real Mortas Wayworde was listening to her every word and basking in them as they came. Oh, the sound! The sound I feared I’d never hear again! Tears began to well in my eyes as I realized that this might be the light at the end of the darkest tunnel of my life.
The dream went on for several minutes. From the noises she was making, it seemed like she was having a pretty graphically sexual dream. About me. Which was slightly creepy, not that I cared.
And then the dream ended, and she fell limp again. The monitor continued to spike…and spike…and spike…
I was standing at the edge of the bed now. I couldn’t bear it any longer. Oh, how I longed to see her eyes open again! It just didn’t seem possible! But now…it was nearly here! Happening! My disastrous, heart-wrenching desires, perhaps fulfilled!
I continued to stare at her obsessively. I can’t remember if I even blinked. But all I wanted was for everything to be just as it was.
It stayed that way for three hours. I stood there, at the bedside, for three heart-wrenching hours, watching her as nothing happened. But oh, it was killing me! I wondered if I should just make myself a weapon and plunge it into my own chest.
And then, finally, at the end of the third hour, she stirred once more. Her hands started to move. Then her arms rose above her head, just as if she was waking up from a deep sleep.
And then, the world became three feet wide as her dark brown eyes opened again.
She was drowsy, her eyes weary at first.
But then her brain woke up, and her eyes widened. Practically bugged.
She let out a wild squeal.
She tried to move before realizing she was bound to the hospital bed. I grabbed her hand, my own heart pounding wildly. Her heart monitor was spiking faster and higher than I’d seen it for the entire week.
Her eyes welled with tears as she looked around.
“What’s going on? Why am I in the hospital?”
She looked out the clear door of the room.
“Is this…the ICU? Good Lord! Hold on—Mortas, why am I hospitalized?”
I held her hand as I said everything. The call. The crazy drive up. The torturous waiting. My refusal to leave. Everything came flooding out in a tearful rant.
She listened, and then she looked straight into my eyes.
“I’m diagnosed with something they’ve never seen before?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“Is it contagious?”
I shook my head and shrugged. “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask everyone.”
Then I remembered.
“Avril, do you want me to call your parents?”
She looked up at me.
“No. Not yet. I want to spend some time with my boy.” She blinked. “No, wait—we’re adults now. My man.”
She reached up to touch my chin. Which was now covered in soft dark hair. Oops. With all of my worrying, I’d forgotten to shave—or perform any other basic hygiene tasks—for the entire week.
“Still gorgeous, even disheveled as you are.”
▒ ▒ ▒
By the time the nurses had reached us, we were in each other’s arms, crying. They’d separated us, and then they’d called in the doctor who was looking after Avril. And then they called Avril’s family. Her mum was there within fifteen minutes, having already been at work. Her dad and her brother were there after about half an hour. With them was Rip, and, surprisingly, Father again.
I finally went home after that. I shaved, showered, cleaned myself up, and then I returned to the hospital after getting a full night of sleep. To my surprise, Father didn’t seem to want to beat and whip me anymore. He said Avril’s mum had made him realize that it wasn’t right, especially when his son was already twenty-two and easily strong enough to fight back against any beating he received. All those scars were still there, though, and I remembered what Avril had told me back in high school—don’t be afraid of them. Let them be, let them be the guiding light, the detour arrows away from everything from that past. They were a part of me now—I just didn’t want to bear the lash to receive any more. I had scars from my claws, too, but those were also old now—I’d learned to control them, especially in college. As it turns out, nobody will like you if you randomly brandish massive wolf claws at them for no reason.
Avril was doing well when I went to see her again. The doctors were still stumped, but they said she was nearly better, almost enough to go home. But there were still pathogens in her blood, and the doctors were drawing blood the second time that day when I arrived. The disease was a very strange one, with strange patterns, according to the doctors, and they were going to try and send Avril’s germ-infested blood off to some researchers in Berkeley. Oddly enough, it was a team of UC Berkeley researchers who agreed to take on the challenge. They were all already calling it “Kleinman Disease” colloquially.
And then, finally, finally, after another week of attempted sleep in my own bedroom, Avril came home. Dr. Hsieh had called me the morning they were going to pick her up, asking me to come along. I drove in my own car, since the Kleinmans’ wasn’t big enough to fit all of us.
The doctors told us that she was a fighter, and that she was better, and that no pathogens had been found in her blood again that day. But it wasn’t certain that she was entirely healthy again. They advised us especially to stay apart until two weeks from now, especially since my immune system likely wasn’t at 100% yet due to my unwavering insistence that I stay in the same room with Avril the whole time she was hospitalized. I was slightly annoyed. Two weeks without my woman! Well, I’d managed. I would try to manage again.
And then, finally, the two weeks were up. We celebrated as dirtily that you’d expect a couple of twenty-two-year-old lovers to celebrate. Love is a beautiful thing, as long as you take it in while it’s there. And I was a storm again, just as I had been in high school.
I was home.
▒ ▒ ▒
Broad daylight now. Broad daylight as the same rush of explosion and negativity swirled around me again. Nighttime the last time it had happened.
She was on the brink again, and this time, I was certain again that she would go under forever. It was looking likelier this time.
She had been on her way home, she had told me. She was bringing home an extravagant pile of everything my brain could imagine for me. It was my twenty-seventh birthday, and Avril was trying to treat me.
But then, everything good fell apart. The car had been struck by a drunk driver in a pickup truck, or so we all believed. It was only a few minutes after the accident. Avril had called me this time, telling me she was afraid that she was going to die. So I, the committed boyfriend turned committed husband, drove like a maniac towards the scene of the crime, leaving our daughter at home.
Avril was in my arms now. She was bleeding, bleeding so heavily that I was practically begging for God to save her. But while I pleaded, He ignored my screams, ignored hers, ignored it all. The great savior only watched, watched as we watched Him.
She was sobbing. I was in tears. I knew it was the end, no doubt. Why wouldn’t it be? God would do nothing. Nobody would do anything. Nobody would care. Not today, not tomorrow, not in seventy-three years, not in a hundred. I watched her soul slip away, down, into the ether, away from me.
She let out the most horrible thing I’d ever heard.
“I think I’m gonna die.”
“Don’t say that.”
“You know it, Mortas. You know it!”
She sniffled. “I want to go now—now, when I’m in your arms. Nobody…loves me more than you do. And…I love you more than anyone else.”
And then she was gone. Her head dropped as the last breath sighed from her body.
The world caved in on me there. Nothing was left now—not the grocery store on the nearby block, not our daughter, asleep in her crib at home, not my father, alone in his home, not even the dark house I’d grown up in, across an ocean and a continent. No—the world was just me and my beautiful wife, my only love, my angel, my guiding light, my nurturer and my goddess. But the angel had fallen—the light had gone out—…
There was a silence in my ears as the light left my life. Only darkness remained.