The day her brakes failed was the day my life came to a standstill. She was rushed to the hospital, operated on, put in some care unit that had her hooked up to dozens of different beeping machines and fluid-carrying tubes. I wasn’t allowed in the room at first. Had to look at her through a window. I wanted to hold her hand and brush her hair back with my fingers, but I couldn’t touch her.
Eventually, she stabilized a bit, and they moved her to another room. I could visit, and I could finally feel the sensation of my skin touching hers. Even though it was as simple as putting my hand on her cheek, it felt like I’d finally been given a torch in my pit of darkness.
But she was still out. The doctors didn’t know when she’d wake up. She probably would, they said. There was no physical reason she couldn’t. It just hadn’t happened yet.
The days were full of impatience – waiting to see her after working eight hours at a job I didn’t care about. And the nights? Well, those were torture. I’d memorized the imperfections on the ceiling of my bedroom. Didn’t bother setting an alarm because the nightmares always woke me up at least an hour before it ever went off, and there was no point in trying to go back to sleep.
My weeks were blurs of loathing the world. Sometimes specific things, sometimes myself. I began to lose track of when Saturdays turned into Sundays. It was all the same to me. Just another day without her. Just another day spent telling her that I missed her and loved her, hearing nothing in reply, and not knowing for sure that I ever would. The calendars said months passed, but time was frozen for me.
Her parents thanked me for coming at first. Thanked me for caring about their daughter. But as time passed, they grew worried about me. They’d always liked me. Treated me like one of their own, even. That’s why they told me maybe I should let go. “Move on,” I think is what her dad said when he pulled me aside and asked to talk. As if that had ever even been an option. Like I stood there every day in hopes that I could have his permission to move on. It was almost an insult to me, but I knew it was my loathing of the world getting in the way of any rational thought processes that I had left.
Her birthday fell on a Tuesday, and though I’d gotten used to absorbing myself in work so I could possibly have some semblance of a normal day, it wasn’t happening. All I could think of was the party I’d thrown her last year. The one where most of our friends showed up and ate chicken fingers and cake and drank vodka and rum until the sun had circled the planet. She said it was one of the best nights of her life.
And now, a year later, she was confined to that bed in the hospital. There would be no party. There may be a trickling of friends throughout the day. I wasn’t sure.
There were roses on my desk that I planned on bringing to her after work that day. She didn’t like roses. She said there was no point of being given a beautiful flower if she couldn’t touch it. Normally, I gave her chrysanthemums or lilies, but every time I’d tried to bring flowers to her hospital room, I couldn’t bring myself to buy those. They reminded me too much of her plucking them out of her vase and taking a big whiff. Roses seemed more appropriate. They were dangerous and beautiful, just like love. A perfect symbolic flower, perfect for a situation where the thorns would never reach her delicate fingers.
I sometimes thought how funny it would be if she woke up and found that I’d brought her roses. She’d probably act mad, but have that cute smile on her face that showed appreciation and thankfulness. Thinking about that smile was something that kept me going, something that made me give a shit about a life that seemed so completely pointless without her.
I went over to the hospital after work, holding the roses in their ordinary glass vase and silently praying to myself that she’d wake up when I walked in the door, just like I hoped and prayed for every day. But she was sleeping, and she stayed sleeping even as I set the vase down on the nightstand too hard, even as I gently stroked her hand and said “happy birthday.”
For a moment, I thought I heard her voice, but I was used to imagining things. But then I heard it again. It was soft and gentle, just like I’d remembered, even though it had been months since I’d heard her utter a word. But it sounded atmospheric. I looked up, but her face was still frozen in slumber.
My face contorted in confusion as I struggled with the harsh reality that I might be going crazy. Again, I heard her calling out to me.
“What is this, what is going on?” I called out, yet her voice continued to echo in my ears.
I didn’t understand. She was there, in front of me, lying lifeless. Was it truly going mad? Did I actually have that little sanity left?
I fell to the floor and stared down at my hands until tears started to fall onto my palms. I didn’t care anymore if I was going crazy. It didn’t matter anyway. I lifted my hands up to my face and cried into them as if it would make anything better.
Then, the blackness was lifted from my eyelids as they slowly opened. My hands were at my sides, and I was lying down. Something was wrong. The room was different.
But suddenly, memories came flooding back to me, and there, standing over me, with tears in her eyes, was the girl I couldn’t live without.
I had been the one in the wreck. I had been the one that couldn’t wake up, and the world I was living in was all just a fabrication of my unconscious mind, while she had been awake the whole time living out my nightmare.
I couldn’t believe it as she held me, crying, telling me she loved me.
A year she’d waited for me to wake up.