29. oots oots oots. [nick swardson rocks]
The smell is the first thing I notice.
What is that? I know that smell.
I try to look around, to maybe see where it's coming from. I can hear muffled voices too, so I guess I'm looking for them as well. It's now that I notice something new, two somethings, really. First, it is pitch black. Second, I can't move.
Great. I'm blind and paralyzed. Wait. Oh, shit. Am I dead? I don't remember dying. Do people remember dying? And what is that godawful smell?
This thought triggers a memory of Lucy answering that exact question only days ago.
Disinfectant and death, that's what she said. Okay, I'm in the hospital. And I don't think dead people have a sense of smell. So I'm not dead. Good news. Now, what in the hell am I doing here?
"She had a stroke? She's twenty one fucking years old!"
"Pete, calm down." Lucy grips my hand tighter. "Getting angry isn't going to help." She looks toward the doctor and nods. "Please, go on."
"As I was saying, when she suffered her initial injuries, there was some internal bleeding. It would appear that this bleeding started back up again, putting pressure on her brain. This slowed the flow of oxygen enough that she was rendered unconscious. Her condition is similar to a stroke, but far less severe."
"If it's not severe, why is she still knocked out in there?"
"Pete," Lucy shoots me a warning glance.
"I'm sorry. I'm just worried about her." I look down at my feet and try to stop the tears from flowing. The past few hours in that waiting room have been some of the worst of my life; all I can picture is Maddie running from the bathroom, screaming for Joe, and Tom behind her, with Lexi limp in his arms.
"I understand, sir. As far as we can tell, the lack of oxygen caused no permanent damage to her brain. We expect her to make a full recovery. Right now, she is sedated; we medicated her to ensure that she would remain calm and not disruptive during the tests we needed to perform. We just have to wait for the medication to wear off, and we can see how she's doing."
I thank him and slump back into my seat. This cannot be happening. We're supposed to be celebrating our album, we're supposed to leave on tour in two weeks. We're supposed to have our best friend, laughing and shouting and singing our songs backstage, not passed out from a goddamn brain bleed.
I lose it, letting my sobs take over my body. Lucy cradles my head to her shoulder, making soothing sounds, but I can tell she's crying too. I realize that I wouldn't even have Lucy if it wasn't for Lex, and I can only cry harder. If there is a god, please let her be okay.
I gave up waiting for news almost an hour ago, and I'm pacing the halls of the hospital, hoping that this positive thinking shit works. I've inspected every vending machine, unlocked supply closet, and men's room in this wing, and I decide to head back and wait with Pete. But when I get there, I find Pete and Lucy crying all over one another.
"Oh god. Oh, shit. Oh god, what happened. Is she okay? What's wrong?"
Lucy clears her throat and looks up at me. "Calm down. She had some kind of brain bleed and it gave her this mini-stroke thing. They say she'll be okay."
"A stroke? She's twenty one fucking years old!"
"That's what I said," Pete hiccups into Lucy's shoulder.
"Hey, the doctor said she'll be okay. She's pretty much just sleeping right now."
"Well, what if it happens again? What if her brain starts bleeding again and it doesn't stop? What if it's worse this time and we... and we..." I start getting hysterical and Lucy grabs my hand.
"If it happens again, this is the best place for her to be. I'd rather her be in the hospital and be safe. Wouldn't you?"
I nod, staring through a haze at the ugly blue carpeting.
"It'll be okay. She'll be okay." Lucy rubs my arm and tries to smile. "Hey, why don't you call Andy or Joe, let them know what's going on, huh? Make sure they know she's alright."
I had almost forgotten everyone else had left. Maddie was in hysterics so Joe decided to bring her home, and Andy took Anna and Tyra back to my place to crash.
"Hey, where's Tom? He didn't leave, did he?"
"No, he's in there with her. He had to fight the nurses like crazy, since he's not family, but they finally let him see her. Probably just to shut him up."
A stab of jealousy hits me. I know Tom's her boyfriend, or whatever she calls him, but I can't help but think I should be in there with her. I've known her the longest, she's my best friend, she's my Alexis. I should be by her side.
"I thought you said she'd be okay."
I am okay!
"Technically, she's fine."
There's no 'technically' about it. I'm fine, I'm great, I'm right fucking here!
"She's basically in a deep sleep. There's no more pressure, there's no more bleeding, her response to stimuli is excellent, her brain function is totally normal."
"She won't fucking wake up!"
"Pete. Stop it. She's fine, didn't you hear him?"
Thank you Lucy. Now would someone get me some water?
"She's not fine, she's unconscious. She's been like this for four days."
"Why won't she wake up? If she's so fu... freaking perfect, what is she still doing in that bed?"
"To be perfectly honest, we don't know. I have seen this before, when a patient experiences head trauma, and he or she remains unresponsive for a period of time, then wakes up in perfect health. It's most likely the body's way of ensuring she heals properly. If she's not up and moving, she can't do anything to cause further injury."
This might just be the worst day of my life. I can hear everything, but I can't see a damn thing. I feel great, like I could run screaming through a field of fucking daisies, but I can't move. Why the fuck is this happening? I can't believe how long I've been here. How long is this going to last? What's wrong with me? Why can't I just get up? I hear my heart monitor start to speed up as panic sets in.
"What is that? What's wrong? Why is that happening? Lexi can you hear me?"
I can still hear him, but it sounds like he's walking away. Where are you going? Don't leave, I'm okay, I promise!
"Sir, calm down. She's probably dreaming. See? It's going back to normal already..."
"Hello girl. It's Tom. I mean, obviously. Uh, jeez. I don't know if you can hear me, but they always talk to the person in... well they talk to people like you in movies. What can it hurt? This feels stupid. The doctors keep saying you're fine, but I can't help but agree with Pete on this one. I wish you'd just quit this shit and wake up. Oh, not that you're doing this on purpose. I mean, uhm, god. I just mean, if you're okay, you should be okay. Like normal. I don't even know what to say. Can I bribe you? Okay. If you open your eyes, I will buy you all the Chinese food you can eat. Think of all the beef with broccoli." I smile inwardly and will my eyes open. Chinese sounds so good right now. "Okay, so that didn't work. Well, I hope you're having good dreams. Maybe you're backstage at a Michael Jackson concert, or living inside Goodfellas or something. I dunno. Come back soon."
"Lex, this is fucking ridiculous. How much time do you really need? I swear, you're just being lazy now. Uh. Seriously, though. I'm worried. Fuck, I'm terrified. Pete hasn't slept, I mean not really, just the occasional twenty minute nap or whatever. Either way, it's been over a week. Maddie's convinced this is somehow her fault. And the guys want to postpone the tour. I keep telling them no, and I think I'm winning just because they know as well as I do that if you were awake, you'd beat the crap out of them for even thinking of it." She's right. Who am I to hold back their success? "None of us knows what you hear, but we all stop by as often as possible. There's a box of fruit roll-ups here, from the kids you were working with, uh..." I hear her chair scrape back and some rustling. "...Danny and Kristy. The card says they would've sent flowers or a real fruit basket, but that shit dies. That's a direct quote. Ha." Her attempt at a laugh quickly turns to muffled sobs and I so badly want to reach out to her. "I was hoping the prospect of candy would get you moving," she sniffles, "but if Tom's offer of Chinese food didn't do it, I don't know what will."
"Hey Alexis. It's Patrick. Well, we're all here. But I guess we're taking turns talking, or whatever."
"It's kind of like talking to a human answering machine."
"Joe, shut the fuck up."
"Guys. Anyway, we leave for the tour tomorrow. Lucy convinced us to keep it on schedule. We'll be back in a month, a little longer, actually, and then we leave to go on Warped. So I suppose we're just saying goodbye."
"Not permanently," Andy adds, followed by a chorus of "no"s and "of course not"s.
"Oh, no, only for now. I mean, since we won't be able to stop by for a while," Patrick rushes on. "We just want you to know we all love you."
"And we miss you," Joe blurts out. "I hope you're up by the Chicago Warped date, because if you're not, I'm going to find a way to force you up."
"Arabian goggles, maybe?"
"Please, Pete. Like you've never done it."
"Dude, what are Arabian goggles?"
"Teabagging! Only on the eyes."
"Jesus! Do we really think that teabagging is an appropriate subject to be on?"
"It's just Lexi."
"Yeah. Lexi. In a fucking coma."
Leave it to Patrick to be a prude. If I could, I'd be laughing hysterically.
The guys mumble "sorry"s and I can picture them shuffling their feet like they're getting a lecture from mom. There's an awkward silence as they try to figure out what is appropriate in the 'coma room,' and Andy clears his throat.
"I don't know Lex. Just, be better. Okay? We love you."
"Hi. I'm back. I'm sorry I haven't seen you in a few days, work has been absolutely crazy. Speaking of which, I'm being sent to do an on-location piece on Warped Tour in a few weeks. I'm really excited, I'm going to San Antonio, which means I'll be sweating my balls off but I'll finally get a tan. And Boys Night Out is on the roster this year. So that's cool. And right now, you should be jumping around with joy, talking shit about getting drunk to celebrate." She pauses, then sighs. "That was your cue, dummy. Aside from that, nothing's going on. I've hung out with the other girlfriends a few times, well, not Anna but I'll get to that. But I met Tara, you know, Maddie's daughter? I met her the other day. She's too damn precious; you'd love her. Mad dresses her in the cutest little outfits, with tiny Vans and Chucks like you always said you'd get your kids. I also went to dinner with Tom a few nights ago. If nothing else, you really should wake up so you two can make things official. He's an incredible person; you need to brand him before some bitch steals him from you. In all seriousness, he really cares about you. It's sweet. Speaking of sweet, or more speaking of the antithesis of sweet, I haven't seen Anna once since the night you, uh, since you wound up here. And Patrick apparently hasn't heard from her in a week. Pete says he's flipping out, and I can't blame him. I even went by Trick's place, since you know she was pretty much living there, but she wasn't in. I don't know why I'm telling you this. Maybe just so you'll be in the know when you wake up tomorrow. That was another cue, just in case you missed it. Wake up soon. I love you."
"Hey, Lexi. It's Maddie."
"Sorry we haven't come by until now. I wasn't sure if it was okay, but Lucy said it was a great idea, and the nurses didn't give us any trouble. Tara really wanted to come, since I told her I was visiting one of Joe's friends, but I didn't think the hospital would approve of me bringing a two-year-old non-relative in here. She's just fascinated with all things Joe."
"It's sweet. Joe loves her, you should see him with her. You'd be proud to see him so... mature." Maddie giggles and I feel a tug on my heart; my little Joe's growing up. "Andy's not so great with her. He likes her and everything, he's just... apprehensive."
"He's afraid my baby's going to make her want one of her own."
"I think she just pulls his hair too hard."
They both laugh and I wish I could be a part of this.
"Anyway, we just wanted to see you, let you know that we miss you too, and that we're here for you."
"Sweet dreams, Lex."
Ten years old. I've just found out that there's a name for Mommy's "sickness," that half a bottle of whiskey is not a healthy breakfast, that there is a reason she can never hold down a job. But worse than discovering that my mother is an alcoholic is the complete sense of despair that comes along with my newfound knowledge. It's hard to realize that your parents aren't perfect, that they're weak just like you. It's worse to realize that sometimes, they can't overcome this weakness, and that they're willing to give up everything, including a relationship with their own child, to stay in that comfort zone.
After the first flashback, I was convinced I was dying. Everyone says your whole life flashes before your eyes when you're on your deathbed. But the heart monitor stayed steady, the room still smelled, the friends kept visiting. And the flashbacks kept coming.
Thirteen years old. I break my first heart. There's a boy in my English class who sits behind me, Alex. He always points out how similar our names are, and maybe it's "a sign from god" that we're meant to be together. I think it's cute that he's so stuck on destiny. He writes me poems and love notes and slides them under my seat; I never write him back. One day, I get a note: the typical "will you go out with me, check yes or no" kind. I make my own box and check it: Never. Capital N, underlined twice. He goes to the bathroom, and doesn't come back until the end of class, and when he does return, it's with puffy eyes and a deep stare at the floor. It's now that I discover the power women hold over men.
Sixteen years old. I discover the power men hold over women, one man in specific: Daddy. He finally lost his year-long fight with colon cancer, and I'm all in black, holding the hand of the one person who let me grieve: Patrick. He is the only person who doesn't tell me he's sorry, who doesn't try to make me talk about it, who doesn't send flowers or cards or a nasty-ass casserole, who doesn't gossip about the money or the car I'm left with. The boy I've laughed with and fought with and snuck out of the house with is now my rock, the only person to whom I can imagine speaking. He is the one who helps me find the courage to emancipate myself from my mother, he is the one who helps me find my new home, he is the one who helps me find my old friends, to rebuild myself. Our relationship morphs, from best-friendship to something I cannot describe.
Eighteen years old. I once again weild ultimate power. My best friend of countless years, the only person I truly depend upon, professes his love to me. I spend several days in shock, and decide there is only one way to approach this: the cowardly way. I run. I hide, I make a new life and pretend the old one didn't exist. I abandon the people I love the most, because I am too afraid to accept that someone might really love me, and that I might really love him back. I spend months indulging myself, taking on a new appearance, a new name, a new job, a new home. Never new friends. Every night, I drink until I pass out, so that I don't have to be alone, so that I don't have time to convince myself to go back home. When I finally do decide to return, funnily enough, it's the same person who spurred my disappearance that inspires my comeback. Seeing him on that stage, surrounded by his friends, doing what he loves, being who he was always meant to be, makes me realize that too good to be true isn't always the case. Sometimes things are good, and they stay that way. And I know that when I get home, no matter what happens between us, we'll still be us. We'll be good.
And so it goes. Over and over, I relive the defining moments of my life. I don't know how frequent they are, as I don't have any concept of time. I know that they're more vivid when someone's been in the room recently, but I don't think they're more frequent because of it. Sometimes I get a bunch, back to back, fading into one another. Sometimes they come singularly. I think maybe my mind is running out of things to do with itself, and it's flushing out memories that have been buried for years. Or maybe I am dying. Who knows?
Chapter title is actually a band name. They were called Triptii, and I loved them, and then they went away for a year and I was very sad. Suddenly, and without warning, they reappeared as The Young Sea! I'm stoked.
Do I hate this chapter? I can't decide. But I wanted there to be some substance to her time in the hospital, not just a "however many months later" or whatever.