Part Seven: Post Script

My first couple of hours in the hospital consisted of numerous x-rays and images being taken. I realized how badly injured I was when asked to stand for a series of x-rays and, upon reaching my feet to the ground, it felt as if my spine was collapsing like an accordion on raw nerves. I have never felt anything before or since that has compared to that pain, and I sincerely hope that remains true. I was assisted in laying back down and advised not to move until they had a chance to examine the images they’d already taken.
The doctor who came to see me expressed a sort of admiration when the first words from my mouth were essentially my begging him to tell me about the two girls who were brought in with me. He indicated that he was pleasantly surprised because almost anyone else, in his experience, under the circumstances would have started out by asking what was wrong with themselves before even thinking about anyone else. I didn’t deserve his respect or admiration; at that point I couldn’t have given a shit less about my own condition, even if I had been rapidly dying. I was there by the actions of my own stupid hands, but those two girls were there because of me as well.
It was then that I was informed that the one girl was being airlifted to Sioux City, IA due to the severity of her injuries (which consisted of a shattered ankle and pelvis along with numerous other fractures). It was devastating to hear that she had been hurt so badly, enough so that it took me a moment to collect myself and recognize that he hadn’t told me anything about the one person I was most concerned with. I had to ask him directly about her and his hesitation before answering was all it took to confirm my worst fear. I don’t recall what he was saying and was only able to focus a fraction of my attention on his words at the time, he was telling me that she hadn’t made it to the hospital…he was telling me about the extent of her injuries when I interrupted him, insisting that I needed to see her.
Her mother had been contacted and was on her way to the hospital to identify and claim her daughter’s body. The doctor informed me that I would have to wait until she arrived and approved of it before I would have permission to see the body myself.
I had never met her mother before this and I was terrified. I knew that there was no way she would agree to let me see her daughter, not after I had helped to kill her. The wait during the following couple of hours was horrible. I imagined numerous scenarios in which the woman tried to kill me after the trauma of losing her daughter hit home…and in none of those would I have lifted a finger to stop her.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, though. Her daughter had learned from a wonderful example in the woman I met that afternoon. I had no way of knowing how difficult it must have been for her to look at me and talk to me with compassion…but she didn’t shy away from it. She was kind and understanding and she didn’t decline my request to see her daughter.
I was wheeled into a room where there was one other occupant, still and silent. A nurse helped me onto my side so that I could face the girl who had been sleeping so peacefully only half a day before. My mind played cruel tricks on me. I kept seeing her chest rise and fall with breaths that she wasn’t taking and subtle movements of her eyelids that she wasn’t capable of making.
I had to stretch awkwardly and painfully in order to take her hand, muttering unintelligible pleas for her to just come back to me and squeeze my hand. I spent the whole time talking to her, and I have no idea what I was saying any longer. I remember trying to pray to any gods that might exist to simply let me take her place, crying that I would give anything to have me be the one who had died in her place…an exercise in futility.
The nurse was patiently waiting outside for me to tell her that I was ready to go, but that never happened…I probably never would have called out for her. I was finally removed from the room when they needed to prepare her body for being transferred across the state for funeral preparations.
I spent the next couple of days in that hospital, becoming acquainted with the god awful uncomfortable back brace that I would be wearing for months to follow. I was miserable and depressed; if those words even come close to describing how I was feeling…my interactions with others could probably best be described as being despondent.  Something about me made a positive impression on one of the nurses who was caring for me though, as she kept in regular contact with me for a few months after I was discharged.
The ride back home was a terrifying ordeal in its own right. The state had been hit by a winter storm and my mother and my favorite of her brothers had driven across the state to recover me from the hospital. I was more than a little bit uncomfortable being in any vehicle for a long time after the events of a few days before, and the steady snowfall did not help matters at all. It was even more uncomfortable being forced to face two people who expected better of me, two members of my family who believed in me and the “limitless potential” I had always been told I exhibited by family, teachers, and the like. I can’t imagine the disappointment they must have felt, and thanks to my own children turning out far better than I had, I doubt I ever will be able to.
I didn’t know whether I should attend the funeral. I felt that my presence there would be disruptive, that it would be an insult to her memory, that it was a sacrilege of sorts. I would likely have avoided the funeral altogether if I hadn’t been able to ask permission of her mother, to ask if my presence would even be welcome there.
It was at the funeral when I learned that she used to talk about me now and again to her mother and grandparents, that she had a fondness for me that I had been entirely oblivious to, that preceded that single night we had together while she drifted off to sleep peacefully as close to being in my arms as she ever was. It wasn’t until some time later that I learned from the other victim of the accident that they had only joined the driver and I in that vehicle because I was there and they had trusted me…which taught me that people were better off not trusting me.
Between the cocktail of pain medication and muscle relaxers and the emotional turmoil of the circumstances, most of the funeral is a blur to me. I do remember not wanting to leave the gravesite until well after most everyone else had gone. My mother was grateful (and I suppose I was too) for the two friends of mine who had also remained behind, because it was those two boys who finally got my attention away from the cold ground and helped me to my feet, encouraging me that it was time to go. Aside from the cemetery ground keepers, we were the last four people still there.
I honestly hadn’t noticed that we had been left alone. My mother’s fear may have been right, I might have intended to crawl down into that hole myself…I don’t adequately recall.
After the funeral, her mother kept in touch with me, and when it was time for her to return home in December, she asked me to join her and her parents on the trip. They were good people, better and kinder than I could ever hope to be, so I know that there wasn’t a malicious desire to hurt or torture me for my part in the tragic accident…but they wouldn’t have been more successful at applying torture if their motives had been cruel. I traveled with them for hours, welcomed and treated with more kindness that I did not deserve.
When we arrived I was shocked and appalled to discover that the bed I would be sleeping in for the next few days was a bed belonging to a ghost. I slept on sheets that she had slept upon countless times while staying with her mother. I lay awake at night staring at posters she had placed on the walls and listening to a stereo she had listened to while sleeping in that room as well. I went on walks with her mother through a town where they had walked together many times. I shared meals with a devastated family suffering from a terrible loss, and this was the one time in my life when I sincerely entertained the thought of suicide. It was, in fact, at that point when I stopped taking my pain medication…only partially because I felt that I deserved the pain, and was cheating somehow by deadening it.
It was only a short while later, after returning to school for the spring semester, that I swallowed those pills I had been saving. It didn’t work out as planned, I became disoriented and barely functional, and sick…but I kept breathing. Some friends, good friends I didn’t deserve to have escorted me from the school and kept watch over me to see if I needed to be taken to the hospital. I was high, but I was alive…and there have been times in my life when I wish that had turned out differently as well.
Well, there you go…that particular story is done. I’m sure there is more I could say, details I didn’t include…but you’ll have to live with it as is, because I am tired of sharing this bit of my life with you. There is a limit to my endurance, and we have reached it.

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