W.A.R. Part Three - The Broken Boy
Chapter Twelve - Through the Glass Darkly
by Jeff Wilson
The ride to the hospital took an eternity. Everything seemed to be going so slowly. The road stretched on and on forever. I was in shock. I knew I was in shock but I couldn't snap myself out of it. My mind kept coming back to the same horrible question: How had I allowed this to happen again? The burden was too much for me to bear.
In the back seat, my two best friends in the world sat bickering with each other. My dad could be dying or dead already, and they were acting like two-year-olds elbowing and insulting each other. I knew things were really serious when we drove past Mon Valley General where mom worked and got on the new expressway toward Pittsburgh. If they'd taken dad to Pittsburgh instead of the local hospital things must have been bad. An argument over leg room ensued in the backseat.
My dad had been sent by emergency helicopter to a hospital in Pittsburgh, Mrs. Smith explained. Though she was driving very fast, it seemed like we were taking forever. All time seemed to have slowed down since I'd heard that terrible news. I was drifting along as I was directed. I felt like I was drowning. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't hear clearly. It was as if everyone around me was miles and miles away. I even felt like I wasn't in my body, just watching the events unfold like a member of the audience. If I'd been riding with Dr. Reilly instead of Mrs. Smith, she might have understood that I wasn't right.
The thoughts in my head kept coming back to the one unmistakable truth: This was all my fault. I had pushed dad over the edge. I'd made something in his head snap last night. My temper and my stubborn attitude had caught up to me. Why had I called him an asshole? Was that really the last thing I'd said to him? I searched my memory of that moment. I knew it was true. The very last thing I'd said to him was that awful name I'd called him.
And then he'd gone without me. He'd gone off without me and now he was going to die. It was as simple as that. I'd killed him. I'd wished something bad to happen to him and it had. It was all my fault. I deserved whatever awful thing happened to me.
"Can't you go any faster?" Brett asked.
"Can't you shut up?" Dustin snapped.
"Don't start with me," Brett warned.
"Both of you shut up right now!" Mrs. Smith said sternly. Both of them instantly stopped talking, though a few elbows were tossed back and forth.
The silence that followed allowed my mind to find even darker places in which to dwell. What was going to happen to my family if dad died? What if the last thing I said to him yesterday was the last thing I ever got to say to him? What if the last thing I'd ever done with my dad was get into the worst fight of our life together? What if the last thing he'd ever done to me was slap me in the face? I crossed my arms and looked out the window at the world passing by. Nothing was ever going to be the same.
When we arrived at the hospital, Mrs. Smith led us to the elevators. Brett and Dustin continued their silent battle of elbows and dirty looks whenever Carol wasn't looking. We quickly found the waiting room where mom was being comforted by Donnie, and Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson, and the pastor of the church they went to.
When I saw my mom in tears and all those people gathered around her I just knew that dad had died. She was sitting on a couch with Mrs. Nicholson on one side of her and Pastor Stevens on the other. When mom saw me she wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled. She turned from grieving wife to caring mother just like that. No longer was she the one who needed to be comforted, she had to be strong for her baby. She stood up and met me at the door and just hugged me. For the longest eternity, we just held each other without a word exchanged. I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was suffocating.
"I can't believe this has happened," she finally whispered. "Thank God for our friends, Billy." She stopped hugging me and then put her hands on my cheeks. "Look at you, my brave little boy. You stay strong for me Billy. We're going to get through this together."
A doctor arrived and asked to see mom. She asked for Mr. Nicholson and Donnie to join her. I sat down in a chair next to the door and time slowly and methodically trudged forward. Each minute seemed like an endless hour. I heard hushed whispers of concern about me. They didn't know. The guilt I felt was far worse than any pain I'd ever endured. I was responsible for all of this. It was my fault.
At some point while mom was talking with the doctor, the pastor sat next to me. "How are you holding up Billy?"
I didn't respond. I just sat there staring at the floor.
He handed me a can of Coke. "Your mom wanted you to have this. We're all a little concerned about how you're doing. You haven't said anything since you got here."
I took the pop can and set it on the small table beside me without drinking.
"Billy, when times like this happen it's important not to bottle yourself up. God is here for you. Your friends and family are here for you. I'm here for you too, boy."
I turned my head slowly and looked at him. "What did you..."
At that very moment there was a loud crash that made everybody in the room jump. Between Brett and Dustin there was a shattered vase. Both boys immediately blamed the other. Mrs. Smith stormed over and started screaming at them while the pastor tried to keep her from killing them. While everybody was distracted, I slipped out of the room. I wandered in a stupor down the hall. I wasn't sure where I was headed, but I just had to get away. I had to be by myself.
I found the men's bathroom and stepped inside. I stood at the sink and stared at the tired-looking boy in the mirror looking back at me. There were circles under his eyes so dark that he looked like a sweaty raccoon. I turned on the sink and splashed my face with water a few times. I kept looking into the dark green eyes of the boy in the mirror. It was like looking at a different person. I hated that boy. I hated what he'd done to my family. I wanted to punish him. He deserved to be punished.
The worst part of everything was that I was never going to get the chance to tell my dad how sorry I was about that fight. I hadn't meant to call him an asshole. He wasn't one, really. He was a great father. He'd only slapped me because I'd made him so mad. I hated everything about myself. I didn't want to be Billy Roberts anymore.
The door opened and Dustin walked into the bathroom. "Oh here you are," he said. "We all got a little scared when you ran off."
"I'm fine," I lied. "Just leave me alone."
"My mom said to keep an eye on you if we found you," he replied. "Come on, let's go back to the waiting room."
"No," I said sternly. "Leave me alone."
"I don't think that would be a good idea," Dustin replied. "You're not looking too good, Billy. You look like you're going to throw up. Come on, let's go back." He put his hand on my shoulder.
"Don't fuckin' touch me!" I swatted his hand away.
"I'm sorry!" Dustin replied, cringing at my angry reaction. I could see the pain in his eyes, pain that I'd caused. I turned back to the sink and held my head in my hands. I could feel the blood pumping through my neck. Everything was turning red.
"Please leave me alone," I snarled. "I don't want you to see me like this."
"I don't care," Dustin replied. "You saw me at my worst when my dad was being an asshole."
"What did you say?" I asked.
"I said you saw me..."
I interrupted, "He's not the asshole! I'm the asshole! I'm the god damn asshole, Dustin! Isn't that what you said? I'm a real asshole! Isn't that what you called me?"
"Well yeah... But I was just mad at you Billy. I didn't mean it, just like you didn't mean the things you said about me."
"No, Dustin. You were right. I am an asshole! I'm a real fucking asshole! Look at me! I killed my grandmother. I killed my dad! I humiliated you in front of everybody! Everybody I love just gets hurt or ends up dead! I'm the one who should get hurt!"
"Your dad's not dead! You didn't kill anybody! Don't say that!" Dustin pleaded. "You're scaring me, Billy!"
"I deserve to get hurt!" I insisted, ignoring him. "I ruin everything! I hate myself! I hate my stupid life! I deserve to be hurt!"
"Billy, please stop!" Dustin was almost crying now.
I looked at the pale, sweaty boy in the mirror once again. He looked back at me with his green, bloodshot eyes. I hated him. I wanted to hurt him. Tears were streaming down his twisted angry face. I just wanted to make him disappear.
"I HATE YOU!!!" I screamed. Then I reared back and punched him right in the face as hard as I could. The boy in the mirror vanished with a terrible crash. Pieces of glass fell to the floor and smashed against the tiles. Thousands of shards of glass covered the floor. The sound of the crash gave way to silence. The only sound was my heavy breathing. My hand burned. I lifted my hand to my face and looked at the palm of my hand. It was numb. Everything felt numb. My palm looked perfectly fine. Through my fingers I saw Dustin's shocked and terrified face.
"Oh my god, Billy! What did you just do?" he asked in a whisper.
"I'm okay," I heard myself say. "It doesn't even hurt." I felt a warm sensation rolling down my arm from my hand, like thick hot water was pouring down my forearm. I looked at the shattered mirror, then I smiled at Dustin and laughed. "He's gone," I said, and I was happy.
"Billy, you're not okay! You just punched that mirror! You're bleeding really bad!" Dustin cried. "Look at your hand!"
I turned my hand around and saw that it wasn't warm water that was flowing down my hand, it was my blood, and there was a whole lot of it. It was pouring down my arm and dripping onto the floor. Only when I saw the blood did my hand really begin to hurt. Shards of glass glittered like stars in a sea of red. The mirror had broken easily, but the wall behind it hadn't. I'd broken my hand. The normally straight bones of my hand were mangled and ruined. The numbness gave way to progressively more painful throbs of excruciating violent pain. "Oh shit! Do you think it's broken?" I asked dully.
The door opened and Brett came running in. He saw Dustin and scowled. "What the hell was that noise?" he shouted.
"Billy punched the..." Dustin started.
"Oh my god, Billy!" Brett cried. He ran to my side and tried to help, but the damage had already been done. He turned to Dustin. "What the fuck did you do to him, you dumb fuck?"
"Me?!?! I didn't do anything, I swear!" Dustin cried. "He flipped out and punched the mirror!"
"You were supposed to bring him back to the waiting room! What the fuck is wrong with you?" Brett was irate.
"I'm sorry!" Dustin cried. "He just snapped! I didn't know what to do!"
"Don't just stand there you fucking dick! Go get a doctor! He's gonna fucking bleed to death! Damn you!"
Dustin turned and ran out the door. Brett turned to me, full of concern. "Oh my god, what did he do to you?"
"I got rid of him Brett, it's okay," I said.
The room started to spin and I fell to my knees. Brett kept me from falling into the glass. "Don't you pass out on me, Billy," Brett warned.
I began to laugh. I was light headed and everything was turning grey. It felt good to let the darkness overtake me. I wanted to disappear into it forever.
"I made him go away," I said. "He ruined everything, Brett. I wanted him to go away but he wouldn't... I made him go away."
"He's gone now, Billy. You stay with me, please!" Brett begged.
I just wanted to sleep. I rested on the floor and everything faded into the comforting blackness. I heard Brett's voice from miles away crying for help and cursing Dustin as I drifted off to the best sleep I'd had in my life.
So there you have it! Billy is indeed broken in more ways than one. Now we need to pick up the pieces and put him back together. Looks like we'll have a lot to deal with in Part Four!
That concludes Part Three - The Broken Boy, but there's much more to come! We're at the half-way point here. Sorry about the cliffhanger ending. Part four will start sometime around January 23. I just need a little break after the grind of weekly chapter updates. I want to thank those of you who have been so kind as to offer your thoughts on the story along the way. You don't know how much your letters mean to me. I truly appreciate everyone who takes the time to write. I consider writing a story a communal activity.
If you'd like to comment, you can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I hope you will!
Next time: W.A.R. Part Four - Rehabilitation - The Boy in the Recovery Unit