WHAT LIES WITHIN, Part II:
"Well, I've had dreams in my life where I had a vision; and then later on, I've seen that vision in reality..."
"Hey...he's starting to wake up..." I heard someone say excitedly.
With surprising difficulty, I managed to open my eyes part way. The room seemed awfully bright at first. As things came more into focus, I was a little freaked out to see the large huddle of people standing around me...looming over my bed, looking at me with a mixture of concern and curiosity. A couple thoughts began to slowly congeal inside my aching head:
This was definitely not my bed, and this was definitely not my bedroom.
Some of the faces around the bed looked familiar; others did not. But, the more I tried to process all this information, the more my head began to hurt from the effort. I tried to speak, but nothing came out except a dry wheezing sound.
Someone quickly handed me a small glass of water. I looked up to thank him with my gaze, and suddenly I was struck by the incredible depth of the love and gratitude beaming down at me from those intensely blue-green eyes. The strength of those feelings jump-started my brain a little bit, but I could still feel this odd kind of internal resistance...like all the little gears and wheels inside my head weren't turning as smoothly and quickly as they normally would.
It reminded me of a stupid dream I used to have as a kid, when I would feel like I was walking through some kind of invisible molasses...like every movement was dramatically slower and more difficult than it should be...and it was just sooo frustrating, that eventually I would wake myself up trying to fight it off.
I took a slow sip of water, and looked up again at all the expectant faces gathered around me.
"W...Where am I? What happened?" I asked hoarsely. I realized that I had no idea where I was, how I got here, or why...and that made me a little nervous. All I knew was that my head was pounding, the lights in the room were way too bright, I was really thirsty, and I had to pee like crazy.
"Ian? I'm Doctor Morse," an older man with a neatly trimmed gray beard began, speaking slowly and deliberately...as if he wasn't sure I would understand what he was saying. "You've had a nasty head injury. You are recovering from a mild skull fracture, so please try and remain still for a moment. I know that might sound scary to you, but what that means is that there is a hairline crack in the bone at the base of your skull...nothing is separated or out of place, so to speak. Still, it is an injury that we take very seriously, though. Do you understand what I'm saying so far?" he asked.
I nodded briefly, and then grimaced in pain. It hurt more when I moved my head quickly.
"You've been in the hospital here since Friday afternoon...it is Sunday morning now. You've been unconscious since you were brought here, and you've had two surgeries to relieve the pressure from swelling in your brain...and that's why you have those bandages on you head. It looks like you're recovering pretty well so far."
Tentatively, I reached up and lightly felt the bandages that were indeed wrapped around my head. I hadn't really noticed them until then.
"How do you feel right now? Do you recognize these people here to see you?" he asked, sweeping his hand around the room.
It may have only been a fraction of a second, but it felt like forever, as I paused...waiting for some part of my brain to catch up with the rest. I looked at all the faces again. Weakly, I lifted my arm to point. Softly, I went around the room... "Mom...D-Dad...don't know...d-don't know... you (pointing at the doctor)...don't know... and Rusty, my boyfriend," I finished with a weak smile, kinda proud of myself for accomplishing what seemed like a fairly difficult task at the time, but also a little surprised at how hard it had been to get the words formed in my head.
The huge grin that spread across Rusty's face when he heard me say his name melted my heart. But, at least a couple of faces in the room registered a look of surprise at my last statement.
"That's very good, Ian," the doctor said slowly, and a little too loudly again. "These other people here are your nurse, Mrs. Washington (he said, pointing to a large black woman); Dr. Di Mascio (a dark-haired, middle-aged guy with thick glasses), your Neurologist; and Detective Rodriguez ( a chunky middle aged Latino man with a military style buzz cut). When you feel up to it, I think he wants to ask you if you remember anything about what happened to you."
I nodded as slightly as I could, and took another little sip of water, trying to give my aching brain a little time to regroup for the next challenge.
"So, how do you feel?" asked the guy supposed to be Dr. Di Mascio, the Neurologist.
"My head hurts like crazy, and I gotta p-pee real bad," I said softly, a little embarrassed at having to discuss my bodily functions out loud.
Rusty leaned down, cupped his hand, and whispered in my ear, "Dude... I think you're still 'hooked-up' down there...so you can, like, let it fly any time you want...it's ok...God, I'm so glad to have you back...I love you so much..." He said, brushing his hand through my hair briefly.
As he stood back up, it took a second for the information to register in my head. When I finally realized what he was telling me, I gave him a questioning look. He nodded slightly, and gave me a little smile.
So, I let it fly. I sighed noticeably to myself as the feeling of relief washed over me. When I opened my eyes, I turned completely red when I realized that everyone was just standing there watching me pee. Jeez!
"Now Ian," the doctor continued, "as with injuries of this type, we've put you on a few different IV medications while you were still unconscious. These are mostly as a precaution to prevent blood clots or seizures, which are sometimes a complication in the case of a head trauma. Between those medications and the painkillers, you may feel a little woozy...and your thinking may seem a little clouded right now. That's completely normal. But, as we see how you're progressing now that you're awake, we can begin to reduce those medications and you'll soon start to feel back to your old self, we hope. But, if anything feels really wrong inside your head, let us know as soon as possible. The symptoms of minor blood clots or small seizures can often be felt as strange feelings or sensations by the patient, speech difficulties, or loss of motor coordination...things like that. So, don't be afraid to tell us anything. Someone will be close at hand to keep an eye on things at all times for the next day or so. I'll stop back in again to see how you're doing later this afternoon," he concluded.
The detective fellow spoke up. "If I might just have a chance to jump in here, Ian...I'm sure you must have a lot of questions about what's going on, and that's understandable. But, I've already talked to Rusty and your parents, and I've asked them not to tell you anything they might know about what happened yet. We want to know anything you can remember...and don't worry, if you can't remember anything right at this moment we'll give you as much time as you need to recover your memory...without being influenced by what other people think might have happened. We just don't want you to confuse your own memory with anything someone else may have said to you, do you understand?"
I nodded briefly again, and winced in pain.
"I really appreciate that, Ian. I know it may be a little frustrating for you not to get answers right away to all the questions running through your head, but it's real important that we don't compromise anything you might remember."
"So, does this mean that somebody d-did this to me? Was I attacked or something?" I wondered out loud. God, what a scary thought! I felt an involuntary shiver run through my body.
"No, Ian. It doesn't necessarily mean anything. We don't really know what happened to you. There were no witnesses until you were found unconscious. That's all I can tell you, ok?"
"Ok...uh, thanks," I replied.
The doctors and nurses left, and the detective sat down quietly in the back of the room.
After what seemed like forever, I finally convinced the parents that I was basically ok, and that my brain wasn't hopelessly scrambled or anything. I mean; I understand how worried they can get...that's what parents do, right? After I assured them that I knew my name, what month it was, what year it was etc., they were satisfied enough to leave it alone for a while. As they were leaving, the nurse came back in and said it was time for my next round of pain medication.
As soon as she stuck the needle into the IV tubing, I could feel a strange sensation beginning to wash over me...like a very calm and peaceful fog was slowly filling the room. Before it was too late, I called Rusty over to sit beside me in the chair that was there, and took his hand in mine. I turned my head gently to look at him, and smiled calmly as that gentle white fog filled my head, and I drifted away.
The next time my eyes opened, he was still there...with those intensely blue-green eyes beaming their love right into my heart. We were alone now, and by the light coming into the room, my brain calculated that it must be later in the afternoon. My stomach growled right away, reminding me that I hadn't eaten in a long time...and I wasn't really sure just how long.
"Hey dude...glad to see you awake again," he said with a huge grin. "Sorry, but it's gonna take a while for me not to be, like, totally happy every time I see you wake up. You have no idea how hard it was sitting here waiting for you...I tried so hard to keep believing you were gonna be ok...but it was just so hard...I was so worried...I missed you so much...I just don't know what I would have done if you hadn't..." he said softly, wiping a few tears from his face. But, his smile never disappeared.
He leaned down and gave me a little kiss on the forehead.
I looked up at him thoughtfully. "I think I kinda remember having some pretty strange dreams...or whatever...while I was conked out. I can't really remember any of the details, but I know you were there in my d-dreams Rusty. I know it really helped me, somehow, to have you in my dreams. I know I loved you in my dreams...and I still d-do, of course."
He just gave me another sexy grin.
"P-please don't be worried about us, ok Rusty? My memory is fine on that stuff. Really. Like, I can still remember all the stuff we've done together and all that. I d-definitely remember how much I love you. I just can't remember anything from...what day did he say it was? Last Friday? In my head, that day just d-doesn't exist right now..." I said apologetically.
Rusty gave me a little smile, but I could read the concern that was still in his eyes.
"Hey, it's ok dude...don't worry about that. We just need to worry about getting you better, and getting you outta here. It's driving me crazy right now just being able to hold your hand a little bit, or give you little kisses on your head and stuff. I mean, I missed you SO MUCH...and now you're sittin' here...and I just wanna...well, you know..." he said with a slight blush.
Just like she timed it that way, Nurse Washington strolled into the room, and surveyed the scene. "Well Mr. Ian...judging by your alertness and all, I'm bettin' that your stomach is just starting to remind you that it's awake now too...am I right?" she said in a light-hearted way, giving me a knowing smile.
"Yes M'am, it is kinda growling d-down there. I don't even remember the last time I ate anything," I explained.
"They should be bringing something around for you to eat any minute now. Since your stomach has been empty for so long, I want you to go slowly. We're gonna start out with some jello and some yogurt...and if that sits well with you, maybe a little fruit. For dinner I think we'll try Mashed potatoes and gravy. That sound ok to you hon? According to your parents, you don't have any food allergies or any strong dislikes in those areas," she smiled.
"That sounds ok to me, Nurse Washington."
"Now Mr. Ian, we're gonna be together here for a couple more days, so you best get to callin' me Verna, ok?"
"Yes V...Verna," I said with a smile. I liked her. She just had one of those large personalities that went well with her other proportions...and simply didn't allow people not to like her.
I leaned back against the pillow and took a deep breath. When did talking about what to eat for lunch get to be so tiring? I wondered.
Nurse Verna looked at me thoughtfully, and said "Once we got some food in you, I think your energy level will pick up, hon. Maybe later this afternoon we'll get you out of that bed and take a little trip to the bathroom...won't that be exciting? If you do ok with that, tomorrow we might take a little walk down the hallway, ok?" she smiled.
She walked out and returned momentarily with a food tray, which she placed in front of me.
"Now, you take your time with that...I know how most teenage boys like to eat, and there's no need to rush in here," she laughed. "After lunch you'll probably want to sleep a little. Later this afternoon the Neurologist and the Detective will be back to see you, so get some rest, you hear?" she said, in a friendly way...yet, at the same time making it pretty clear that it wasn't merely just a polite request. I got the feeling that Verna could be very persuasive when she needed to be.
She looked thoughtfully at Rusty. "And don't you be keepin' him awake if he wants to take a nap, either," she warned him.
He have her a reassuring smile as she left the room.
I took a bite of Jello, and thought to myself while I ate slowly. I looked over at Rusty, who was watching me intently.
"I'm sorry for all this, Rusty. I know how hard it must have been for you. I can imagine what I would feel like if something hap-pened to you. It kinda hurts me to think what you must have been going through," I said, feeling the beginning of a tear in my eye. "I can't tell you how happy I was to see you there the first time I opened my eyes. I was so relieved...knowing I made it back to you...that I just slept the rest of the night with this p-peaceful, happy feeling inside me. I guess it's kinda hard to describe..." I said apologetically.
"Ian...dude," he sighed, shaking his head, "Don't even worry about that. It's all over now, and it certainly wasn't your fault. You're here now and you're awake. That's all I need," he sighed. "Heck ya, it was pretty hard at first; but Tim got me straightened out. He helped me keep my head together when I started to lose it a little bit."
"You know," he continued after a short pause, "I've been sittin' here for the last couple hours while you were sleeping, and I had a chance to think about some stuff. I realized two important things from all of this: I realized that I love you more than anything in the world, and that I never want to live without you, dude," he said, giving me a watery-eyed smile. "Not that I didn't love you before, but you know...these kinda things really make you see things in a new light. I also realized that I have a really good friend who would do almost anything for me if I asked him, and up until now I've never really appreciated him for it. But, that's gonna change starting right now. I promise that Tim won't ever regret being there for me," he said confidently.
"He seems like a good guy," I agreed. "I d-don't really know him that well, but he's sure helped me a few times. I think he's been keep-ping an eye on me, because of you...hasn't he?" I asked with a smile.
"I guess so..." he agreed sheepishly. "But, I think he's kinda fond of you too."
My stomach grumbled again, and I turned my attention back to my jello.
I guess I fell asleep after lunch, because I was awakened by the sound of voices just outside my room. Slowly, my brain began to process what I was hearing...
"So, Dr. Di Mascio, this is just temporary, right? I mean, he never stuttered like that before...or had a hard time thinking of the right words to say. It's like he's thinking in slow motion...Heck, he's one of the smartest guys I've ever seen. It's really hard to see him like this," he said, with an air of sadness.
"Rusty, you just need to have patience...and don't say anything to make him feel bad about it, ok? We'll do a few short tests today, and a few more tomorrow. Most of the time the cognitive impairments are short term with more moderate traumas like this. But, sometimes they can be permanent. We just have to wait and see...and give him all the support we can."
It took me a second to digest what was being said. Cognitive impairments? Hmmm.... I searched the recesses of my brain for the meaning of those words...cognitive impairments... cognitive impairments...WAIT! He's saying I have some kind of brain damage? Was I really stuttering? Talking slowly?
My heart sank like a ton of bricks, and suddenly I was frightened.
They think I have brain damage?
I sat there for a minute trying to absorb the meaning of all this new information. Rusty walked into the room with a smile on his face. But, he took one look at me, and the smile vanished. "Oh shit," he muttered to himself.
Lips trembling, I looked up into his face through the tears in my eyes, and I totally lost it. I broke down crying, as he hurried to the side of the bed and carefully wrapped me in his arms.
"Shhh...it's ok dude...everything is gonna be fine...shhhh..." he tried to soothe me.
But, it didn't really help. I sank deeper and deeper into complete depression and despair. As screwed up as it seemed at times, my brain was also my best asset...the sole source of my few unique gifts and talents. Oh god! How screwed up am I gonna be now? Am I still gonna be...you know, me? I just couldn't manage get that one scary thought out of my mind...
My brain is damaged...