WHAT LIES WITHIN, Part II:
"I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams."
-- W.B. Yeats
Where the heck was everybody?
I looked at the clock again, for like, the millionth time in the last hour. It was almost four o'clock in the afternoon. I had just assumed Rusty would come here right after school, but he still wasn't here yet. I wasn't expecting a surprise party or anything, but I was kinda bummed that I hadn't seen anyone all day except doctors and nurses and stuff...not that my mood could get much lower right now.
Well, at least my Mom did come by for a few seconds this morning to see how I was doing. Both of the parents were supposed to come after work to meet with the doctor again to discuss the tests they did on me today. What fun...not!
Ya, the stupid tests. Tests, and more tests. I was sooo sick of their stupid tests! All they did was remind me that my brain was supposed to be damaged from my injury. The sad, disappointed little looks I got from all the technicians or whatever they're called, every time I stuttered or couldn't remember the right answer fast enough were like a kick right in the gut. Over and over again. By the end of the morning, I was already in tears.
After lunch, I was wheeled downstairs to the fMRI machine. After a lot of fuss, they laid me down on this sliding table, and stuck my head inside this giant, noisy machine. They asked me more questions again, and had me tap my fingers, count backwards from 100, and look at different images projected in front of me. By the time I got back to my room, I had a killer headache. The nurse gave me some type of medication, and then I tried to take a nap. But, I was sooo anxious to see Rusty's amazingly handsome face peer around my door, I couldn't do anything but just sit here and wait impatiently.
I stared off into space for a while...trying not to think about how depressed I was feeling, or how much my head hurt from this darn headache...just watching the little specks of dust that floated in and out of the beams of sunlight that streamed across the room through the louvered window shades. Soon I felt like I was totally absorbed in my own little world, as I watched the slow dance of dark and light, as the little dust specs drifted in and out of the sun's rays. If there were any sounds around me, I couldn't hear them. I think my mind had completely tuned them out.
I watched with curiosity as the scene began to change subtly. The little dust specs and rays of light transformed themselves from straight lines into a more complicated, diffuse pattern from which an image was trying to emerge. It kinda reminded me of a hologram, from the time when we studied that in Physics class...especially since the image wasn't exactly in color, it seemed.
It was the image of a younger teenage boy with short, light hair. He appeared to be looking at me with concern...like he was studying me...or thinking deeply about something. I blinked my eyes, because I was pretty sure I was just imagining what I saw. But, the image remained, no matter how many times I blinked. In the back of my head, something told me that this image was familiar to me, yet I had no idea where I had seen it...seen him?...before.
I looked into his eyes, hoping to learn what this was about, or something...anything...just to satisfy my curiosity, or at least come up with a believable explanation of what was happening here...for myself, if nothing else. I'm not starting to have hallucinations, am I? I wondered. This isn't just my damaged brain playing tricks on me, is it? I asked myself sadly.
As I pondered the image floating a few feet in front of my bed, I realized that I couldn't really see into his eyes; because, it was like he was looking past me...or right through me...like we weren't even in the same room. Then suddenly, his focus changed, and his eyes seemed to lock right onto mine...and it felt like he was suddenly in control of my thoughts and feelings. He smiled softly.
I felt a warm glow growing inside me, washing my sadness and depression away for the moment. A tremendous feeling of being loved filled my heart. Somehow, I just knew things were gonna get better...I was gonna be ok. I could feel a sense of hope and optimism growing inside me that I hadn't felt in a while. I smiled back at him in thanks.
He smiled again in acceptance of my gratitude. Then, his eyes abruptly shifted towards the door...and mine followed. I watched the door for a second; and when nothing happened, I looked back to where the image had been. But, it was gone. As I stared desperately into the space where the image had been...searching through the dust motes and rays of sunlight for any sign that I wasn't imagining what had just happened...the door to my room flung open.
A breathless and disheveled Tim Petersen rushed into the room.
"Is he here? Have you seen him?" he asked urgently.
"You mean Rusty?" I asked in surprise. "No...I was kinda expecting him to be here as soon as school was out, but he never came. Why? Is something wrong? What's going on?" I wondered aloud. "Do you know where he could be?"
A look of disappointment played across his face for a second; then a look of determination and resolve took its place.
"If you see him, just make sure he stays here until I get back. It's really important, ok?" he asked, giving me a pleading, but forceful look. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
I could only nod my head weakly in reply.
Before I could formulate another question in my mind, he had turned and rushed out of the room, hastily grabbing his cell phone from his pocket. What little bit of positive feelings I was beginning to have, just vanished right out the door with him. Something just didn't feel right all of a sudden...
"Like I said before," The doctor droned on, "patients with PCS--or Post Concussion Syndrome--need to understand that headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, and decreased short-term memory are common in the first 3-6 months after the injury...and that these symptoms usually fully resolve in most patients after a mild to moderate injury. However, persistent impairment is possible. Also, you need to know that anxiety, depression, decreased concentration--or any other persistent symptoms you might have--may improve gradually on their own. Or, we can help the healing process with specific rehabilitation techniques, psychological support, and possibly even use of prescription medications."
Ya, ya...I heard all that stuff yesterday, I complained to myself. Just get on with it...what did the tests show already?
"The good news, Mr. & Mrs. Finestra... Ian..." he said, being sure to make eye contact with all of us, "is that the tests went very well. There doesn't appear to be any major systemic damage revealed in the fMRI, and any cognitive deficits appear to be mild. It's just like any other healing process...it will take a little time. What happens in a brain trauma like this is that the brain gets jostled around quite a bit--it's kinda like a big lump of jello--and some of the billions of little neuron connections get stretched or broken. But, the brain can re-grow new connections to replace the damaged ones. Sometimes small areas of the brain can actually die due to loss of blood flow from hemorrhaging or blood clots just like in a stroke, but the fMRI didn't show anything along those lines for Ian here. Overall, I'd say he's pretty lucky. I've seen much worse from less severe accidents."
Well, ok I guess. Things didn't sound too bad, according to the doctor. Right now, I would just be happy to get rid of this migraine headache, I think.
The parents also seemed a little relieved with the doctor's report, and soon excused themselves to go home for dinner...after making sure it was ok with me, of course. I didn't mind at all, because I wasn't really in the mood for all of their stupid (but well meaning, of course) questions, and the useless hovering. I really only had one thing on my mind, and anything else that distracted me from my primary obsession got annoying pretty fast.
Where was he?!?
It was almost seven pm, and still no sign of Rusty. I wasn't quite sure whether I was depressed from simply missing his presence, angry with him for not showing up or calling and making me crazy, or just worried that something was terribly wrong. Maybe all three, really.
I sat there in my bed in total silence, idly poking at the objects on my plate that were masquerading as dinner. I was trying really hard not to let myself get too worked up with worry, but it just wasn't working. My overall mood was plummeting quickly, and I found myself on the verge of tears again pretty soon.
When I heard the door latch begin to open, my heart soared as my head turned quickly in anticipation...
The now familiar form of a tall auburn haired skate-punk gradually slipped into view. I frowned to myself in disappointment, because I was hoping to see the smaller, slimmer, more perfectly sculpted form of my boyfriend. And, at well over 6 feet tall (6'-6" if I had to guess...), the broad-shouldered, gangly proportions Tim presented couldn't have been more different. He looked at me, and gave me a wistful smile as he crossed the room, sort of acknowledging my disappointment. I had a feeling that he knew a lot more than I did at the moment. He pulled a chair up to the side of the bed, and sat down heavily. He studied me for a second, and I could practically see his mind searching desperately for the right words to say.
"Hey dude..." he finally began, with a sigh. "Sorry I had to hit and run earlier. And, before I say anything else, I just wanna tell ya that I'm really glad things are lookin' a little bit better for ya today. A lot of people were worried about ya," he said, with a sincere look.
I just couldn't stand it any more. "So? Did you find him? Where is he? Is he ok? What's going on?!?" I blurted out impatiently.
"Ok...I know...I know...just slow down, dude...take a deep breath here...we got a lot to talk about..." he said wearily...