CHAPTER 67 - ONLY 5 MINUTES
Shit. I thought it was all clear, I saw them go out. Days like this, I seriously feel like a creepy stalker, but sadly that’s the only way I have to get to see my girl-I mean, Silvia. In one thing Tess was right: Silvia is not my girlfriend anymore. Before all that shit happened, we’d been broken up for over three months.
That won’t stop me from claiming my rights, though. I should have married her long ago, now they couldn’t keep me away. The restraining order was magically withdrawn, though I’m not sure why. However it still remains that she has guard dogs 24/7, so I gotta be sneaky. I feel 17 again, when I sneaked into girls’ rooms when their parents were asleep.
Hey, I was always asked to sneak in, for your information. Just because I’ve been in jail twice and I’m positively a jerk, doesn’t mean I’m also a perv. Hell, girls begged me to sneak into their bed. They often still do. But that’s another story and not really the right time to tell it.
Sorry, I’ve got this bad habit, my brain always seeks the quickest way out of Hell. In this case I’m just trying to get back some fucked up normality, or the one I’d gotten used to. I would mouth off nonsense, my girlfriend would roll her eyes, call me a jerk, yet laugh, then we would wrestle on the couch until it got not so innocent anymore.
9 months in a relationship fuck you up, you know. You get used to an easy life, made of Netflix & chill nights, take-out, smart movies because your girlfriend hates crappy comedies, the delicious smell of her cooking every morning and every evening, the times she slaps your hand away when you try to eat before due, the times she proves you she may actually be stronger than you, the times you remind yourself she’s definitely cleverer than you ... the stupid smile on your face when you realize you must have used up all your bonuses, because how in fucking Hell could you get this lucky?
And the worst ... the times the smart movie she picked bores the hell out of you, so you fill the time with plans. You start planning your life together. Like, really planning. Not just some vague we’ll be together for a long time, but a damn detailed timeline.
Like ... you propose on her 30th birthday, because she told you she doesn’t believe in marriage, but she may reconsider it once she’s turned 30. Like ... you actually write down mentally all the shit you’ll do to propose to her, only to then delete it all, because you know goddamn well she’s gonna laugh in your face if you get too mushy. So you reconsider a very gentleman-like beer-proposal, until you lose yourself in thought for too long, so she realizes you’re not following the movie, and before she gets mad, you blurt out: “Fucking marry me already.”
And of course, she laughs in your face at that, because, who the hell do you think you are, to ask her to marry you barely four months into the relationship, when she’s not even sure whether she hates the color of your living room or not, when she hasn’t even changed all your furniture yet, even though the idea that you’ve probably fucked someone else against each and every single surface you used with her drives her insane.
You know, that kind of normality, you miss it. When you spend over a year without her and months watching her in a coma, you miss every single detail. Even the worthless fights you had. Even the little things that once irked you. And suddenly the 9 months where you fight every three days seem all like fucking Paradise. Because you would fight her until you exhale your last, if only that meant she could be back.
Sorry. I’m not working nor do I have a girlfriend to mind 24/7, so I’ve got a shitload of time to kill while I sit outside the hospital, waiting for Nurse Jackie to give me a call to tell me when can I come up, and to a mind like mine, time is a dangerous enemy. Dangerous enough to lead me to the most unexpected place. Church.
I went to church. Hell, I do go to church. Every fucking Saturday. Not Sunday, because I don’t like the chaos of pretend-believers that swagger in with their pretty clothes, as if God were a nutty relative you’ve come to show off to, or a rich uncle you need to impress so he’ll leave you something in his will.
The point is, I go to church. Catholic church. I’m not a Catholic, I’m not even sure I’ve ever been anything religiously speaking, but ... you see, when your girl is smart as hell, the things you talk about go beyond I love you and we should fuck. You talk about politics, climate change, social problems, even linguistic problems more than just books, so you wind up talking religion. And you realize that your girlfriend is way more of a faithful type than you’d have ever guessed.
A non-practicing Catholic that believes in God, but not the Church. That’s how she put it. So I guess she wouldn’t really like me going to church at such times, actually, she’d say I’m just one of those hypocritical believers that seek God only when they need, but don’t even have the slightest clue about faith. Because faith is that thing you still have, even when He’s gone so heavy on you, He’s made your life so fucking miserable, that you believe He exists only because of His fucked up sense of humor.
Again, the point is, I go to church. And I’ve found this priest, he’s pretty good. Nurse Jackie pointed me to him, said in times like this we all need guidance. I think she was just afraid I would derange, which is fair, after all, I have been on suicide watch for over a year, and at home there is actually a pretty tasty bullet I might eat someday if ...
So I go to church. I sit there, me and the three old ladies that come to hear mass on Saturdays, and I listen. And I even like it sometimes. Especially when he talks about redemption. Because he makes me actually believe I may actually be redeemed, there might actually be a way for me to be redeemed.
Don’t worry, I’m not gonna become the Pope’s bitch. I’m just killing time until I hear the news I’m in dire need of. For now, I can use church to get my mind off of things. There’s something about listening someone speak about sins and burning in the flames of Hell that puts you off. Hell, I haven’t had sex in over 2 years yet I’m even fine with it. I mean I’m dying, but I’m somewhat fine with it. I suppose that, had I resorted to religion other than violence, alcohol and sex, I would have avoided a lot of trouble. Then again, I’m probably gonna quit going to church the moment Silvia wakes up.
Anyhow, I guess I’ve trailed off a little too much. I was saying, I thought it was all clear, Nurse Jackie said the room was empty, but it wasn’t.
I eyed Mrs. Banchi there, sitting at her daughter’s bedside. How many are the chances she’ll let me stay without screaming blue murder? Her husband treats me like I’m his archenemy. To think he once indirectly implied he rooted for me in the race to his daughter’s heart. No doubt Sir Douche there is feeding him dirt about me. Then again, for a father, it’s enough knowing you’re responsible for his daughter’s coma.
I know both Mr. and Mrs. Banchi quit their jobs to be here. Well, more like, they got fired, because no employer is that sympathetic to allow such a long leave. I think they’ve been here for over a year now. I’d worry about maintenance, I remember Silvia told me her family isn’t really wealthy, I mean, they don’t have much troubles making ends meet and they have their savings, but that’s just about it. Opposite to the Watsons, the Banchis aren’t at all made of money.
However, some good samaritan is taking care of Silvia’s parents, apparently. Leave it to my uncle to be this sneaky when it’s about a good deed. He wouldn’t care if people knew he’d murdered someone, but it irks the hell out of him to let people know he’s helping someone in difficulty. Uncle Keith gave them one of our apartments for rent, at a very lousy sum, just because Mr. Banchi wouldn’t have it of staying for free, and he’s been taking care of every financial problem they may encounter. That’s actually the only reason why they can afford to be here all this time.
I took a deep breath, and stepped into the room. Mrs. Banchi didn’t even see me, as focused as she was on her daughter. I can’t even begin to imagine how it is for her. She’s already lost one daughter, and now ... if she leaped to her feet, and started punching me, I would understand it. If she didn’t want me anywhere near her daughter, I would understand that, too.
I didn’t make myself known, I just went to sit opposite to her, beside Silvia. Mrs. Banchi saw me, but said nothing. I took my girl’s hand, to warm it, because it’s always so goddamn cold, it gets colder by the day. I exhaled sharply as I beheld her. Nothing ever changes in her. Day by day, it’s always the same. They said she would wake up, but it’s impossible to predict when. It’s entirely up to her.
When I heard muffled sounds, I realized Mrs. Banchi was praying. To be honest, I envy her strength. She sits here, day by day, and prays and prays and prays. I wonder how does she never lose faith. But then, in the same predicament I kinda found mine, so maybe it’s not that impossible to understand. Apparently it’s true, even the worst scumbags turn to religion in the moment of need.
"Prega con me.” Mrs. Banchi said abruptly, causing my eyes to bulge out of their sockets.
"Prega con me.”
“Uh ... I don’t ... I’m sorry, Ma’am, I don’t speak Italian.”
She took a deep breath, and reached out for my hand. I pulled back, as if I’d been electrified, the moment she touched me. Her hand was warm and ... and it felt too familiar. I used to do that with my mom. Whenever I was ... whenever I had a bad time, I was scared, or anything, mom held my hand, and I instantly felt better. Because her hand was warm, and cozy, and it made me feel ... you know, protected, like a normal kid, back to when things in my life were actually normal.
"Ripeti con me.” Silvia’s mother said, leaving her hand out there, as if not wanting to force me, but willing to hold mine. I wonder if she knows who I am. She’s barely ever ... enough connected to the world to know what goes on around this bed, so maybe she hadn’t even realized who was she talking to.
"Jake ... prega con me. Lei ti può sentire.”
I think I choked on air. So she does know who I am. Then why was she ... why was she so kind? Why did it feel like she wanted a bonding moment or something? I don’t even know what she told me, but it sounded serious and emotional.
I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes as I searched her hand. I felt a sharp shock run through my spine the moment she touched it, but I blocked out the memories to remain in the moment. “What ... what do you want me to do?” She doesn’t even understand English, so I’m not sure she understood what I said. Quite the funny couple we are.
"Prega con me.” She didn’t even smile, yet she was able to convey as much tenderness as I couldn’t even fathom. To be honest, it’s been so long, I think I don’t even remember what it’s like to have a mom. Someone who gives up her own self to take care of you, someone who leaves everything she knows to come sit at your bedside, and just ... wait, until you get better. Someone who spends her days praying for you, barely sleeps a wink, never leaves your side. Simply, someone who loves you unconditionally. It’s been so long, I can’t remember what it feels like to have all that.
"Lei ha bisogno di te, se preghiamo insieme forse andrà meglio.”
How do I make her understand I don’t get a word of what she says? I should have learnt Italian when I could, I guess, but the most I learnt was how to say I love you. “Ma’am, I ... I don’t know what-”
“She’s saying she wants you to pray with her.”
I nearly jumped when I heard his voice, but with his wife’s hand in mine, I couldn’t move. “Mr. Banchi, I-”
“I can’t keep you away from her, I know that.” He said sternly. “I’ve tried, but it seems you have your own resources.”
I closed my eyes. “I know you hate me, sir, and you have every reason to, but ... your daughter is all I have.”
“Is she?” He scoffed, cold. “You have friends, and money, and a family. You have everything.”
“With all due respect, sir, you don’t know the first thing about my life.”
“And that’s exactly why I don’t want you around my daughter.” Silvia’s father spat, coming closer to the bed. I’d have moved, but his wife’s grip on my hand was tight. “I used to think you were the right person for her, you could be her light ... I realize now just how wrong I was. You’ve done nothing but ruin her.”
“However, my wife believes you deserve a chance.” Mr. Banchi claimed, going to stand beside her. “She believes you’re not as bad as we think if you love our girl enough to get in trouble for her.”
“You risked a third conviction to come see her. I’ve been told that’s something pretty serious for you Americans.”
“Well, yes, I ... technically speaking, I’m on probation, so I gotta follow certain rules, like ... curfew, telling where I am and whatnot. And I’ve been convicted twice so ... with a third conviction I would spend the rest of my life in prison.”
Mr. Banchi nodded, though not quite convinced. “That’s why my wife says you deserve a chance, so I withdrew the restraining order.”
I turned to her, marveled, and ... she did the most surprising thing, she smiled at me. I don’t think she understood what her husband told me, but she probably sensed it. Her hand in mine made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I kept having these ... motherly flashbacks, it was weird and unsettling at the same time.
I quit thinking about my mom so long ago that, hadn’t I trapped all the family memories I have in some deep, deep, deep, deep recess of my mind, I’d have probably forgotten what she looked like already. The first period I forced myself to think of her, in order to maintain the vivid memory of what I did to her, but then I realized that ... those thoughts were killing me day by day, so I did what I do best: I coped, or rather, I forced myself to cope. Yet now here I was, pervaded by memories that menaced to flood out all at once.
So I forcedly focused on the matters at hand. “Does that mean you’re going to let me see her?” I asked, hopeful.
“It means that I’m not going to call security right now.” Silvia’s father claimed, glancing at his wife before pulling back. “You have 10 minutes.”
“Oh, come on, I-”
“Ten minutes a day.”
“And you’ll never be alone with her.”
“Why, you think I’m gonna try to finish the job?” I scoffed, gaining his blood-freezing glare. Ok, bad joke, really bad, bad joke. I sighed, trying to disentangle myself from Silvia’s mother grip, while her father seemed willing to incinerate me. “Alright, ten minutes a day.” I agreed. “And ...” I turned to her. “Mrs. Banchi sits with me.”
“No, I meant-”
“You said, I cannot be alone with your daughter. So I presume you’d want someone to guard me while I’m in here. Fine. Okay, then your wife stays. Or are you afraid I-” I stopped myself when I realized that dark jokes wouldn’t help my cause. “It’s just 10 minutes. And you can watch from the window.”
Mr. Banchi seemed to ponder for a moment. He exchanged a few words in Italian with his wife. I didn’t understand shit, so I focused on the fact that Mrs. Banchi’s voice seemed much softer than her daughter’s, or maybe she was just too tired to speak louder. In the end, her husband finally agreed, and left us alone.
There, she gripped my hand again, making me feel shivers. She offered me a tiny smile, despite her tear-stricken face, and once again repeated: ”Prega con me.”
Pray with me. I sighed. “Ma’am, I ...” I raked my mind for any words I could use that would be easier to understand, or something that’s remained in my mind from the trip I made in Italy so long ago. “Io ...” Well, that’s a start. “Io not ... I mean, non ... Io non sono uh ... religious ... relighioso?” I seriously should have learnt this fucking language when I could.
Mrs. Banchi barely cracked a tiny, sympathetic smile. “Pray with me, Jake.” She said this time in English.
“Ok, uh ... you ...” I gestured with my hand for her to talk. “Io-uh ... repeat, I mean ... ripeto?” First thing when Silvia wakes up, she’ll have to teach me Italian.
Her mother nodded, and started. “Padre Nostro, che sei nei cieli ...” That sounded familiar. She waited for me at each phrase, and I complied. I don’t know what I felt, praying with the woman that was supposed to become my mother-in-law ... I think it passes every level of awkward I’ve ever been in.
After a good five minutes of prayers whose words I repeated without even understand, Mrs. Banchi stood, leaving my hand. I frowned, confused. Did I say something wrong? She took out her phone, and typed something on it. A moment later, I heard Google’s automated voice saying: “I go out, you stay.”
“Uh ... your ...” I sighed, tired of this damn language barrier, and took out my phone. I did the same as her, typed my answer, and let Google translate: “A tuo marito non piacerà“. Your husband wont’ like it. Man, I should have thought about Google Translate sooner.
Mrs. Banchi shook her head, then typed on Google. “I’ll take care of my husband.” The automated voice said, then Silvia’s mother typed again. “She needs you, so you stay. Talk to her. Help her out of the fog that has trapped her.”
I blinked my eyes, surprised. And here I thought everybody in this family cursed me to Hell and back. Mrs. Banchi nodded encouragingly, and pocketed her phone. She wiped away the remnants of her tears, and stepped outside. From the window, I could see that her husband didn’t agree one bit with what she just did, so they argued, but she dragged him away. I would have wanted to know whether I just caused a major crack in their marriage, but I decided to focus on the now.
Turning back to the bed, I took a deep breath. “Okay ... your mother is cool, but still I have only 5 minutes.”