What am I?
I’m a failure! I sigh, hanging my head in defeat. I walk along wallowing in my sorrow. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. I’m nineteen. At this point, I should know who I am. Is there even a chance that I could change? I really hoped there was but doesn’t seem likely. I wanted things to get better so badly. You did everything you could, I try to assure myself, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. It’s true that I did all I could, but why didn’t it work? I moved towns, started a new school, tried making friends, studied different subjects, and tried to put my best foot forward at all times. Everything I did was so I could have the chance to finally outrun my past…so that maybe I wouldn’t be a loser for once…but it was all to no avail. I’m no different than I was a year ago.
My misty breath rises into the air. It’s getting cold. I finally hold my head up. Oh, it looks like I’ve wandered into the park. Leaves rustle down the empty road. The leafless tree branches sway in the breeze. The sun is almost down, and the street lights are coming on. It’ll only get colder from here; maybe I should head back. Thoughts of what I’ll see when I go back fill my mind. I pull my hood up over my long brown hair. I’ll just tough it out for now. There’s no way I’m going back right now. An empty park is the perfect place for a nobody like me. At least, I’ll be able to sit in my misery in peace with no eyes will be judging me.
My head slumps down again and I start walking. Everyone says that you shouldn’t walk in the park by yourself, particularly at night, but who cares? Not me. It doesn’t matter where I’m going or what happens next. Does anything matter at this point? I’ve worked so hard this year…and everything I tried to do just blew up in my face. No matter what I did to change, I stayed the same: a failure.
With each step, that word repeats again and again. Failure. Failure. Failure. A rhythmic cadence that only solidifies my hopelessness. Why am I like this? I berate myself. Why can’t anything ever go my way? It doesn’t have to be much; just one reminder that I’m not a complete loser.
Ever since I was a kid, all I could do was make a mess of everything. My grades throughout school were barely average, despite my best efforts to score higher. I haven’t gained any exceptional skills. When I was older, I tried to work a couple of jobs. I was fired because I couldn’t meet their standards. Socially, I was even worse. My friendship skills were mediocre at best, so I was mostly alone.
Boyfriends…forget about it. Like any boy would want to be around a girl like me. I’m not attractive. My skin’s dark, but not the kind of dark that gains everyone’s attention. My dark hair isn’t silky smooth or stylish. My body isn’t sexy; it doesn’t even have the underdeveloped qualities that make a girl cute. I’m just average. To make things worse, my personality doesn’t even pull them in. Living the rest of my life alone is something that I’ve just come to accept with time.
I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be so negative. That I should accept myself for who I am. I have! Believe it or not, I have accepted some things about myself. I accepted that I will never amount to anything. I’m never going to have a family. I’ll probably be unemployed most of the time. Likely, I’ll do what I’m doing now: trudging through life alone.
What? Did they expect me to think of myself more highly just because I decided to accept myself? “Not a chance,” I whisper to myself. As I walk down the road, I pull the letter out of my pocket. I stare at it for a second. It’s hard to fathom that a single letter could end up ruining everything you’ve been working toward. Huh. Does that also mean that a single letter could also make all of your dreams come true? Guess I’ll never know.
I open it again. I read the letter over and over as I walk. Each time the printed words burn deeper into my brain, forcing me to face my faults. I don’t know why I’m torturing myself like this. I understood it the first time. The letter was clear. This belongs in the garbage with all of the junk that only reinforces my failings.
Maybe I was hoping that somehow, I would discover a new meaning to the text. I could almost see it. I would reread a particular sentence and burst into uncontrolled laughter. I’d slap myself in the forehead, not believing how stupid I was. I’d berate myself saying, “You silly girl!” or “How did I make such a rookie mistake?” I would see that what was so plainly written was not the truth. But, I live in reality, and this is the truth: not a single word was wrong. I’ve officially flunked out of college.
That is what my grandfather would call, “The straw that broke the camel’s back.” I know that college isn’t the end of the road for everybody, but it is for me. I was so sure that maybe my life would get better once I went to college. I thought that a little change was all I needed. I tried my best throughout the year, holding out for a miracle, but I became overwhelmed. I kept myself positive, thinking things would get better with time, but my grades declined every day.
I still tried my best. I stayed up later each night, trying to make sure that whatever assignments I turned in would be my best work. I even started praying…I’m not even religious! Somehow, things would get better at some point, right? Wrong! Nothing got better, so what was the point of even trying?
I can just imagine what everyone is going to say when they find out. “Jade, why are you so lazy?” “Jade, you’re such a space-cadet!” “Why can’t you be more like your cousin? She would never flunk out of college!” “How did you flunk out in one year? Were you trying to fail?” “Guess you’re going to have to get a job…oh wait. You can’t even hold a job down.” “How many jobs did you have in high school? Fifteen?” “What a disgrace to the Wilkinson name.”
It’ll never end! That’s all I’m going to hear until I finally do something that my family considers ‘good enough.’ Even then, they’ll still tease me about my past failings. They still laugh about the time I confused the mailman for a burglar. Maybe if I didn’t attack him, they wouldn’t have teased me so mercilessly. Still, I can’t imagine anything worse than going home right now.
“Perfect.” I crumple the piece of paper in my hand and throw it on the street. As the sky darkens, I yawn. My eyes blink and my shoulders sag. All of the sleep I’ve been losing to finish my classes has finally caught up to me. I look at a nearby rickety, wooden bench. I don’t know why, but it looks so comfortable. Maybe I’ll just sit down for a minute. I walk over and sit down on the bench.
It creaks underneath me, but I don’t pay attention to it. I sigh, my misty breath rising. This feels good. I stretch out my muscles and rub my neck. With each passing second, the bench feels more comfortable to the point where I don’t want to get up. Why not just stay here? I wonder. There’s no point in going back to my room, is there? All they’ll want me to do is start packing. I really don’t want to deal with that right now. At least out here, I can pretend that I don’t have any problems.
A few thoughts about not staying in the park cross my mind, but I ignore them. It’s nice and quiet out here. I don’t have to stay long, just long enough to catch a quick nap. I lie down, pulling my arms inside my grey hoodie and curling up into a fetal position.
I’m not exactly warm, but I’m not very cold. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do for now. I close my eyes and try to fall asleep. The chilling air causes my nose to start running, but it doesn’t matter. With all of my bad luck, it’s not like a runny nose is that bad by comparison. I pull my face deeper into my hoodie. My breath warms my neck and shoulders. I push away all of my worries and for a moment, I rest peacefully.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a voice demands suddenly. I ignore it. Probably has nothing to do with me. “Hey, get up! Girl! Wake up!” Finally, I open my eyes to find a bearded man in tattered clothes standing over me. One of his fists clenches a cart of junk next to him; the other is balled at his side, shaking. He doesn’t look happy. “What are you doing?” he huffs again.
“Trying to sleep,” I murmur. I roll over on my side, turning away from him. If I wasn’t so tired, I would have reacted completely differently, but what can I say? I don’t exactly think clearly when I’m tired.
“But that’s my bench,” he whines angrily. “You can’t sleep on my bench! It’s mine.” Two hands suddenly grab my leg and jerk me off of the bench. I yell and fall to the ground.
“Ow,” I yell at him. Luckily, I caught myself so I didn’t hit my head. The suddenness of the situation and the impact of falling has pulled me out of my tired state and I can finally think clearly. I stand up quickly. “What’s the big idea?”
The bum sits firmly on the bench and glares at me. “Find your own place! It took me weeks to find this spot. Now, buzz off.” He grabs an umbrella from his cart and shakes it at me.
If I was the violent type, I probably could have taken him. He’s older than me, but doesn’t look any stronger than me. He’s a bum. How strong could he be? However, I’m not the violent type and I’m thinking well enough to know I’m not violent. It’s just park bench. It’s not worth fighting over. I sigh, dusting myself off. I walk past the bench, heading deeper into the park. I hold my head up high and ignore the obvious smile the bum wore on his face. So what if he enjoyed kicking me off the bench? He isn’t worth it. Just act like he didn’t do anything to upset you. Be the bigger person.
When I’m out of his eyesight, I drop my tough exterior. My shoulders slump, my head hangs, and I slowly trudge through the park. Getting kicked off of a bench by a park bum…that has to be a whole new level of failure for me.
I shiver as I realize how much the temperatures have dropped. I guess sleeping on a bench was a bad idea after all. Probably would have been a popsicle by morning. But would that have been so bad? Could I even freeze to death at these temperatures? I don’t know and I’m not interested enough to try and figure it out.
I keep walking, not caring where I end up. I turn my head when I faintly hear the small sound of running water. Wow, I’ve already reached Omaha River: the one river that runs right through the heart of the city. Wait, if I’ve reached the river, then…I look ahead, and spot the Omaha Bridge, which is barely lit by a few street lights. I slightly smile. This was the most famous landmark in the city. Everyone visited it at least once a year. It’s said that if you throw a coin off the bridge, your wish will come true; at least, that’s the tradition.
When I first heard about it, I stood right in the center and threw ten dollars of pennies in the water. I made the same wishes over and over again. “Let me get settled in my new home. Give me friends. Help me pass my classes. Let my parents be proud of me. Help me do something right for once!” I sigh as I think back. None of those wishes came true…obviously…what a waste of ten dollars.
Without even thinking, I walk up and stand at the middle of the bridge. I reach into my pocket, searching for a coin. I know it’s a pointless ritual, but at this point I’d try anything. My fingers wrap around something and I pull it out, to find a piece of lint. I shake my head. Did I really think that I’d have a coin to spare?
I look at the lint in my hand and laugh. So, this is what my life has lead up to: standing on a bridge, alone, with only a piece of lint to make a wish with. I lean on the railing laughing uncontrollably. Tears roll down my cheeks as I shake with laughter. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. However, I always thought I’d laugh this hard under better circumstances.
Once my laughter has died down to slight giggles, I take the lent in my hand and look at it. I hand it tightly in my hand. “Please,” I whisper. “Let me do something right for once.” I don’t know if I’m asking the river or praying to a god I know isn’t listening to me. Then, I toss it over the side. The lint disappears into the night, leaving me alone, leaning on the railing. Now what?
I still don’t want to go back. They’re probably wondering where I am…maybe not. My roommates won’t care too much. They don’t even like staying in our dorm. If the school finds out I’m missing, they might try to find me. That’s only if they might be sued for not enforcing some kind of curfew, but who would sue for me? Like my family would have that kind of money.
So, where will I stay tonight? I could try finding another bench. No. I’m not risking someone kicking me off again. I don’t feel like having to stand up for myself either. It’d be best to avoid that kind of situation. I glance down at the cold water passing under the bridge. My eyes drift toward a clear walkway leading from the small mouth of the bridge up to the park road. A strange idea pops into my head.
At first, I dismiss it. That’s a ridiculous idea. Who in their right mind would even consider that as an option? Who knows what animals or garbage could be under there? I could easily get sick from going under there. I yawn, staring into space. As my fatigue begins to catch up with me again, the idea sounds better by the second. This bridge could be my shelter for tonight, I thought again. I’m tired, cold, and upset. Why not? Without another thought, I hurry off the bridge, down the path, and duck underneath the bridge.
The tunnel is only a few feet high. Despite the river running through the tunnel, there is enough space for me to lie down on the side. The ground is a bit muddy, but it’s dry enough that I’m not lying in water. It definitely feels warmer here than it was outside. I lie on my back staring at the ceiling a foot above my head. I hope I don’t sit up quickly from a bad dream. As soon as I settle on my back, my nostrils are overwhelmed by the pungent odors. I turn my head and realize how much trash has collected here. Disgusting. Who knows what’s here? Some of it’s probably molded. I gag, and a thought crosses my mind, I won’t be able to get any sleep here.
I’ll be up all night trying to cover my nose or ignore the odor. The smell would probably leave a sensory scar in my nose. I shake my head, realizing how stupid I’m being. I’m not staying here. I roll over, feeling the mud shift. Great, and I’ve more than likely ruined my clothes.
As I start to crawl back to the entrance, I begin to think things over. It’s dark out…I don’t know where I’m going. It starts to get dangerous now, doesn’t it? Maybe there’s something in the trash that I can use to keep people away. I crawl to the side and rummage through the garbage for moment. Used bags, empty bottles, cigarettes, pieces of cardboard, nothing of value. I reach to move a trash bag but stop myself again.
Have I really stooped this low? I groan at how pathetic I’m being. I’m looking through garbage underneath a bridge at night! Have I done a single rational thing all night? Humiliated at my situation, I bury my face in my dirty hands, not caring about the filth I was covering my face with. Then, the tears come.
Why do I have to be like this? I end up overreacting over the dumbest things. Did I really have to hide under a bridge to try and escape from my problems? What kind of childish logic is that? I think back to my wish at the bridge. Why couldn’t something go right for me for once? I can’t handle this anymore!
I turn to crawl out of the tunnel. As I turn, my hand brushes something. Whatever I just bumped felt cold and it slightly moved. A cold shiver runs up and down my spine. I freeze. Was that a bottle…no, it had a strange texture…almost like…I look in that direction. A worry fills my mind, a thought that I didn’t want to even consider. I look at the entrance of the tunnel. Should I just leave? No, I should at least check. It’s probably nothing right? I crawl toward it and reach out to grab…a human hand…and it’s attached to a man! I scream, dropping it. I scramble away.
I’m down here with a dead man! I panic. My breath comes out in short gasps. My forehead breaks into a sweat. I look down at my hand… a hand which had just touched a dead body! I rub it in the muddy ground. Rub off dead man’s germs! I quickly begin to crawl out of the tunnel. I don’t want to be down here a second longer!
Then, I hear an unfamiliar groan. I freeze again. I didn’t just hear that. I assure myself. You’re just hearing things. You didn’t just…another groan! I whirl my head around to see the shadowy hand fidgeting and the form of a man trying to move. Suddenly, the hand falls and the groaning stops.
I don’t move. What should I do? Am I supposed to help him? Is he dead now? Should I just leave him alone? No one ever told me how to handle a situation like this! Suddenly, a voice inside my head yells, “Go save him! Go help someone for a change and stop feeling sorry for yourself!” I stay still at first. I’ve never heard that voice in my life. Where did that come from? When did I start to have such selfless thoughts? However, the voice is powerful! It silences all of the other thoughts in my head. All I can hear is, Save him! For some reason, this voice stirs something inside of me, some emotion that I don’t really know.
Suddenly, I push the garbage aside, clearing a path between the man and the entrance. I crawl over to him as I clear the way. The closer I get to him, the wetter the ground becomes to the point where I’m crawling in the river water. It’s cold and soaks me to the bone, but I push on. This man needs me right now. Who cares if I get wet?
I feel around on the man’s neck…there’s a slight pulse. He’s alive! I gently shake him. “Sir, wake up.” He doesn’t move. “Sir, wake up.” His body lies still. He’s not walking out of here on his own. I’ll have to move him, but how am I going to get him out of here? I could try pulling him by his arm, but I don’t think that would help much. All I would end up doing is pull his arm out of its socket. I’ll need a better plan. I wrap my arms under his armpits.
I push myself to my knees, ducking to avoid hitting my head, and pull as hard as I can. He slides across the ground. He moves a bit easier than I thought, probably thanks to the mud and water. I can do this, I smile to myself. I keep pulling, moving him bit by bit towards the entrance.
As soon as his body is completely out of the water, his body slides at a slower pace. Still, I keep pulling him. To keep my arms and knees from hurting, I take quick breaks between each pull. After all, I have no idea how I’m going to get him out of this park. I’ll need to save my strength for later.
Finally, I manage to pull him out of the tunnel. I lay on my back and rest, patting him on the head. “I did it,” I breathe. As I look up at the night sky, I wonder, Now what? We’ve come this far. What’s the big plan now? I stand up and take a look at the man. Thanks to the lights on the bridge, I can see him even at this time of night. He’s a light-skinned man with black hair. He’s also tall and on the skinny side. I stop looking at him and focus my attention on examining him. Maybe those few first aid lessons might pay off for once.
As I feel around, I can’t help but wonder how he ended up like this. Maybe he’s just had too much to drink. His head, back, and legs seem fine, so I roll him over. The entire front of his body is covered in mud, if I wasn’t covered in mud as well, this might have bothered me. I quickly move my hands along his body, feeling through the mud. Why did he pass out?
As my hand moves around his stomach, I feel something a bit different: a hole in his clothes. I move my hand around it. That’s a big hole. I move my hand into the hole and I freeze. The hole just isn’t in his clothes. There’s a hole in his body! I pull my hand away quickly, not looking at it. I start taking deep breaths. You have to make sure, I tell myself. I look at my hand.
In the faint light, I see dripping blood falling from my wet palm. My stomach churns. I turn my head away and hurl. I heave over and over again, but I hadn’t eaten in a while, so stomach juices and air were the only things coming up. When I stop, I quickly wipe my hand on the ground, without looking at it. Then, I wipe my mouth with my dirty shirt. I take a deep breath and finally, turn my attention back to the wounded man
I feel my stomach churn again, but I steel my nerves and focus on the problem at hand. I bet he’d like to have a nurse taking care of him right now, but he’ll have to settle with me. I didn’t bother cleaning the wound because there’s nothing clean enough to take care of him with. I doubt my mud-covered hands or the dirty river water will do him much good. Instead, I leave the man’s shirt like it is, but I take off my grey hoodie and wrap it around his waist, rolling him over to tie the sleeves behind his back. At least, that should keep him from bleeding everywhere until…
Then, a horrible realization hits me. The nearest hospital is back the way I came. That’s a long walk from here. After that, it’d be probably a twenty-minute walk to the hospital, right? I wouldn’t have enough money for a cab. There’s no one around. I don’t have a cell phone to call anybody. It’s just me and this man. What do I do? I panic.
The small voice answers me, “What are you talking about? Carry him!” There’s no way I’ll be able to do that. “You don’t have much of a choice! You either carry him or let him die.” Not too many options are there? With this ultimatum in front of me, I stand up and look at the wounded man. I’m probably going to hate this. Knowing my luck, this isn’t going to work. Here’s hope you’re a lucky man.
I drop down and slowly lift him up onto my back. I almost drop him instantly. He’s heavier than I realized. I grunt as I lift his arms over my shoulders. I lock his arms around my neck, holding them tight. I take a deep breath. The added weight is pulling me backward. I stay crouched, trying to get used to having him on my back. Slowly, I stand up, grunting under the strain. I look at the hill in front of me. I’ll never make. “You might as well try!” the voice yells. Obeying the voice, I slowly start walking up the hill.
Each step is a struggle. The man’s weight keeps pulling me back, making me feel like I’m about to fall. His arms slide a bit over my shoulders with each passing moment. I have to pull them back into a locked position. I could drop him at any time. My feet constantly slide back with each step I take. I keep my eyes fixed on the top of the slope, which seems to only get further away. We’re not going to make it. “Come on! Don’t just accept that! He’s going to die without you! Keep trying.” I grit my teeth and keep walking. Even if I’m climbing Mount Everest, I can’t give up…not yet.
The inner voice yells at me every step of the way, “Come on! Don’t quit now! He needs you! He’s gonna die if you don’t save him. Don’t give up on him! You’re his last hope!” Again, I have no clue where that inner voice is coming from. I don’t even remember having an inner voice this motivated before, but it’s giving me the strength to keep walking.
Miraculously, I step onto the main road. I feel like jumping for joy, if I had the strength to. I already have sweat pouring down my face. I’m panting to get my breath back. My arms, legs, and back are burning from the strain. My body screams at me to take a break and try again once we’ve rested.
I ignore this and keep walking. If I stop now, I don’t know if I’ll have the guts to try again. I sigh with relief as I realize how much easier it is to walk now. I guess that’s the advantage of having some firm, flat ground to walk on. However, the man’s feet keep dragging the ground, making his body pull back slightly.. He’s a bit taller than a realized. I grip his arms tighter and keep moving, ignoring this slight hinderance.
I look down the road. I can’t even see the park’s entrance at this distance. This realization makes my legs feel weaker. Quickly, I look at the ground and focus on steadying my legs. “Don’t look,” I chant to myself. “Don’t worry about how far you have to go. Focus on what you have to do: taking the next step. That’s all that matters.”
With time, I realize how important it is to focus on that next step. The burning in my body begins to overwhelm me as I keep walking. “Probably should’ve worked out more,” I try to laugh. My legs burn from forcing myself to walk. My arms burn from holding the man’s arms in place. My back burns from lifting him. I try to focus on something else, like food or resting later, but it doesn’t help. My entire body is hurting, and I can’t relieve myself from it. I can’t stop and put the man down. If I do, I know I’ll never pick him up again. All I can do is work through the pain. I grit my teeth as I focus on that next step. That is the only thing keeping me going. As I trudge forward, I realize how silly I must look. A college girl carrying a wounded man through the park at night. If only someone was there to see this…suddenly, a familiar voice shrieks, “Dead man!”
I glance over to see the homeless bum from earlier! He’s hunched behind the bench holding up his pointy umbrella in defense. The umbrella shakes as he says with a trembling voice, “Keep away from me!” His eyes are filled with terror. “I’m not letting you get any closer.”
I’m already this far, I realize. But who knows how much farther I have to go? “Hey,” I pant, trying to sound calm. “Could you help me? This man needs a doctor. I need to get him to the hospital!”
The man looks at me for a minute, like he is trying to weigh his options. “Hurry up!” I yell. If I wasn’t in such a hurry, I probably would’ve been more patient, but with a dying man on my back, I didn’t have time for this! I needed his decision now, whatever it was.
I try to move toward him, but he yells in terror, “Likely story, murderer! I’m not going to let you kill me too!” He retreats a few steps back, with the umbrella in front of him.
Great, I scared him. Really, Jade? You can’t even help someone without a bum thinking I killed someone! You really are a failure. I turn away from the man and start to trudge forward again. Then, I spy his buggy. I stop, glancing over at the older man, who left his buggy unprotected. A thought crosses my mind and I act on it without a second thought.
I gently lay the wounded man down. As soon as he is off of my shoulders, my body instantly starts to feel better. I smile in content, but I quickly turn my attention to the buggy. 0I grab the cart and start throwing the homeless man’s junk out of it. “What are you doing?” the man yells, finding the courage to run at me. I whirl around, staring him down. He freezes in his tracks.
“Back off,” I say coldly. I point at the wounded man. “Or do you wanna be next?” Yes, it was an empty threat, but I would say anything at this point if it meant keeping this cart. My muscles were telling me that they weren’t carrying the wounded man another step.
Luckily, the homeless man screams and runs away, throwing his umbrella behind him. As he disappears, I feel a bit bad for him. He probably didn’t deserve that, but he’s not what matters right now. At least I got rid of him and the cart’s mine; but now I have some guy running around thinking I killed somebody. Perfect. Luckily, I’ll be gone long before anything could happen.
I clear a nice spot where a man could easily fit, with any unnecessary junk tossed on the ground. I didn’t get rid of everything, since we are on a bit of a time crunch. I grab the man by his shoulders and hoist him into the cart. I wish this guy was lighter. Back in old cartoons, characters would get flattened by anvils. I’m not sure how heavy an anvil is, but this guy might as well have been one. How can such a skinny man be so heavy?
I finally lay him in the buggy, his legs and arms dangling off of the sides. I collapse against the buggy. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and try to catch my breath. If only this was as far as I needed to go, but it isn’t. I don’t even wait long before I place both of my hands against the cart’s handle and push with what little strength I have left. Fortunately, the cart moves. I smile as I push the cart down the road. This is so much easier. It doesn’t hurt my muscles near as much. There is a slight burning, but it’s nowhere near as bad as earlier.
The cart starts gaining some momentum. I move quickly as the cart picks up speed, but I stop pushing, allowing it time to slow down before I push it again. I’ve played in enough parking lots to know that a fast cart is an out-of-control cart. If I lost control, this man would die! In his state, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from possibly breaking his neck. As I keep the cart moving, I quickly fall into a rhythm of controlling the kart. We’re going to make it!
As I move along, I finally notice how thick this man’s hair is. It isn’t long, but he mustn’t have had a hair cut in a while. I wonder how long he’s been under that bridge. How did he wash up there? Did he hide there on purpose and accidentally pass out? How did he get hurt? These types of questions kept my mind busy as I keep pushing.
Finally, I see the park’s entrance and my heart jumps. I made it! But more importantly, there are people! Despite the late hour, the streets are packed with people walking around, hurrying into taxis, and going about their daily lives. I really did it! We can save this guy! Good job, Jade! I give a cry of joy as I quicken my pace, pushing as hard as I can, not even worrying about an out-of-control buggy.
“Help,” I scream as I run down the homestretch. “This man is dying!” I charge out the entrance, bringing the buggy to a grinding halt. “Help!” As soon as the buggy comes to a stop, I’m accidentally swung to the side. I try to steady myself, but my weak legs give out underneath me. I fall. I wish I could stop myself, but my arms aren’t moving quick enough. Great, even when I do something right, I still mess up. Everything goes dark.
Before I can open my eyes, I can feel my head hurting. I can’t exactly remember what happened to me, but I must have done something stupid to hurt my head like this. The next thing I realize is that my body moving. It’s not much, only a slight bumping, but I can tell I’m moving. My eyes open and I blink. I’m greeted by a blurry world with bright lights passing by. I reach up and rub my eyes. As my vision clears, I find myself sitting in the back of a taxicab. “What?” I murmur, trying to remember what happened.
In the front seats, there are two people. It looks like a female is driving while a male seems to be riding in the passenger’s seat. The man turns around to reveal a young, Asian face smiling at me. “Oh, look at that,” he says cheerfully. “You’re finally awake!”
“Who?” I ask, still in a daze. Man, my head is killing me.
“I’m Charlie,” the man says cheerfully. “Charlie Devon. And this is our cab driver. What was your name again?” The cabbie huffs and doesn’t say anything.
“What?” I repeat, not understanding what is happening.
“Don’t worry,” Charlie explains calmly. “You fell and hit your head. I’m taking you to the hospital right now. We’re almost there.”
“Where?” I start. Everything’s starting to come back to me, but it’s in small pieces. Where is…
“He’s right next to you,” the man replies, pointing. I turn my head to see the figure of a shaggy-haired man sitting upright in the next seat. Seatbelts hold him in place as his head rolls on his shoulders. I sigh with relief as I put the pieces together. He’s on his way to the hospital. I really did it…I finally did something right.
“Yeah, and he better not bleed out in my taxi,” the cabbie complains. Her face is facing forward, so I can’t tell anything else about her besides that she wears a cap over her blue hair.
“Don’t worry ma’am,” the brunette-haired gentleman replies. “If that happens, I’ll take care of it.” He turns his attention back to me and I notice that he is slightly attractive. He’s no prize, as they’d say, but he was okay…maybe it’s the brown suit or my vision is still blurry. “I heard your call for help. A few people and myself helped load you both into this cab. Oh, and don’t worry too much about your friend, we made sure that the jacket was secure before we left. He should make it.”
“He better,” the cabbie says irritably. “The only thing worse than a man bleeding out in your cab is if he dies.”
“Why don’t you focus the road?” the man scolds, sounding a little irritated at the cabbie’s mood.
“You’re all lucky that I’m not changing you for this ride,” she argues. “Otherwise, the price would be through the roof. But, I wouldn’t feel right about it. After all, there’s going to be quite a few medical bills for your friend.” She pushes the rearview mirror so that her green-ish eyes were staring at me. “I tried studying to be a nurse. The one thing I paid attention to was the prices. That wound of your friend’s is going to cost him quite a pretty penny to fix.”
I know what she is saying is the truth, but none of that mattered to me right now. Who cares if I didn’t have the money? The guy probably wouldn’t have enough either. Still, all that mattered was that he survived. I yawn, not listening to the heated conversation between Charlie and the cabbie. I look over at my wounded companion and smile as my eyes blink. As my eyes close, I’m almost sure that yellow mark was on his head, but maybe it’s just my imagination…
I feel my shoulder lightly shaking. I open my eyes to find Charlie kneeling next to me. “Sorry to disturb you,” he says apologetically. “But we’re at the hospital now.”
“What?” I start, trying to scramble out of the cab.
He places a hand on my shoulder, stopping me. “Calm down,” he says gently. “It’s okay. Your friend is already in the hospital. The doctors are taking care of him.” He looks me over. “What you need to do is get yourself cleaned up. And you probably need to get your head checked. Come on.”
He reaches down and grabs my hand, helping me from the cab. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I stagger. He catches me. “Woah!” He drapes my arm over his shoulder and says, “Why don’t you just lean on me until we get inside?” I nod, leaning against him.
“Hey, they messed up my cab,” the cabbie yells. “There’s mud everywhere!”
“I’ll be right back,” the man replies as he helps me to the door. I look up at the grey hospital and smile. Inside, the man is getting help. I finally did it.
“Thanks,” I say to Charlie as we get closer to the doors.
“Oh, I didn’t do much,” he says. “I just made sure the cabbie got you here.” We enter the double doors and asks, “Where did you find him anyway?”
“Oh,” I reply. “At Omaha bridge.”
“What?” Charlie exclaims, almost letting me fall. “Sorry,” he apologizes instantly as he catches his hold again. “That’s just…amazing.” Amazing? I guess it is, but I wouldn’t think of it that way.
The hospital staff greets us as we walk into the busy lobby. “Is she okay?” a light skinned nurse in blue asks. She’s wearing a name tag that reads, “Lily.”
“I think so,” he replies. “She hit her head earlier.”
“I’m fine; just tired,” I reply. “Now where’s…”
“The doctors are treating him now,” she replies. “We can take you to him in a moment, but first.” She gets alongside of me and helps me lean on her. “We need to get you cleaned up.” She looks at Charlie and says, “I’ll take it from here.” He lets go and she starts guiding me down the white hallway.
“I’ll be in the waiting room, ma’am,” Charlie calls. “Let me know how everything goes.”
“I will,” Lily replies. We walk past busy doctors and nurses. She leads me to a nearby bathroom. I sit on the toilet. “Do you need help changing clothes?”
“No,” I reply. “I think I can do it.”
“Okay, then go ahead and take off your dirty clothes, clean your face and hands, and I’ll be back with a nightgown for you.” She hurries off, closing the door as she goes.
“I actually did it,” I breath. It’s hard to believe I did. It’s amazing that nothing went wrong, besides hitting my head. Still, I actually managed to get to help him! With these relieving thoughts in my mind, I stand up. My legs were starting to act normally, so it was easy to take off my dirty clothes. I leave my underwear on because, somehow, they were clean. I wash my face and hands as thoroughly as I can. Only now in the clean bathroom do I realize how disgusting I was. Mud and other junk was caked on my hands. Luckily, I manage to get it all off, leaving only my clean dark skin.
After washing, I sit and wait patiently for Lily to return. I don’t know how long I waited, but she seemed to be taking a long time. Eventually, she comes back with a nightgown, which I was glad to put on. I know that these can be embarrassing to wear, due to the exposed back, but it’s better than parading around in muddy clothes or your panties. At least the gown keeps people from staring too much.
“We’re just going to run a quick CAT scan on you to make sure you didn’t get a concussion, okay?” she explains. I don’t argue. She picks up my clothes and says, “Please follow me.”
After dropping my clothes off at the laundry, she takes me to get the CAT scan. It surprisingly didn’t take long and turns out I didn’t have a concussion. Man, I really am lucking out for once. After the examination, Lily guides me to room 108.
She says, “Your friend is going to be placed here once they have finished the operation. I talked with one of the doctors. He said that your friend’s wound is bad, but it’s treatable. Although, it’s hard to say when he’ll be able to leave the hospital.”
We step inside the small room. It only has two beds and a few chairs. “The bathroom is there,” she explains. “I trust you’ll want to stay here to make sure that he’s okay.” I nod. “Well, let me know if you need anything.” She pauses and asks, “Do you know how he ended up like that?”
“No,” I reply simply.
“Does he have a family?” the nurse asks before leaving.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “I only met him today.”
She nods. “Just sit anywhere you want,” she says, but before leaving, she turns. “You’re a pretty brave person, bringing him here like you did.” I glance at her blankly. “I stopped by the lobby. The man from earlier explained a few things to me,” she explains. She pauses and says, “I think most people wouldn’t go through whatever you did. They probably would have left him to die.”
I don’t reply. I don’t know how to. I never really receive many compliments. Lily smiles and leaves. When she leaves, I sit in a chair. Am I brave? I wonder. I don’t think so. Unwilling to leave someone to die…caring or compassionate, maybe…but not brave. My eyes start to feel heavy. How brave can I be? I yawn, feeling sleep starting to catch me again. Oh well. I close my eyes and try to relax. Then, a thought crosses my mind. Wait…I don’t have a concussion. Didn’t I see some mark on his head? Was that some trick of the light or…I fall asleep.