It’s weird what they say, about coma patients being able to hear what’s around them.
But it would be even weirder if I was left alone in my head, hearing nothing at all.
I remember an intense pain in my stomach, before falling asleep, and now I can feel all sorts of tubes pumping in and out of my body. I know I’m not dead, it smells like a hospital. I want to open my eyes, to see my family and friends, to know I’m okay. But I can’t. I can’t move my toes, my hands, my eyelids, anything. I can’t even control my breathing. I feel like I’m hyperventilating, trapped in the vessel of a body that I can’t control, but I don’t feel my breathing speed up. This just frustrates me more.
Until I hear Pemma.
“Hey, I know you’re basically dead right now, but I’m glad you’re okay. And I wanted to say thanks, again, for that. You used yourself as a distraction for the dogs, you massive idiot.” I can hear her voice waver. “I’ve decided I’m going to keep visiting you until you wake up, because it’s basically the only thing I can do now. I feel so guilty. Also, I’ve heard people in comas can hear everything around them, so I’ll keep a count of how long you’re here. This is day four, since the incident.”
After listening to her soothing voice, I feel suddenly exhausted. Without resisting, I fall into a dreamless sleep.
“This is day nine. I’m not the only one to come visit you, you know. Someone called Darcy came to drop by flowers yesterday, and mentioned something about good news with Eden and Colin? I don’t know. Wake up soon, I’m bored.”
All I hear is snippets of her stories and comments; she seems so open now that she thinks I can’t hear her.
“Day fifteen and this joke is getting old. Wake up already. I think you’d be glad to know that some good-looking nurse bathes you now that you’re a living zombie, but you have to start washing yourself sometime.”
“Day forty. I kind of miss you, only because I have no one else to get angry at anymore. They all avoid me. Also, the said Colin and Eden came around today, all lovey-dovey. I left the room while they chatted with you for a bit.”
“Day sixty, wakey wakey. Darcy and Eden came to sit with me today while I watched you, not in the creepy way. They offered me some chocolate and I accepted and even said thank you. Now who’s the introvert?” I want to stay awake, to keep listening to her soothing voice, but a smaller, squeakier voice chips in at the end of her sentence.
“E-excuse me, can I talk to Glenn for a bit?” It sounds female, and ridiculously timid, before I realise that people at school are still probably terrified of Pemma. I hear an annoyed grunt, probably Pemma, and the door as it swishes shut.
The squeaky, shaky voice chips back in again, much to my displeasure. I want to spend as much time with Pemma as possible.
“H-hi, Glenn. You probably don’t know me, but I’m Adrienne. We were friends in primary school? Anyways, I just wanted to talk to you because I heard about your condition, and thought I might as well tell you what I’ve been wanting to say for a long time. I know we’ve drifted, but I’ve had feelings for you for years.” Her voice rises in volume, her confidence obviously growing. But still, the shrill girly voice shines through. “I love you, and when you wake up, I really want to get to know you. I don’t even know if you can hear me, but I really needed to get it off my chest- whether you hear it or not.”
Of course I remember Adrienne. Her pointy nose, her tall, slender legs, her intense fear of lightning. She was my first friend, but we drifted as we became two very different people. I’ve seen her around school plenty of times, always laughing and smiling with her friends, but like the others, she seemed so shallow. Her confession to me doesn’t surprise me, or even interest me- I know that girls are attracted to me, in the least ignorant way. It just makes me sad, knowing I can’t make any of them happy, because the only girl I want is one that doesn’t seem the slightest bit interested in me.
“I got glasses today! Turns out, I’m as blind as a bat. It actually made me realise that I’d never properly seen your face until I’d got them, but I’ve never seen your eyes, seeing as you’ve been asleep for months and the nurses won’t let me pry your eyes open for a sneaky look.” Her voice is dripping with sarcasm, thankfully. “I bet they’re boring, but you should wake up just to prove me wrong. Also, the glasses are way too big for my face, and I kind of look like a mouse, they make my eyes look huge. Oh! I almost forgot. This is day one-hundred and forty. I think people are talking to me more now, and I’m trying hard to not scowl at everyone I walk past. It feels good. I hope it’s not your positive influence, considering you haven’t moved in months, you lazy ass.”
“Day two-hundred. Woop woop.” I hear a sarcastic and dry voice say, belonging to dearest, pessimistic Pemma. Then, a chirpier female voice makes itself heard, belonging to Darcy.
“Yeah! The big ol’ two zero zero! Wake up soon, okay? We don’t want you to miss Joel’s birthday. Colin’s so hyped about it. Me and Pemma are friends too now, right Pemma? Get well soon so we can all hang again.” I’m surprised. I didn’t think I’d have this much of an effect on Pemma’s life, I’m proud of her for coming out of her shell. Two hundred days is a long time.
I hear the door swish shut after their brief entrance, and the shrill voice chip in again.
“Hi it’s me, Adrienne, again. I forgot to say yesterday that I’m going to keep visiting you until you get better, so I hope you can hear me, and we’ll be great friends.” She seems so sure of herself, so ignorant. I’m not sure if I want to be forced into this friendship, the time had been and gone. Sure, our compatibility years ago was perfect, even for a relationship, but now she just blends in with the crowd.
“Day two-hundred and twenty. I finally had a normal conversation with Colin today, the first since the locker incident. It seems he’s not the same boy I drowned in energy drinks, huh?” She always asks those rhetorical questions, and I want nothing more than to reply to her- but I know I can’t.
“Day two-hundred and sixty, and I’ve decided I’m growing my hair long. It’s a pain in the ass having to brush it every morning, but I like it this way. Also, if you wake up and don’t like it, tough. I’m keeping it.”
“Day three-hundred and one. It snowed today, but I stayed inside because I’d catch a cold. The same cannot be said for Colin, Joel and Darcy, who stayed outside all day and shoved snow down each others’ tops. Now, they all have a stinking cold and Eden and I have to nurse them all, they’re such big kids. I wonder if you like snow?”
Just as I drift into sleep, on day three-hundred and one, Adrienne disturbs my trance.
“Hey, it’s Adrienne again. I’ve noticed some girl come in every time I’m here, sometimes she doesn’t even come in your room, she just sits outside. What a creep. Anyway, is she like your girlfriend or something? I don’t know why I’m asking, considering you can’t talk anyway. Maybe I should tell her that when you wake up, she’ll have some competition!”
“Day three-hundred and forty and you missed Christmas, well done dumbass. Darcy and I went to get cakes for the school festival, and Eden and Colin are a pretty serious couple now. Also, me and the others exchanged gifts, which was nice. I really enjoy sharing your friends. You miss a lot.”
“Day three-hundred and sixty-three. I’ve learned to accept what kindness I get now, especially from your friends, no matter how small. I guess you’d have to get eaten alive for me to realise what kindness is.” I hear the tiniest giggle, before the door swings shut and I assume she leaves the room.
I’m getting kind of sick of Adrienne always interrupting my calm days with her fast-paced chatter, she reminds me of a squirrel. “Hey! It’s Adrienne again! I now have a black eye, by the way. I told the girl that hangs outside your room to back off a little bit, because I want to be your girlfriend, and she just punched me in the face! What an animal. I doubt you and her are dating, she’s so lacking in class, and so not your type.”
I’m impressed. I never realised Pemma was this protective of me, does she really think we’re a thing? This is such a petty situation to be thinking about, considering I don’t know if I’ll ever wake up.
“Day three-hundred and eighty, and I don’t even know why I visit you anymore. It seems your number one fan is a walking Barbie, with a black eye now. Also, your parents flew over from America a while ago to see you; and they’re really worried. Also, I think they like me.”
“Day three-hundred and ninety. Maurice and Aaron, huh? I don’t know what I imagined your parents’ names being, but it certainly wasn’t that. Also, I learned Barbie’s name, and why she likes you so much. You guys have history, huh? Not that I care.”
“Day four-hundred and ten. They’re going to take you off life support soon, as much as your parents disagree.” I hear a sniffle in her voice. “Me, Darcy, Colin, Eden and Joel always hang around together now. I’ve heard they’re your closest friends, and I guess they’re mine now too. And I think I scared off your precious Adrienne with my sucker punch- I hit her again today. She’s so damn persistent. Sorry.”
“Day four-hundred and twenty-two. Happy birthday to me, yay. To be honest, all I’d want for my birthday is for you to wake up, so I wouldn’t have to waste a bus fare every day coming to visit you. Also, because it’s getting boring waking up every morning and not having someone to shout at for being a massive idiot.”
This becomes an endless cycle- I hear people come and go, but whenever I wake up, the only voice I hope to hear is hers. I feel good listening about her day, and about how she’s opening herself up to other people. I’ll make it through this, just so I can say, ‘I told you so.’
Little by little, I feel like I can control the tomb that is my body. I could feel the shackles being lifted from me, freeing me of the coma.
“Day four-hundred and seventy-three.” Pemma’s voice sounds tired and weary, unguarded. This is very unlike her sarcastic, strong comments usually. “I’m so tired. It’s clear you’ll never wake up, and this is making me so tired.” I know she can be pessimistic, but this is unlike the Pemma I grew to know and love, trapped in my hospital bed. “Plenty of people visit you, and it won’t make a difference if they replace me. It’s taking so much energy for me to keep talking to you like you’re going to wake up. It hurts knowing that you won’t. What hurts even more is seeing you grow thinner every day I come here, knowing that it’ll only end one way. I’m sorry. I’ll cut ties with Darcy and the others too, its better off this way. I don’t want to keep being reminded of you every time I look at them because I’ll just feel guilty for leaving you and sad because I won’t see you wake up, if that ever happens. It’s been really good knowing you and your friends over the past year, you know.”
I feel suddenly like a lead weight. Panic rises in me. Pemma is leaving me and I can’t even move to say goodbye, to squeeze her hand, anything. I have to move, I need to. I’ve never been so frustrated as my body rejects my thoughts. I hear the door swish shut, and I’m afraid that’s the last time I’ll ever hear Pemma Jackson again.
I’ve forgotten how long I’ve been in here, because Pemma used to remind me every day. It’s like swimming up from the deep end on the last bit of air you have left, it takes all your energy and you don’t even know how far it is to the top.
I keep pushing, on my last bit of air until I break through.
All of a sudden, I’m surrounded by beeps and whirrs or machines around me, as I feel my toes wiggle around. A door swishes open, and I hear people fussing over me, babbling in technical medical terms that I can’t understand.
“Glenn? Can you hear me, Glenn Adkins?” It’s a prim, chirpy voice- probably one of the female doctors that I’ve heard come and go from my room often.
My mouth is too dry and exhausted to reply, so I force the lead weights of my eyelids open. The fluorescent lighting burns, but in a good way. My brain aches as I take in all the new colours, colours that aren’t just black.
The exhaustion overwhelms me, and I fall asleep again.
“Day four-hundred and seventy-six. You’re finally awake.”