Bleeding Sun

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: December 01, 2019

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Submitted: December 01, 2019

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“Is he doing better?” 

All I could do was smile and nod. I blinked and for a second, I was looking through a film of my own tears, blurring the woman’s face for just long enough that I was able to convince myself it wasn’t her, but merely an illusion, an unwanted figment of my imagination. 

Then she spoke.

God help me, it really was her.

“That’s your only response?! Aren’t you a doctor?” The woman shouted angrily, with the desperation of a worried mother. Normally, I would try to calm her down and be the professional I was supposed to be. But not today. Today, I was someone I had not been for a long time. Someone who had taken one look at those brown curls, at the stubborn cross of her arms, and knew immediately whose mother she really was. I had tried to forget, tried to overwrite that part of me. It never worked. The memories always came to visit me in daydreams and haunt me in nightmares.

“He’ll be alright. His vitals are stable and his head is all patched up,” I choked out as I fidgeted with my badge, the badge I had shown my parents the day I was hired and watched as they swelled up in pride, a pride that left me feeling absolutely nothing. It was a reminder that I had succeeded, though, a symbol of my accomplishments. I am successful, right? 

“I-I just need to run some tests. He has received some damage to his brain that might affect his memory.” I’d recited this line multiple times before to countless crying mothers, but for some reason, those words tasted like poison in my mouth today. 

“When do I get to see my son?” she insisted firmly, though her bottom lip quivered, the tears a breath away. Her exhausted eyes looked right through me, past the old, wooden hospital door to the sterile white bed where her beloved child lay. Except he wasn’t a child anymore, but a grown man who should’ve been the one taking care of her, should’ve been the one visiting her at the hospital. But her son never played by the rules. 

“Soon. I promise.” I pull the woman in for an embrace, gently caressing her back as she wept silently on my right shoulder, a bag of bones barely held together by skin as fragile as paper. Yet, despite her frail physique and defeated sobs, she was strong. I could tell because it was only in these hushed moments, when the world wasn’t watching, did the woman accept the kindness of a stranger and let her weakness show. 

But in my mind, I knew I was not a stranger. No, I was the girl this very woman had invited over for dinner every Sunday until the day her husband drank himself to death. Little did she know, her son was not far behind his father because that girl had handed him the bottle when his grief became too much, because that girl did not have the backbone to tell the people she loved no. She was a stupid and naive girl.

I set my clipboard down, clenching my fists to stop the trembling that hadn’t stopped since the ambulance delivered him with a bloody head and no heartbeat. It was just another drug overdose patient they told me. They had praised me, saying how good I was with these kinds of patients. They forgot to mention his name when they assigned me; they had played me.

“Good morning, sir.” 

The man jolted, a yelp escaping his mouth, causing the IV pole to topple over and clatter loudly on the tiled floors. 

“Ma’m, please knock next time! You scared the living crap out of me.” He chuckled, throwing his head back in a hearty laugh, a laugh that did not match his gaunt, sunken eyes and lifeless pallor. The vitality of his once luscious curls was long gone and those luminous amber orbs that seared themselves permanently into my memory had lost their light. A pool of unexplainable sadness settled in my gut, oily and heavy, as I continued to observe him. 

He was a stranger, just another patient. But if I let myself look closer, I could still see the husk of the boy I once knew in the crook of his smile, in the mischievous arch of his brows.

“My apologies,” I said with a note of amusement. My own voice startled me. It was the voice of a teenage girl whose biggest worry was what she would wear tomorrow or if she had gotten an A on that U.S. history test she forgot to study for. Even all these years, he still made me feel young and carefree again. 

I loathed it. 

I wanted to vomit, to rip my hair out, to run out of the building, as far away from this man and all the pain he had caused me. Or was it the other way around?

Instead, I picked up the fallen IV pump and readjusted his fluids, all with a practiced smile plastered on my countenance. 

“I’m going to ask you some questions, okay?” My voice steadied back into that drone, and for the first time today, I thought maybe I had finally regained my composure and could actually do my job. My mentors in medical school always told me to act the same toward every patient, to be detached yet compassionate. The key was to find the perfect balance; when you achieve this, you are the best kind of doctor. At first, I thought it was impossible to blend such contradicting emotions, but with enough practice, I had figured it out, maybe a little too well. Perhaps it just came naturally with maturation, or perhaps I had sacrificed the only part of me that really cared. 

“What’s your name?” I don’t know why I asked him when I had already written it down. Maybe it was that small voice of doubt that prayed it wasn’t him.

“Lance Moore.” Of course it was him. My instincts had never failed me, not even when my heart had over and over and over again. 

“What’s your favorite color?” 

“Hmmm, that’s a good one. I like blue...” Lance grinned as he thought about his choice, his hands unconsciously grabbing at an invisible object in the air, as if he was trying to materialize his ideas into something concrete, something real. 

“Because it’s the color of the ocean and the sky. It shows how opposites can find common ground.” I finish for him, my voice a shaky whisper as he met my eyes for the first time in decades. He’d said the same thing to me twenty years ago, in a little roadside cafe on a rainy February afternoon over a cup of piping hot coffee. He didn’t even like coffee, but he ordered it because I did. 

“H-how did you know?” Lance’s expression was different this time, as if a wave of sobering clarity had suddenly washed over him.

Because I know you. 

I broke his piercing gaze and read the next question.

“When was the last time you did drugs of any kind?” I continued, pretending like I didn’t hear his question. I knew it would not work though, not when he was staring at me with the eyes that belonged to the person who had taught me how to dance under the stars, taught me how to bike with no hands, not someone whose life had been consumed by drugs. 

“Do I know you?” He demanded, his brows furrowed in suspicion and a genuine, urgent curiosity that made it hard to breathe. 

“No. Now, let’s continue the questions.” I managed to say, not realizing the droplets were already trickling down my face. I quickly wiped them away with my white coat, my movements rushed with panic. It was for the better that he did not remember. I did not want him to remember. 

But the high school girl in me did. The girl Lance had laughed with, cried with, fought with, did so, so bad. 

“When was the last time you did drugs of any kind?” I repeated, blinking away the silver lining the peripherals of my vision. 

“I swear, this was the only time,” was what he had said to her when she caught him rolling a blunt on the porch a summer evening. It was what he had said to her when he left the dinner table to inhale more of that terribly sweet vapor. It was what he had said to her when she held his hand in a sterile, white room much like this one the night before prom, when he was supposed to be helping her pick her dress. That had been the last straw for her. For me. 

“Should I know you?” Lance said. His breathing had become so shallow, no longer holding that steady rhythm she’d hear when she jogged beside him during their late-night runs by the beach. He was healthy back then, full of energy and life. 

“I’m gonna change the world one day. I don’t know how yet, but I’m gonna do it. And I’ll make it a better place for you, Alina.” There had been so much hope in his smile that evening, radiant in the crimson light of the bleeding sun. It was them against the world, the possibilities as endless as the ocean roaring in front of them. Even mother nature had been on their side.

“I’m just your doctor. I think you’re just a little confused that’s all.”

“Stop lying to me. I know you are. Why is everyone always lying to me?” The agony in his voice broke something that had been rotting in me for years, festering like a wound that was never properly cleaned. I ignored it, ignored her voice that told me to do something, anything to ease his sorrows. That was not my job anymore. I had left her behind a long time ago. I was a doctor now. That was my job. I did not know whose voice that belonged to. 

“I’m not lying, sir. Please calm down.” There was a new kind of tension that had manifested itself in the room. I could feel it in the sweat dotting my brow, in the increasingly agitated movements of the man, in the deafening sound of the ticking clock. 

“Why can’t I remember you?” He muttered hysterically to himself. “Why, why, why…” All I could do was watch as he slowly lost his sanity. That’s all I could ever do. Just watch. 

This was your fault. 

I called the psych ward. He was not my patient anymore. His condition was out of my hands. 

“What have you done to my son?” The mother wailed, clawing furiously at me as she tried to understand why her son was leaving the room worse than when he came. I couldn’t hear her though. I was numb, numb to the fact that I should have never said anything, that I should have left it alone and treated him like any other patient. 

The security guards pulled her off of me as I giggled to myself, chuckled until my throat was raw. Because it was in that moment I realized how ironic life was sometimes. I was powerless back then, yet I would have sold my soul to help him. 

Where is your soul now? 

“What kind of doctor are you?” She kept screaming. I didn’t reply, didn’t even turn my head to at least send my condolences. 

I just laughed and laughed and laughed until tears streamed endlessly from my eyes. 

As I stood frozen beside the vacant bed, I did not listen to his pleas for his mom, for me, for the substances that I had let him abuse. I did not see the thrashing man get dragged out by nurses clad in black and blue. 

No, all I saw was a girl leaving that suffocating hospital room, a joyful bounce in her step. The rays of the dying sun were casual intruders as they poked in from the window, painting the girl’s lovely features a flawless gold.

“I guess this is goodbye.” She smiled happily, her eyes twinkling like stars. And as I watched her leave me behind at last, the weight that lifted off from me was replaced by emptiness instead. 


 

 

 






 


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