Wednesday 4:27 pm
No matter how nice you make a waiting room, it is still a waiting room. No amount of nice decorations or free reading material can ever change the fact that it is a room dedicated to one of mankind's least favorite activities. Sometimes I wonder if doctors call their customers patients because patience is what you need to get out of their offices without going insane.
That is the real problem with waiting rooms. The vast majority of them come right before something that you are absolutely dreading. Like a check up at the dentist's office, or a really important job interview.
During my relatively short life I have had to sit in more than my fair share of waiting rooms but this has gotta be the worst one yet. It really is not the waiting room’s fault, it just happens to be the place where I am waiting for what will either be the best or worst moment of my life. Dr. Scott says I have a fifty fifty chance going into this operation. If it is a success, I will be able to sleep through the night without waking up in pain. I won't have to crawl up and down stairs anymore. I will be able to walk and maybe even run again. But if the operation is a failure, then it is game over, I will be paralyzed for the rest of my life.
I look back over the last thirteen months and, not for the first time, I wonder if it all really happened. It seems like a different time, a different life. It feels more like a dream than a memory. The white double doors on the other side of the room swing open and a nurse in a green uniform walks in.
“Jamie” she calls out. I raise my hand to let her know that she is looking for me.
She walks over to me and puts on what I think is supposed to be a reassuring smile as she says “Dr. Scott is ready for you.”
I nod my head and then turn to look at my mom sitting beside me. She tries not to show how scared she is but I can see it in her eyes. I give her hand a squeeze and say “see you tonight.”
She gives me a quick hug and says “alright, I love you.”
I manage to say “I love you too” before the nurse takes me away.
Well, here I go, time to see if all the time and tears that have led up to this moment will finally pay off.
The nurse and I navigate the maze of hallways that are lined with doors leading to all the operating rooms. We take one last right turn and find ourselves in front of the second to last operating room door. The nurse pushes the button on the side of the door and it swings open. Through the door is a world that no one should have to visit. A world of sharp objects and strangers with hidden faces.
The nurse and the anesthesiologist help me get onto the operating table, and I lay down on it. I look up at the blank white ceiling of the operating room and, like every other operation I have had, it makes me feel afraid. With all of the scientific breakthroughs that have happened in the medical field, the chances of a person dying during surgery continues to go down; but there is always that slight chance that something might go wrong, and that boring empty ceiling might be the last thing I ever see.
The door swings open and Dr. Scott walks in. He has already put his mask on but I recognize his light blue eyes.
I know that certain people think of doctors as these heroic protectors of life, but I consider doctors to be more like a plumber or a pest control person, most people only call them when they are in trouble. The only reason that doctors even exist is because pain exists. If there was no pain there would be no doctors. The only purpose of a doctor is to try to eliminate suffering, but doctors are not perfect; sometimes they make mistakes which cause their patients to suffer even more. At the end of the day no matter how good your doctor is, they are still an imperfect person who for some reason you have decided to trust with your body and your life.
“Well Jamie, are you ready for us to get started?” Dr. Scott asks.
“As ready as I'll ever be” I answer.
Dr. Scott nods his head and then turns to the anesthesiologist and says “Dr. Grayden, are you ready to begin?”
Dr. Grayden nods and wraps an elastic band thing around my left arm.
“Open and close your fist a couple of times.”
I do as I am told and within moments the veins in my arm are showing dark blue underneath my skin. Dr. Grayden prepares the needle for the injection as I lay there feeling my arm start to tingle from the lack of circulation.
When I was younger I was terrified of needles but now I have had so many shots that I am not scared of them anymore.
Dr. Grayden grabs my arm to hold it steady. I focus on a little crack in the ceiling because I have found that getting a shot feels less painful if I do not watch it happen. I feel the sharp little stab of the needle breaking through my skin, and I feel Dr. Grayden tape the needle in place so that it does not come out by accident.
“Count backwards from one hundred.”
“One hundred, ninety nine.”
I can feel the drugs starting to flow into my veins.
“Ninety eight, ninety seven, ninety six.”
My body is starting to feel warm and weightless.
“Ninety five, ninety four.”
I am starting to feel tired and a yawn makes me stop counting for a second.
“Ninety three… ninety two...”
My vision is starting to blur into a white haze and it is starting to get difficult to speak.
“Ninety one… ninety...”
I cannot see the operating room anymore. I feel like I am floating in a cloud or a thick mist.
I cannot count anymore; it takes too much effort now. I wonder if I have fallen asleep yet. I don't think I have because I am not dreaming yet. I am told that most people do not have dreams when they are put to sleep for an operation, but I do, I always have dreams.
Thursday 7:15 am thirteen months earlier
Dreams are my favorite place to be, because in my dreams I am everything that I should be. Sooner or later though I have to wake up and face reality. This morning I am doing just that and this morning reality has gotten a lot worse. The reason why is because today is the first day of school. Most people would think that I would love school because I love learning, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Oh well I can't put it off any longer I have to get up.
I pull off the sheets and I grab the two limp noodles that people call my legs and swing them over the edge of my bed. I sit up and reach for the pile of clothes that I placed on my desk last night.
I wonder why people take so much time in the morning to choose their outfit for the day when it is so much easier to do it the night before?
I pull my T-shirt on and my jeans. I put on a long sleeve button up shirt over my T-shirt and do up four of the buttons. I tie my shoes and then I lift myself into my POW (Prison On Wheels also known as a wheelchair). I roll myself across my bedroom to the glass tank where my pet tortoise Dromeo is sleeping. I open up the cooler which is sitting on the ground beside the tank and check to see how our food stores are holding up. It looks like I am almost out of snacks but he still has some more food left. I guess I will need to make a trip to the store this weekend. After I finish giving Dromeo his breakfast I put the rest of the food back into the cooler and close the lid.
As I look around I realize it is a bit messy in here. My laundry hamper is overflowing with dirty clothes, my desk is covered in scribbled up papers like a two inch layer of dirty snow, and on the floor there is a pile of twenty four library books that need to be returned today. I wanted to make every last minute of summer vacation count so I did not bother to clean my room this week.
I manage to navigate my way through the dark to the door. I push the door open and my vision is blinded by the sudden sunlight. I squint my eyes as I roll into the kitchen. My bedroom used to be our dining room so it goes straight into the kitchen. The one ray of sunshine in my life is already there, Mom says good morning to me over her shoulder as she continues to make breakfast. I reply the same to her as I pick up the book sitting at my usual place at the table.
She places a plate of pancakes in front of me and asks "did you take a shower?"
"I took one last night because I knew her royal highness would want to use the bathroom all morning."
She knows exactly who I am talking about, my sister Shelly got up at five this morning and is still in the bathroom. We can both hear my little brother Ryan shouting at her to hurry up because he needs to pee. Mom sighs and goes to resolve the problem as I dig into my breakfast. More shouting follows, which eventually ends with Shelly stomping out of the bathroom, in her bathrobe, and into her bedroom to choose her outfit for the day.
Mom returns to the kitchen and pulls more pancakes off the stove. I finish my breakfast and turn my attention to my book. I hear the toilet flush, quickly followed by my twelve year old brother stumbling into the kitchen. Mom puts a new stack of pancakes in front of him and he starts devouring the pile.
Dad comes in fully dressed for work; Mom gives him his breakfast and he sits down next to me and asks "are you excited for your first day as a junior?"
"No" I answer honestly.
"Why is that?" He asks curiously.
"The real question is why should my junior year be any different than my sophomore year?"
He has no answer to that so he just turns his attention to his pancakes, which is fine with me since it lets me go back to reading my book. Finally Mom sits down with the last two plates of pancakes one for her and one for Shelly.
I turn one page after another as the rest of them eat quietly. One by one they finish. Dad kisses Mom goodbye and leaves for work, Ryan shuffles off to his room to get dressed, and Mom starts washing the dishes.
"What are you reading?" She asks.
"Henry VI part 1 by William Shakespeare" I answer without looking up.
"Oh that's a good one, where are you at?"
I am pretty sure that she has never read it, and that she is only trying to make conversation, but I will humor her.
"They are just about to burn Joan of arc because they think she's a witch" I say and then add with a smile "speaking of witches here comes one now!"
For at this very moment Shelly is coming down the stairs and making her grand entrance. To be fair to her she does look stunning, but it did take her over two hours in the bathroom to become so. She prances over to the table making sure that she sits as far from me as possible.
"What's this? first day of senior year and no lip gloss?" I ask as I notice that her mouth appears to be in its natural form.
"Not until after breakfast, retard" she snaps back at me.
Mom tells both of us to stop it. I roll myself over to the stairs and crawl up them to the bathroom to brush my teeth and comb my hair.
Once upon a time my sister and I were best friends, but that was before she decided that she wanted to be popular. Then she started hanging out with, and even dating the guys who love to make my life a living hell. At first she just ignored the way they treat me, but lately she has started to join in, which officially burned the bridge between us.
I crawl out of the bathroom just as Mom shouts that we need to leave or we will be late. I crawl back down the stairs as fast as I can, gritting my teeth as I feel a shooting pain go up my spine. Ryan races to the door and pulls his jacket off the rack. Shelly gets up from the table leaving most of her breakfast behind.
We grab our backpacks and head out the door. We all climb into our old gray family van, I have a slightly more difficult time getting into my seat, as Mom folds up my POW and puts it in the aisle next to me. As Mom walks around to the driver's seat I can already see Shelly putting on her lip gloss with the aid of the passenger seat mirror. Mom starts the engine and we slowly pull out of our driveway.
Thursday 8:27 am
On the way to school I finish the Shakespeare play and decide to leave it in the van. We are arriving just barely before class starts which means I will definitely be late. Shelly and Ryan jump out of the van and hurry to class, for me it is a much slower journey. I hear Mom wish me luck as she drives off.
A few months ago I read Dante's Inferno. He claimed that hell was a series of rings with each one being progressively worse than the one before. What he forgot to mention was that the whole thing is located inside a big ugly building called Salt Springs High School.
Once I get to the grim double doors I struggle to open one of them and keep it open while I roll through.
My first class is advanced English with Miss Weeks, luckily it is not too far from the front office. I wheel myself down the hallway as fast as I can, the bell rings announcing the start of class and I see the last few students rush into the classroom. The heavy metal door swings shut just before I can get there.
Now isn't that just my luck!
I work the door open and I hear Miss Weeks telling everyone to take their seats. She sees me in the doorway and runs to help me which is very nice of her but also a little embarrassing. By the time she gets to me I have already made it through so instead she awkwardly says hello and points me to my seat. I lift myself out of my POW and into my seat. I hear a comment about me getting special treatment that is followed by some laughter, but I choose to act like I did not hear anything.
Miss Weeks tells the class to settle down and begins the usual first day of school speech. She introduces herself and says that she hopes we enjoyed our summer. Then she starts to take role. She goes through the A's and B's and then after Andrew Carter she calls out.
"Here" I say, as I hear some whispering that I hope is not about me.
She continues taking attendance calling out names that I usually recognize. Then when she gets to the F's I hear a new name.
"Here" says a voice that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I turn around to see who the voice belongs to, and my eyes come to rest on one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen. She is two rows behind me and three desks to the left. She has golden hair, light blue eyes that are framed by a nice pair of glasses, and smooth cream colored skin. I am not the only one who is interested in this new girl. I can see several other boys are also looking at her but she appears not to notice.
Suddenly I realize that Miss Weeks is almost done taking roll and that I must have been staring at that girl for longer than I thought. The rest of class goes by uneventfully. We get a syllabus that says what we will be doing in the class this semester, I skim through it and see that I have already done most of it before.
Oh well at least I know I will get an A in this class. I can't focus on anything that the teacher is saying, all I want to do is turn and look at that girl again but I don't because I refuse to be that creepy kid that is always staring at girls in class.
Finally the bell rings and I have to go to the opposite side of the school for chemistry. I shove everything into my backpack, drop into my POW, and start rolling down the hall as fast as I can. As always it is taking forever to get there. I see loads of kids are standing around talking to each other, catching up on what they have all been up to. None of them are worried about getting to class on time, they know that if they run out of time they can just run down the hall, but I do not have that luxury.
I get to class a minute early and take a seat. A quick glance over the classroom lets me know that the new girl Julia is not in the class she must be in the biology class third hour. Mr. Walker starts class as soon as the bell rings it's nice to know some things don't change. Once again we hear the boring first day of school speech, with a few threats to fail every student who does not give their best effort thrown in. Then another syllabus is passed out, and of course he gives us homework which causes a chorus of groans from the back of the room.
I do not know why they are complaining it is easier than last year's first day assignment. He gives us the rest of the hour to work on it and I finish it before the bell rings.
My last class before lunch is world history which is upstairs by the library. I immediately head to the elevator by the front office. It takes me up to the second floor of the school. As I wheel myself into the classroom I can hear Mr. O'Connor already talking which means that it took me too long to get here. He does not make a comment about me being late probably because there are other students also missing which means I am not the latest one. I take a seat in the front because all the seats in the back and middle of the class are taken. Mr. O'Connor continues talking about what the class will be like.
I'm not sure why he is even bothering to open his mouth because He knows nobody is listening except for me.
The door swings open and to my surprise the new girl Julia walks in. She apologizes to Mr. O'Connor for being late explaining that she had a hard time finding the class. He tells her that it is okay this time and asks her to take a seat. She looks around and sees that all the seats are taken except three in the very front. She looks me in the eye which makes me feel nervous and then she smiles and sits down in the seat next to me. As soon as she sits down Mr. O'Connor has lost his one and only listener because I spend the rest of class trying not to look at her too much.
I cannot figure out why I feel like this. I mean yeah, she is beautiful, but so are most of the girls on the cheerleading team. I don't have any trouble ignoring them during class. Is it the way she smells? Because she does smell good, she smells like summer, but most girls smell nice thanks to the perfumes and lotions that they use. Maybe it's the look on her face, she looks really happy to be here unlike everyone else in this class they all look like they would rather be anywhere else in the world.
Suddenly the bell rings which makes me jump in my seat slightly.
Man, that class period went by quick.
I stuff my books in my bag I am not rushed this time because it is lunch hour now.
"Hi what's your name?"
The question surprises me, I turn to look at Julia and see her smiling waiting for an answer.
"Nice to meet you I'm Julia."
This is the first time that I have had someone who is not a teacher speak to me since I came into the school today. I know I need to say something but I have no idea what.
"Uh... it's nice to meet you too" is what ends up coming out.
"Are you a junior?"
"Oh cool, me too, so what is your favorite thing about this school?"
I cannot think of anything to say and then suddenly the truth is coming out.
"The green exit sign over the front doors."
"Really? Why is that?"
"Because when I see that I know that I am done for the day."
"I'm guessing that you don't like school very much then."
"I love learning but I don't like school at all."
"Why is that?"
Does she really need to ask?
"You'll see soon enough."
"Okay, so what class are you looking forward to the most this semester?
"Uh... the drawing class last hour."
"Oh great I'm in that class too, well I better go get some lunch I'll see you later."
Before I can say anything else she hops out of her chair and walks out of class. I lift myself into my POW. I look around and see that the class is now empty except for Mr. O'Connor who is staring at me, I think he saw our whole conversation because he has a smirk on his face.
"What are you looking at?" I ask.
He smiles and says "I am looking at the only student in my world history class that I thought would pay attention all the time. But from what I saw today, it looks like I was wrong."
"Oh don't be, I'm not worried about you at all, you could ignore me every single day and still get an A in the class, because you probably know more about history than I do. I'm just happy that you have an admirer."
I laugh at that but I don't know why.
"Oh come on don't tell me that you didn't see the way she looked at you!"
I shake my head in confusion and ask "When?"
"At the end of class you looked over at her and she glanced over at you and saw that you were looking at her, and she lit right up! She blushed bright red and smiled a mile wide!"
"I thought she was just happy to be here."
"Oh please! You don't have to flatter me. You're already going to pass this class with flying colors. Trust me, after teaching history for six years, I know that when most people hear the word 'history' it's like someone put a sleeping spell on them. I doubt that Julia is any different."
I shrug and say "You could be wrong."
He laughs at that. "I guess that is true, I'm usually wrong once or twice a year. Maybe you caught me on a bad day. But if I were you I wouldn't take that girl's smile too lightly."
"I'll keep that in mind." I say as I start rolling towards the door "I gotta go have lunch; I'll see you later."
"Alright, see ya later lover boy!" he calls after me as I leave the classroom. I can hear him laughing as I head down the hall.
I wonder if he really meant what he said about Julia or if he is just messing with me?
I turn and go into the library/study hall. This is where I would always have lunch last year, because it is far away from where all the dirtbags hang out down in the cafeteria. It is against the rules to eat in here but the librarian never tells me not to. I go to my usual corner where there is a table surrounded on three sides by bookcases. I roll up and put my bag on the table, I pull out a couple books and my lunch. I always bring food from home because I hate the cafeteria food. I eat and read in peaceful silence. This is always the best hour of school as long as nobody comes in and disturbs me.
Suddenly the door swings open, I hear some girls voices. I stop what I am doing and listen. I recognize the first voice as Julia’s, but I do not know the other girl. I hear them sit down at the table on the other side of the bookcase. Julia is asking the other girl what there is to do for fun around here. I should wheel myself around the corner and join them but I have no idea what I would say, so I just stay in my secluded refuge.
They talk and talk and talk like girls do, there is only ten minutes left in the lunch hour and I am starting to worry that I may be late for choir class if they do not leave soon.
"Do you know Jamie?" Julia's question pulls me out of my thoughts.
"Which one?" The other girl asks.
"I think his last name is Colewood."
"Oh right, the one in the wheelchair. I know who he is but I don't know him that well."
"What do you know about him?"
"Not much he sings in the school choir, all the teachers love him because he's ridiculously smart, and I have heard that he is really good at playing the guitar but I've never actually heard him play."
"I wonder where he is I wanted to talk to him some more but he was not in the cafeteria."
"He avoids the cafeteria like the plague because he got bullied in there a lot in his freshman year."
"That's terrible did anyone try to do something about it?"
"Yeah the boys got warned again and again but they just ignored the warnings and no one had the guts to actually punish them."
"That's a disgrace."
"Yeah it is... why are you so interested in him? Are you crushing on the crippled kid?"
"That's none of your business."
"Hey I'm just asking, I certainly would not think any less of you if you were, after all he is pretty cute."
"I better get going I am going to be late for choir class it was nice talking to you."
They pick up their things and walk out the door. I look through a gap in the bookcase and catch a glimpse of them before they are gone. The other girl is taller than Julia and has long brown hair.
Who is she? And how does she know so much about me? I would have been willing to bet that not a single girl in the whole school except my sister knew that I played the guitar. I guess I would have lost that bet.
I shove all my stuff into my bag and zoom out of the library. I shoot down the hallway and into the elevator.
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