She was sitting on the bench outside her room.
It was a busy place.
People walked past her every second. Most were sky blue, uniformed people, the rest all wearing the same white with blue polka dot gowns. And some visitors too.
Every day, she spent her time there sitting, looking at the others who were just like her. Well, almost like her. It felt like hell. She found herself hating them. They were a constant reminder that she lost something too.
Kane came to her every day, bothering her to move.
Go take a walk around, you’ll feel better. You won’t get better otherwise.
She tried to avoid him as much as she could, but then again, it’s not like he was a visitor. She had to face him every day.
“So, how are you doing today, Sarah?” he asked. She said nothing at all. What did he expect her to say?
“I’ll take that as a 4 out of 10 today, then.” He took note of her behaviour and filled in the form as he always did.
“Okay, now can you show me a finger extension? Show me where you’re at.”
She lifted her shaking hand and winced with squinting eyes as she tried to wriggle her fingers. She managed to produce only a twitch.
“Hmm, okay, slight motion in the ring finger. Much better.” He noted. “Can I see a DIP Flexion with the other hand?”
She found out about his intentions a while ago. She knew what he thought: that she wouldn’t realize why he always asked her that. Her left hand had an almost full motor function and they both knew it was never broken. Yet, he still asked her every day about its improvement, so that she wouldn’t focus on the right hand. Clearly, his plan was not working. She lifted her left hand; all five fingers were able to move, except for a bit of twitching in two of them.
“Wow, much better than yesterday. You’re on a roll!” he exclaimed as he jotted that down.
After a bit more chit-chat, Kane left and gave some instructions to Nurse Reyes. Or as Reyes asked Sarah to call her, Blair. She and Blair spent the next few hours trying to train the fingers of her right hand to at least twitch. Throughout the tough process of trying to restore movement in her fingers, she and Blair often conversed about small things. They were starting to become more like friends, which wasn’t surprising as Blair was only a few years Sarah’s senior. Sarah was grateful at the least; rehab would’ve been even harder for her to go through otherwise.
Once Blair looked up and noticed it was 5 o’clock, she excused herself like she did every Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday. “I’m sorry, I have to go.”
“Why do you leave early some days?” Sarah asked as Blair finished up the paperwork for the day. “I asked Kane before but he said you’re not usually responsible for another patient’s care during my time.”
She seemed caught off- guard. She took a sudden pause as if rethinking what to say. “Oh, I have to help another patient.”
Sarah looked at her eagerly.
“It’s my brother. I always assist him during his dialysis.” She continued
It made so much more sense to her now. No wonder she left on the same days at the same time. Sarah lay back on the bed. Now that Blair was leaving, she had nothing else to do. She realized that she actually liked to spend time with Blair, even though it could be really painful at times, and Blair could push her too far.
“Bye then,” she said and sighed.
“Actually… would you like to come with me?” Blair looked at her, eager. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind having more company. Plus, I’d be doing my job continuing your recovery while still being with him.”
“No, it’s okay, I’ll be fine,” Sarah said almost too abruptly and then forced a smile.
“Suit yourself. See you tomorrow!” She took her things and got ready to leave.
You’ll be stuck in this place forever.
“Wait!” Sarah asked right as Blair was about to disappear past the door.
“Are you sure he will be fine with me coming?”
“Of course! Come!” Her excited smile lit up the room. “His name is Damien, by the way.”
This was Sarah’s first time stepping outside of the room and not sitting on the bench like she always did. The hospital was starting to look more pleasant. Nurses were chit-chatting, patients were laughing whether with family, a doctor or a nurse. They all had visible injuries; broken legs, hands, or necks, some were even missing limbs. Yet, there they were, with smiles on their faces. How did they do that?
It made Sarah feel nauseous; she didn’t feel like being there anymore. She wanted to back out, run back to her room, but it was too late. They were already entering the ward.
“Damien!” Blair pulled a brown-haired, brown-eyed, lean and tall guy, into a hug.
“Ugh, get off me. You act like you don’t see me 3 times a week” He pulled out of the hug and looked at Sarah.
“Oh Damien, this is Sarah. Sarah, meet Damien.”
“Sarah, of course. Blair tells me a lot about you.” He was smiling too, despite his failing kidneys. His own organs gave up on him and there he was, managing. “I’m glad you joined us today. I’ve always felt bad that Blair had to ditch you for me.”
Sarah faked a laugh. “No, it’s okay, I can do just fine by myself.”
Throughout the dialysis session, Sarah sat listening to their conversation, speaking only a few times when asked a question. It felt weird at first to watch Damien’s hands hooked up to a machine. There were so many tubes inserted with blood passing through. She felt as though she were to vomit any moment.
She tried to distract herself from the sight by focusing on the two sibling’s conversation instead. Damien talked about school and how stressful it was; he was completing his Master’s degree in software engineering. Blair talked about her own stressors, contrasting them with funny incidents that had occurred at the hospital. Blair was older than Damien, and the way they talked to each other said a lot about their relationship.
As if the sight of blood wasn’t enough, Sarah also found herself almost envying their camaraderie. She didn’t have any visitors of her own, not anymore at least. When she left for the U.S., she had to leave most of her relatives and friends behind. She was always so focused on pursuing her music career, she never gave time to her friends. It was expected that they wouldn’t care enough to visit from Canada. Her mother did not accept her anymore, she preferred her to be a writer. Her father, dead. The only one who cared enough was Keaton, her ex.
He visited at the beginning, but she pushed him away. It was an ugly scene; there was no way he would come back after that.
When she felt it was time to go and she couldn’t bear to stay any longer, Blair hugged her.
“Thank you for doing this and for coming. I know it must’ve been hard.”
It was more peaceful on the way back to her room. There were no visitors, no crowds and, most importantly, no joy and laughter. It’s not that she hated other people being happy. She just couldn’t handle how they were so okay with their conditions. But, now she could see that they weren’t. Some of them had frowns on their faces, others looked like their mouths hurt because of all the smiling and some were still the same as before — happy.
When she reached her room, she noticed the case. She picked up the case. It was the first time she had since the incident. Her left hand glided over the case and found its way to the zipper. She struggled while trying to use both hands to open the case. Finally, her mind fighting to push back the rush of memories, she pulled out the guitar. There were scratches and dents all over it, with a huge dent near the soundhole (an opening in the body of a stringed musical instrument). Two of the strings were broken and sprung out. It was beyond repair, asking to be disposed of. For days, she told herself she would throw it out, but she couldn’t get herself to do it. She hated herself for what she did. If she hadn’t been in a hurry this would’ve never happened. She would have never lost her dream to it. She threw the guitar against the wall and watched it snap in half. The memories from that day she dreaded the most, rushed to her all at once. She struggled taking deep breaths and sat against the wall with her knees in front, holding them to her tight.
She was no longer on the floor but instead in the room that she was first admitted to.
She looked down at her hands. The cast was wrapped all the way up to the elbow.
“Doctor, what’s wrong with my hands?” She asked.
His face was no longer calm as he had looked at her. It turned into a sympathetic look.
“Ms. Medellin, I’m afraid your right has received significant nerve damage during the accident.”
“Wh- what does that mean? What type of damage?” She never felt more scared in her life. Panic had started to build in her stomach.
“During the accident, your car crashed into a tree, and I believe a heavy case in the car fell on your right hand. Due to intense pressure on your hand, there was intensive nerve and muscle damage from the wrist and below. In addition to that, due to whiplash, your neck is also in a cast.”
“Will I be able to play the guitar again?” Her voice broke throughout, she was barely able to say anything. Her eyesight had started to blur, but this time, it wasn’t due to the light that blinded her at first.
“It is still uncertain of what your hand can yet do. Once the cast is removed, with your consent, we can put you in the rehab program where you can start to train your hand into performing basic movements.”
She felt her entire world break apart in between that sentence.
“But there’s still a possibility, right? How long until I can get my hand to move?” She pleaded.
“There is no guarantee to that. However, we do expect that your finger, with enough training, will resume regular motor function in a few months.”
Everybody at the scene, Blair, Keaton, Kane, knew what he meant. She would never be able to play the guitar.
She felt the hard and cold floor again.
“Oh my god, Sarah, are you okay?” She heard Blair run in and the rustling of some papers. She must’ve come in for the last checkup before leaving.
Sarah felt Blair sit next to her. “Talk to me. What’s wrong?”
She said nothing, nor did she look at her. She wanted to cry; felt her life was done. She had no one, no future, nothing. She would be stuck in this hospital forever, unable to do the one thing she loved to do the most.
She let out a small whimper as Blair pulled her into a hug.
“It’s okay, my dear. It will all be okay. You will be okay.” Blair reassured as she gently patted Sarah’s back.
The next few weeks were somewhat better. She was accompanied by Blair most of the time and began to spend more time outside of her room. Kane was very surprised. She joined in on more of Blair and Damien’s conversations despite Blair saying that it was okay if she didn’t want to. Sarah noticed they were more careful around her. Damien started visiting more too, even when he did not have a dialysis session. Some days he would be with her for hours playing board games.
“Do you need some help? This is like your fourth time losing.” Sarah boasted.
“How are you so good at this? Unbelievable!”
“That’s it, I’m not playing with you anymore. This game is rigged.” Damien sighed.
They enjoyed each other’s company a lot.
“Damien told me he has been visiting you a lot.” Blair teased while smirking as she held Sarah’s fingers and rotated them clockwise very carefully.
“Please, we have nothing going on.” She laughed back.
“Hey, I have no objections. You guys are cute together.”
The shattered guitar was still there in the corner of her room. She had never let anyone clean it up. She couldn’t.
Every day she stared at it, each day her pain lessening and her fingers healing. Nevertheless, her yearning to play again grew.
It was Christmas Eve when Sarah took a step outside the hospital for the first time.
“Come, I want to show you something. But you will have to step out for a bit.”
“Damien, I can’t. I’m not ready.”
“Yes, you can. I know you can,” he pleaded.
“Fine, just for a few minutes.” She warned.
When she stepped outside, Sarah was mesmerized. It was cold and beautiful, the snow. Somehow she found peace with herself. She had kept herself locked in the hospital for so long, afraid of being reminded about everything she was trying to forget. But she was wrong. She hadn’t felt this great in a long time.
She closed her eyes and let the snowflakes melt on her cheeks. It didn’t matter that in front of her was not the prettiest of scenery. It was nothing special, but for the first time in months, she was happy.
“Thank you, Damien. For this.” She smiled.
And then they leaned into each other, hearts beating faster and faster as they melted into each other’s warmth.
The next few months, Sarah tried harder and harder to get control of her fingers back. She didn’t want to stay in that hospital any longer. She managed to twitch all of her fingers and was now awaiting the day she would finally be able to move all five fingers effortlessly.
“Okay, now let’s see how the other hand is doing,” Kane said.
“I’m warning you, you will be blown away.” She laughed as she lifted her hand. Her fingers were now able to move without twitching.
“Sarah! Oh my god, I’m so happy for you!” squealed Blair.
“I’m impressed! These are great results, Sarah. Truly impressed,” stated Kane. “However, I have to stress that this is not the end. Although there is no guarantee that you will be able to play again, I suggest you keep trying.”
And for the first time ever, she thought to herself, I will.
It finally came the day; she was ready to be discharged. She couldn’t stop smiling; she was free. She knew, just as much as Dr. Kane knew, that she would never be able to play the guitar with the same ease as she had before. Before she left, she disposed of the broken guitar from the day of the accident. She decided that she would not let her past haunt her anymore and stop her from all the things she loved to do. She was able to finally let that piece of her go.
And despite losing that piece of her, she felt that she did not lose her flow, more so found another piece of her; she found her true rhythm.
Why I Wrote This Piece
While I did not, fortunately, go through anything remotely close to what Sarah went through, I am able to draw a connection with this story because I do know someone who struggled quite a bit. Last year, I was asked by my aunt to teach my cousin how to play the guitar. At first, everything was going smoothly, and I watched her fall in love with playing the instrument. However, her fingers started to bruise badly, and ultimately decided not to practice anymore to prevent any further injury. My cousin was very hurt and hated herself for it. When she told me about the situation, I suggested that she go to the doctor and get it checked up. It seemed that it was a medical condition and her fingers were too weak. When I attended Write to Discover and was asked to write a piece, I instantly knew I wanted to write about this specific struggle in hopes of connecting with people who are going through a similar situation and to give them hope. I have never really written a short story before, but I’m glad I attended the workshop series and was given the opportunity to have my writing published.