-Summer of 2013-
-Fifteen months after the safe house-
“Now that she’s left the room shoot me straight, Dr. Smith. What are the odds she won’t survive this? I want numbers. Dig up the paperwork. Open some books. Kick on the computer, get your people in here, I don’t care. Show me some stats. I know it’s your job to tell me this shit, but it’s my job to get everything I can from you. As long as you do your job, I’ll be doing mine.”
“Thirty three percent.” Dr. Smith tapped the pen on the table and looked over the top of her thin wire frame glasses. Sitting there in her stupid smock, with her stupid name tag and stupid medical degrees hanging on her stupid walls.
I shot both my hands in the air, “What does that mean? Thirty three she’ll survive? Or thirty three she won’t. Kind of a wide in between, don’t you think?”
“Jeremy, there’s a thirty three percent chance she won’t survive it. After what she’s been through, I’ll be honest. It’s not going to be an easy road.”
I crossed my arms and leaned back in the chair, “She started to find some solid mobility again. The wounds are fading and scarring up. She can drive a car now and go up and down the stairs. What you’re asking her to do is elevate ALL OF IT to another level. Do you have any idea how life altering this will be?!”
Nancy closed the door to the small room, sat back down at the table and I faked a smile and relaxed. Mostly for her benefit.
Dr. Smith sat up straight and darted her eyes between us as if she was watching a high speed tennis match. “Listen… there’s no easy way to say these things, so if you want me to shoot you straight, I’ll shoot you straight. To bottom line it, you’ll have one shitty summer.”
I butted in, “Is that your expert opinion?”
“No, not my opinion, it’s a fact. The next few months are going to suck.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” I interrupted again and turned my attention out the window.
This can’t be happening.
Another Cosmic Joke?
Dr. Smith wanted to drive her point home, “You look at me as though I’m a heartless bitch. Like I get something out of all of this. Will it drain your bank account? Yes. Will it change your environment, what you eat and drink? Yes it will. Will it change your lives? I’m afraid so. But the money doesn’t come directly from your pocket to mine. I get nothing from this experience. It’s not my fault that your life will be different. This is my job. My job is not always pleasant. If you decide not to do this, I can’t be certain of where the future will take you. You’ll be relying solely on faith.”
“It’s funny you say that, Doc. It seems as though what you’re asking us to do, is a faith based idea as well. I have yet to be convinced this is even necessary. You say one thing, but I haven’t seen the evidence. Hell… even Boston couldn’t read the disk. Everyone we talk to speaks about this, all tra-la-la-la, like… hey, it’s not a big deal. Just do it. All we have right now is word of mouth and two options. I’m sorry I’m not responding as nice as you’d like.”
She maintained a professional demeanor. Her back straight and hands clasped on the table top, “All I can do, is continue to provide you the options: Sign off, and let’s get this started as soon as possible, or feel free to head on out the door and maybe we’ll see you in the future someday, and you’ll be sitting right back here again, and maybe it won’t be me… but someone else who’ll tell you the same damn thing. I leave the choice completely up to you. I’ll give you some time to think about it.”
Dr. Smith left the room, the door whispered shut behind her and I exhaled. All I could muster was a statement, “The decision is totally up to you.” I caught her worried eyes with mine and didn’t let go. “What did I tell you three months ago? At the peak of the worst?”
She kept her stare on me and stuttered through the reply, “That-that you’d support my decisions… and, and stick by my side.”
“And I still mean that. You think we can handle one shitty summer? I got your back, Jack. No matter what.”
She looked to the floor and let the tears fall to the carpet. I cupped her chin in my hand and pulled her eyes back to mine. I needed to maintain that stare. I needed to pass my dwindling strength on to her somehow, and hoped osmosis would work. She nodded and half smiled.
Going back three months before, she had undergone a major surgery. Her chest was ripped open from the throat, to inches above the belly button. Hours after the lengthy procedure when I was able to visit, she had hoses and wires running through her, behind her bed, under and around. She was stapled back together with wire and twine. Bags of fluid hung from metal hooks to either side of the elevated bed and she was connected to a wall covered in medical instruments and digital readouts.
When I was able to finally bring her home, where her living space was confined to the couch, I slept on the floor beside her, woke at every noise uttered, held her through every tear shed and cry of pain, and catered to her every need. If her temperature raised a degree, I was making phone calls. I changed her bandages, fought infections, cooked her meals, bathed her when needed, brushed her hair, cleaned her (disturbing) wounds and was at her beck and call until the body was able to heal.
I was provided with lists of do’s and don’t. Rules and regulations. What to watch for and pay attention to.
When the pain was at it’s worst, I looked into her tear soaked eyes and whispered, “No matter what it takes, no matter what it costs, you will not be alone and I promise to help fix you and I will make it my mission in life.” And I meant it.
And we made it through.
I left work for thirty days and every scrap of my energy was devoted exclusively to healing the best thing to ever enter my life.
Nancy healed me, and to this day, I’m not fully sure she even knows that.
It was my turn to repay the debt.
Those three months after her surgery, and the next three months to follow, would be considered the pinnacle of life altering experiences for me. Events that changed me forever.
The birth of my child(ren), helping Nancy rise from the ashes after six months of unending struggle and pain, and that night I was speeding down the back roads of my home state like a possessed madman on the way to nomad land, with no destination in mind. The night before I was to leave the safe-house, forever, and find another place to live with no plan or idea what to do with life. Just me and the mutt at my side, and a backpack of bare essentials.
I should have accepted the invite right away. You never turn down family. But if I had stopped and payed them a visit at their request, I never would have been pulled over by a state trooper for criminal speeding.
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