A Special Place--Part Five--Matt
A week after Luke's attempted suicide, I was near total exhaustion. I hated myself because I wasn't superhuman. When I went to the hospital for the night, I noticed Dr. Bailey was in her office and knocked on her open door.
"Matt, come in. How are you doing?"
"That's what I wanted to talk with you about, Dr. Bailey. I'd never want anyone else to know, but I am just about completely exhausted. I don't know what to do. I haven't been working on my music, my grades are approaching the failing mark, and every time I stop for a minute, I fall asleep. Yet, I am convinced that you and Dr. Walker are right, my being with Luke does make a difference. I feel very guilty that I am thinking about myself, but at the same time, I don't know how much longer I can hold out. I have thought about dropping out of school and doing summer school to finish even though it would mean I'd have to drop my independent study in music. So long as there is the least possibility that my being with him makes even the slightest difference between Luke's recovering or not, I'll be here. He is more important to me than anything else."
"Matt, if you collapse and end up in the hospital yourself, you are not going to be able to help Luke. That's reality. And never doubt that Luke is alive because you have given him hope and a reason to live. I am convinced Luke would have been dead days ago had you not spent night after night at his bedside. I have been worried about you, but knew it would do no good to suggest you spend less time here. Besides, we all know that the young believe they are invincible and immortal until it is proven otherwise."
"You are right about that, all of it, but I have had my mortality and limits rubbed in my face. Isn't there something you can give me which will keep me going?"
"You mean speed? No way. There has to be some better way. Dr. Walker is still here. Would you like to have him join us to discuss the situation?"
"Of course. Anything or anyone you think might help."
Dr. Bailey picked up her phone and had Dr. Walker paged. Minutes later he appeared at her door. "Paul, would you close the door. We need to talk with Matt."
"Sure. Good to see you, Matt, but you don't look too good."
"That's what we need to talk about. Matt is close to the point of complete exhaustion. He's considering dropping out of school and doing summer school to finish, but that would mean losing some credits which are important to his future, especially his future in music because he will have to drop his independent study and the recital which determines his grade. He has dropped off the baseball and tennis teams, but still has a very full plate in addition to being here for Luke. He asked about something to keep him going--speed--but I said no way."
"I have been worried about you, Matt. When I have been here late and gone to ICU, I have seen you sleeping, exhausted, your head resting on Luke's bed. You have saved his life--yes, I am confident he will make it--but he still has a long way to go. However, he is almost completely off the drugs which have been keeping him in a coma and we started weaning him from the ventilator. While I can't predict when he might regain consciousness, or what his condition will be when he does, I have a suggestion to make. Why don't you go up, talk to him for awhile--not more than an hour--and then go home. Chelsea, who has decided she is mother to you two--I have never seen her be such a mother hen--will call you immediately if she thinks you are needed. By the way, she told me a few days ago that she knew you two were more than friends. 'Those two beautiful young men are in love with each other and I hope they have a long, rich life together. I have seldom seen such love as Matt has shown and I know that has something to do with why Luke is here.' Hope you don't mind, but I thought the best way to have her keep her observations to herself was to tell her the whole story. When I finished, she said, 'You didn't have to tell me all that. I had figured it out long ago!' By the way, I am hopelessly heterosexual, but I agree that the scar is sexy!"
I laughed and said, "Honestly, I have been so busy I hadn't even noticed. David came to the house and checked it and I forgot to look in the mirror after he left the butterflies off. Obviously I don't have to stare at a face shaving and I do my hair by feel, but I'm glad its sexy!. . . . I don't know about your suggestion. By the time Chelsea called, I got up, got dressed and got here, it would take twenty minutes or so, that is if I could get awake enough to drive. I think maybe I better just keep up the usual as long as I can."
"What's going to happen when you collapse from exhaustion and have to be hospitalized?" Dr. Bailey asked again.
"I guess I'll just have to cross that bridge when I get to it."
"How about a compromise? Margaret, you'll be leaving soon, won't you?"
"I should have been gone hours ago. Why?"
"Assuming all goes as well, as I am sure it will, this will be Luke's last night in ICU. If we can get him completely off the ventilator, which I believe we can, he can be moved into a semi-private room tomorrow. That way, Matt, there will be another bed in his room and you can sleep there if Luke doesn't come around. I'll make sure Luke is the only one in the room. For tonight, Matt, why don't you go up, spend a hour with Luke and then come down to Margaret's office. She can have an orderly make up the bed on the sofa where I know she has spent a lot of nights. Then, if Chelsea thinks Luke needs you, you can be at his bedside in a few minutes."
"I'm glad someone is thinking straight, Paul, because I knew we'd never get Matt home tonight. That's an excellent idea. What do you think, Matt?"
"I agree on one condition. If Chelsea will call me every two hours so I can spend time with Luke."
"How about every three hours and you spend not more than twenty minutes when you go up unless there is some unforeseen change for the worse?"
"OK. I'll agree to that.
"Good," Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker said together."Matt, you go on up and I'll have the bed fixed. I'll also get you something to sleep if you like because sleeping in your clothes is never very comfortable."
I blushed and said, "If you are sure no one will barge in, I'll just sleep as I usually do, the way my mother birthed me."
"That would be a pretty sight and I'm not kidding," Dr. Bailey said, then blushed."I'll see that you are not disturbed. Chelsea can call directly here if she needs to do so or to wake you in three hours. Also, I'm not going to give you speed, but I will leave something on the desk which will help you get to sleep quickly and rest. It won't dope you up so you can't get awake when Chelsea calls."
"Good idea, Margaret. Matt, before I go, I want to say again, the man you love is alive today because of your love. Don't ever forget that. I have always known that love could work miracles, but I never thought even a miracle could pull off what you have done. Do get some rest. Good night and good night, Margaret.
"Good night," Dr. Bailey and I said together. Dr. Bailey walked over to me and gave me a big hug. "Matt, when this is over, we are going to have to have a long talk about how wonderful you are!" Needless to say, I blushed.
I went up to ICU, leaving Dr. Bailey to make arrangements for my night. Chelsea greeted me with a huge smile and gave me a good hug. "I'm glad you are going to get some rest tonight and I promise if there is the slightest reason to have you come up, I will call. And I promise to call you every three hours as well. Our boy is having a struggle getting off the ventilator, as do most people who have been on it as long as he has. It's almost like your body forgets how to breathe. It must be like those dreams where you need to breathe and can't. We take him off for short periods, each time for a little longer, but he just won't give it up. Maybe you can talk some sense into him! Also, he should be coming out from under the drugs soon, then we can begin to find out how he really is. Now you get on in there and convince him he can breathe!" With those words she gave me a slap on the butt--Chelsea the ogre gave me a slap on the butt! What had happened to the wicked witch of the ICU I had first heard about?
When I went into Luke's room, he looked more alive than I had ever seen him since his dive into the river. The ventilator was running so I decided to have a little talk with him about that and about what would be going on tonight. "Luke, Babe, you finally look like a human being--almost--if you just weren't hooked up to all these machines. For the first time, your lips really look like you and they look like I could kiss them forever, but you are still on that fucking ventilator! How am I ever going to get the kisses I deserve for being here with you night after night if you don't get your ass in gear and start breathing like a normal human being? Man, I need a kiss now and all I can do is kiss you on the forehead and that sucks when your beautiful lips are just inches away." I continued to talk in that mock serious vein for awhile and then realized that what I wanted more than rest or anything else right now was to kiss those perfect lips. "Luke, I love you so much it really does hurt not to be able to kiss you, to hold you, to let you know how very, very much I love you. Please, Luke, breathe for me!"
Suddenly, Luke gasped. I didn't know whether that was good or bad so I ran for Chelsea, forgetting the call button at hand. "Chelsea," I said as soon as I reached the nurses' station, remembering not to call out, "Luke is gasping!" The two of us ran back to the room and Luke was gasping frantically, the ventilator still pumping away. Chelsea quickly disconnected the hose to the ventilator and turned it off. As Luke continued to gasp, I became frightened. What did this mean? "What's going on, Chelsea?" I asked anxiously.
"Looks like someone has decided to breathe on his own. I wonder why? Have you made any threats or promises?" Since I knew the jig was up with Chelsea after the conversation in Dr. Bailey's office, I said, "Not really. I just told him I was tired of kissing him on the forehead and not on his beautiful lips and that his insisting on the ventilator sucked because I couldn't have the kisses I deserved for being here night after night and asked him why he didn't get his ass in gear and start breathing like a normal human being. That's all."
"Well, it seems that was enough. We can't be sure he will continue to breathe on his own for awhile, but since he got you pissed off, I suspect he knows he better," she said with a laugh. "We'll have to leave the tubes in place until Dr. Walker sees him in the morning, but I suspect when you come back tomorrow night, you can give him at least one great smack on the lips. You've done it again, Matt, My Man!"
Do I need to say I blushed? I think I have taken to having hot flashes I am blushing so much these days.
"I'm going to leave the ventilator disconnected. We're able to monitor Luke's breathing from the nurses' station and should he stop breathing, we can reconnect it in seconds. But I don't think that will happen. Should anyone decide to nominate you for sainthood, I'll be the first to testify to your performing miracles! But even saints have to have their rest and, Young Man, your twenty minutes are up. Go get some rest."
"OK, but you promise to call me if anything happens?"
"Of course I will. Don't you doubt it."
"Then I'll see you in a couple hours."
"You'll see me in three hours, not two!"
I kissed Luke on the forehead as I had done so many times, told him I would be back in three hours and, this time, left him with real joy in my heart as I went downstairs to Dr. Bailey's office. Ordinarily I think that I would have immediately collapsed in bed, but I was so excited that when I was undressed, I took the medicine Dr. Bailey had left for me and slipped between the cool sheets. As I felt my body relax, I mentally sang a song of thanksgiving to my God for bringing Luke back to me, for Chelsea, Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker, and for everyone who had made it possible for me to be with the man I loved and promptly fell asleep.
When I left Luke the next morning, he appeared to be simply asleep. For the first time, he looked natural and real. With the exception of the connector for the ventilator and a single IV, only the sensors for the monitors were attached to his body. He had been breathing on his own since he had gasped earlier and Chelsea, and then Gladys, assured me that when I saw him next he would be in his own room with nothing attached except an IV "just in case." I, too, felt like a different person. Not only was Luke doing well, but the rest Dr. Bailey had insisted upon for me had a remarkable effect. I felt rejuvenated and really alive for the first time since Luke's dive into the river.
I got home, took a shower and got dressed for school much earlier than I had since Luke had been in the hospital. I had been grabbing a nap before school, skipping breakfast, which my parents had early so we could have some time together before we all had to leave for school. Today I was ready when I heard them in the kitchen. When I went downstairs I was actually feeling great and it obviously showed. "Well, you are all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning," Dad said in greeting, a smile on his face.
"I feel the same," I said. "Luke is breathing completely on his own and he will be moved into his own room today. When I left this morning, he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. They have stopped the drugs which kept him in a coma. No one knows when he will come around, but it may be soon. I would love to be there when that happens.
"It would be great if you could be," Mom said,"but since no one knows when that will happen and, besides, until he is in his own room, you can't be there when the Larsens are there. There's really no way to make that happen, is there?"
"No, I guess not."
"Matt, Jens told me the doctors expected Luke to be coming around today or tomorrow if all goes as it should and I knew you'd like to be there, if not when he comes 'round, as soon as possible. I picked up a pager for you. You know school rules and I'll not defend you if you get caught. Keep it in those baggy pants of yours set on vibrator rather than bell."
I hugged Dad tightly. I had always known I had great parents, but even I have been surprised by how supportive they had been. "Well, I've got to run. I have some things to do before school. Also, I am talking to all my teachers today about any work I need to make up or redo. I guess I'll have to speak to my physics and English teachers tonight. And thanks, Dad, for taking care of the Jeep. I don't know when I could have gotten that done." Dad had seen to getting my Jeep repaired and I had it for several days, but hadn't remembered to thank him. "By the way, are the Larsens still spending all day at the hospital?"
"I don't think so. Jens said since there was little or nothing they could do except wait. They were checking on Luke before and after work and one or the other or both were going by during lunch hour. Since David is having to go in to the hospital early this month, they take Mary Kathryn and Michael to school then go by the hospital."
"Well, I've gotta run," I said as I gave my Mom a kiss on the cheek and Dad another hug. As I drove out of the driveway, I made a hasty decision. I was going to go to the hospital to see Luke before I went to school. By this time, I knew my way around the hospital and knew that I could get to ICU and make sure the Larsens were not there before I went in to see my beloved. I went up the stairs to ICU, walked toward the nurses' station, making sure I was not seen. Gladys was coming out of Luke's room as I reached the nurses' station. When she got near enough, I whispered, "Gladys! Gladys!"
She looked toward me and motioned me to come on in. "Our boy. . . ."
"My Man," I corrected her.
"So you're finally going to say what I have known from the beginning. He's your man."
"I would shout it to the world except it would probably get the shit beat out of both of us."
"Or worse. Matt, promise me you'll be very careful who you tell and what you do. I love both of you and if he loves you half as much as you obviously love him, you two deserve a whole long life of loving each other, but there are those. . . ."
"How well I know. But how is he?"
"I think he is doing just great. All his vitals are good and he appears to be sleeping normally. He hasn't had a moment's trouble breathing on his own. Chelsea told me that was because you gave him an ass chewing about being too lazy to breathe for you."
"Well. . . ." Then I did it again. I blushed.
"Dr. Walker will be in before long, probably in less than an hour, and unless I miss my guess, when you see Luke again, he'll be in his own room."
"Do me a favor, Gladys?"
"You know I will if I can."
"Do you think you'll have any indication when he might wake up?"
"Maybe, maybe not. Why? What did you have in mind?"
"You already have my cell phone number. I can't have that at school and even if I did, there'd be no way I could have it ring. Dad got me a pager which I will put on vibrate because I'm not supposed to have it at school either, but I will keep it in my cargo pants. . . ."
"Yea, and the way you kids wear'em these days, you could hide a car in the pockets."
"If you have any hint that Luke might wake up, will you page me?"
"Give me the number, Lover Boy."
With that bit of business taken care of, I went into Luke's room. Sure enough, he looked very little different from the way I had seen him countless times when we slept over at one another's house, except for the fact that he had lost a tremendous amount of weight and the days in bed had taken its toll on his sculptured body. I knew the Larsens could show up any minute, so I leaned over Luke and kissed him on the forehead. In my rush, I hadn't done anything to my hair so it spilled over him, enclosing the two of us. "Today you get kissed for real, Luke, Babe. Just hang in there until I get back."
As I turned to leave, I saw Gladys motioning for me to hurry. As the door to the stairs closed I heard her say, "Mr. and Mrs. Larsen, I am sure you will be pleased to see how you son looks this morning."
A Special Place--Part Five--Luke
I felt as though a steel band had been placed around my chest. I couldn't breathe! Some demon had been torturing me with the belief that I was going to live; now I was dying! All my dreams, all my struggles were just that--dreams, foolish dreams.
I fell to the ground, tears streaming, but not weeping since I couldn't breathe. As hard as I tried, I could not pull air into my lungs. I summoned all the strength I could muster and focused on one thing--breathing. I felt I was in a vacuum and my chest simply would not expand. Had I come this far only to die now? Had I heard Matt's words of love and encouragement only to fade into nothingness? NO! Most emphatically NO! I would breathe! Suddenly, I found myself gasping, sucking welcome air into my lungs. I was breathing!
But soon, too soon, I found I could no longer continue. When I thought I would once again die from lack of air, something took over and air was being pumped to my lungs. As I was able to breathe or something was breathing for me, I became aware of a change in my surroundings. I was no longer in the fog. I was lying on the ground, surrounded by light. I was no longer in that place of no time. I could feel my body. I no longer felt like a suspended ghost. Not conscious, but more than I had been since I had dived into the river, I began to recall the events which had led up to that moment, but even more importantly, I began to realize that wherever I was, Matt had been with me. Not all the time, but the times when I needed him and his strength to fight against death.
Matt had said he loved me. Matt had kissed me, time and again on the forehead. Matt had held my hand. How I knew this, I did not know, but I knew it; I was in a dreamlike state. I was almost aware of people moving around me from time to time, but not fully aware. Once again I drifted into a state of being unaware and once again was shocked into awareness when I couldn't breathe. I didn't know what was going on, but this time I did not panic. I just called upon all my strength again and prayed to God to give me more until I was able to gasp for air. I was now conscious of time and realized that I was able to breathe for awhile longer than previously before it became too much. Several times I was shocked into awareness by suddenly not breathing and each time I struggled harder to breathe longer once I started. Each time I found myself struggling for breath, I realized that once I started breathing, I could go on my own longer and longer. Then, exhausted, I would collapse into unawareness again.
I became conscious that Matt was near me. I don't know how I knew, but I did. As he bent over to kiss my forehead as he had done so many times before, his loose hair fell over my face and I could smell the scent of Matt, the most wonderful smell in the world--far better that anything anyone had ever been able to put in a bottle. A deep happiness stirred my being. When Matt had kissed me, he stayed near--again, I don't know how I knew--and started talking to me. His tone was mock serious, but serious, as he told me to get to breathing on my own. I didn't know I had not been, but I did know that when I stopped breathing, something took over. Drawing every ounce of strength I had and all I could get from Matt's presence, I was determined to breathe on my own even though whatever breathed for me was doing so. Finally I was able to take a great gasp of air into my lungs--on my own! Once I started, I continued. I realized that what had been pumping air into my lungs stopped and I was on my own--for Matt. I was as excited as someone who is not really conscious, but aware, could be.
I continued breathing without help. Matt left and returned after what seemed an eternity. Once again my face was covered by his magnificent hair and the perfume of him. For the first time since I had dived into the river, I settled into real sleep.
I awoke because I knew that Matt was near. Not since I had plunged beneath the waters of the river had I been so near real consciousness. I was breathing on my own and knew it. Aside from not being fully conscious, I felt nearly normal. I was puzzled as to how I knew Matt was near when I knew he wasn't in the room with me. Almost from the beginning of my being in this place, where even it was, I could sense Matt's presence, even when I knew he wasn't beside me. Of course, I knew when he was beside me, holding my hand, talking to me, kissing me on the forehead. I wondered why he only kiss my forehead. Then I remembered he said something about not being able to kiss me because of a machine or something. I didn't understand, but the fact that he wanted to really kiss me made my heart skip a beat.
As I lay waiting for Matt to come to me, I realized my throat was very sore. Sometimes it made breathing uncomfortable, but I was and would be breathing on my own. Suddenly I knew that Matt had entered my room and was bending over me. I could feel his hair as it covered my face. After he kissed me on the forehead, he whispered, "Today you get kissed for real, Luke, Babe. Just hang in there until I get back." That was enough to keep me doing whatever I needed to do to "hang in there." With those words, Matt left and I could feel his presence moving further and further from me. When I was no longer aware of his presence, I heard someone say, "Mr. and Mrs. Larsen, I am sure you will be pleased to see how you son looks this morning." For the first time I was knew my parents had come to see me and I was frightened.