Keeping my Friend
"I don't think he would make it", the doctor in the trauma department of the emergency room returned to me with wretched news. "His right hind limb is shattered and his spinal cord is in not so good condition. We may have to cut his leg and as much as possible attenuate his internal bleeding. We all need your full support and cooperation to at least make him survive if not paralyzed."
"Is he conscious?", I said with my trembling jaws
"Yes, he's not in a coma though. He is a strong man. I'm so amazed by your friend for surviving a sky diving injury. Most people I have encountered didn't even last longer than he did. If you want you could see him for a few seconds before we put him into a general anesthetic."
"Thanks". I said. For a second there, I felt the fear that my friend might as well be one of those people the doctor is pertaining to, the only difference would be that head stayed a little longer than usual.
I approached the tiled covered room and felt that I had swept through time and back to my high school laboratory. My blood shriveled and my muscles as if losing its tone as I saw my friend in a white bed with different apparatus stuck to different parts of his body.
"Can you hear me, Mark? If you can, grip my hand...I...I... I'm sorry this has happened. But you'll be fine, trust me. It's all my fault, I'd insisted you in this thing."
I didn't felt his grip but I heard him say "Don't worry by the time I got out of here we'll get our own lovers." He uttered it close to my ear and it slowly echoed in my mind and the only thing that I managed to say was "I'll wait for you". Getting us lovers was his primary goal in life. He didn't want to accept the idea that we both be dying old and alone. Yet still I didn't want to spoil his hopes and promised to wait for him.
My body is in great surrender to the floor; it was as if I was a paper laid flat on a flat desk. I could not bear to see my friend disarmed in a worthless hospital bed. I nearly collapsed on the floor; the doctor took hold of me and handed me to a nurse where we sat in a red cushioned sofa outside the emergency room. The nurse gave me a glass of water but I refused to drink.
I sat there with a nurse for a couple of minutes. My mouth didn't opened until the nurse uttered a few words to open a conversation
You really are a brave young man, the nurse said looking straight at me.
"You're just saying that to comfort me, so stop the idea that I will agree on you", I looked at the nurse and he was a very handsome young male nurse, probably at my age. I'm twenty-five and I can feel his eyes pierced through my brains. He has these enthralling light brown eyes that seemed to sympathize along with my agony. And those very same eyes made me feel that I'm not alone.
"Don't make it hard for you. I know that you know he'll be fine"
"You nurses do know your way of getting a person to stop jerking"
"It didn't came with our training but when I'm with people like you it almost comes out naturally. It's like a need to envelop someone in grief and make him feel that there are a lot of people in the same consequence, that if I could make that person feel comforted, then I have comforted the rest of the world in grief."
"You make a good psychologist than a nurse"
"But if I would be a psychologist I wouldn't be here with an astounding person whom I have the responsibility to help with." He then showed his first smile. The last I remember was with my friend before the accident.
His smile was so warm that it looked as though the red sofa turned into yellow as his soft hands gripped mine as to say, "I'm here".
Down the hall was the nurses' station. I could hardly see the nurse calling. She was yelling to someone I do not know but I had the feeling that that person is just near me.
Suddenly the young nurse had cut his vision towards me and headed to the nurse at the station. He returned his eyes toward me and I had his last look.
"I'm sorry. But would you be fine without me? I believe I'm summoned for another predicament", He smiled with his lovely smile, he wanted me to take that as a joke but I felt none of that.
"Yes, I think I would."
He then stood up the sofa and headed down to the station. He hasn't had his five steps when he turned around and asked me if he could take me to dinner after my friend had come out of the hospital.
I just stared at him blankly while he responded his smile as if taking my stare as to a 'yes' but for me it meant a 'thank you'.
Several months had passed and by some sort of a miracle, my friend soon recovered. Much faster than I thought. He paralyzed his right fingers, which became his ticket for therapy. His once perfect face was now sprinkled with deep scars and bruises.
I would spend almost my whole day taking care of him. His teary eyes would greet me every time I showed up at his hospital room. I could do nothing but to smile and hug my friend. And by that, I know that he felt the ease and loving arms of a family he once dreamt of.
"How's my dear friend? Are we taking full recovery now?" I asked in a much more cheerful way
"I've never been better, thanks". He was vibrant now, far too different from the last time I saw him before I left the hospital yesterday. It was like he's getting stronger everyday and every time I'm with him.
"I can see you're getting better and better as each day passes. Therapy did help you a lot. And that's a very good sign, sooner or later we can take that trip to Italy where we could find our own someone. I now you're very eager to go there" I said.
"I don't think that would be possible, Roe"
"What do you mean? We have been planning that for years?"
"Do you really think that with the way I am right now would thoroughly fulfill all my dreams?"
"It doesn't matter whether we get one or not but the thing that we could spent all the beauty of Italy is a great thing to have and a great thing to experience. Don't let your situation turn your hopes down. I've always seen you as a person of optimism and great hopes. Remember, you're the optimist and I'm the pessimist, that's why we get along with each other."
"Now life has turned up side down and we have to accept that."
"It doesn't have to be that way Mark. Everything would be fine"
I thought that making him remember the way we were would trigger something important in his life. Well it turned out that I'm wrong. Life did turn its way around.
Our conversation was terminated when the nurse came to the room and handed down Mark's lunch. He was the same nurse that I've met who pampered me when Mark was in the emergency room struggling for his life. He became much more attractive than ever, but I refuse to see that fact for I wanted to concentrate on taking care of my dear friend.
He smiled at me and I can feel his eyes yet piercing my deepest emotions. I know Mark saw his solitary glance at me and took noticed.
The day came to its end and I had a great time with Mark. I took aside his perturbation and decided to make his day all worth while. I bid him goodbye as the clock approached its seventh mark.
"I have to go now I might be late at work", I leaned over and kissed his forehead. "I love you, I'll see you tomorrow"
Mark took hold of my hand and said, "I'm so lucky to have a friend like you, Thanks for every thing."
"I know". I headed for the door and into the hallway.
As I was walking the nurse caught up with me. I stopped to see if there's anything wrong.
"What's the matter?" I asked
"Nothing. Do you remember me?" It was the nurse I encountered a few months ago. Although I didn't recognize him, I knew it was he because of his eyes, the very same eyes that comforted me in my most troublesome moment.
"Of course, how could I not!" Upon knowing that there's nothing that I should ponder, I started my fast pace to the hallway.
"And do you remember the thing I said? He still caught up with me to the elevator. He was carrying a tray of medicines and some steel folders, which I believe, contain patient's information.
"What? Are you going to take me out to dinner and make that night unforgettable for me?" I burst into laughter and thought that it was a joke, but I don't think he took that as a joke.
"So you do remember...'
'Yes I did and don't expect that I'm gonna join you for a date. You'd got to be kidding!"
"No I'm not. I made a promise and I don't want to break it."
"How could that be a promise when I didn't even heard you say you promised?"
"I did, you're just too contained with the situation and I doubt you even heard a single thing I said."
"You know what, that has been a history for me, so if you may, I wish to step out of this elevator or I'll be late for my job."
"I'll call you then"
"Don't bother, you can listen to me at 102.6...I would probably need few more people to keep my show on air...that is, if you like alternative music"
It may be ironic to think that Mark never listened to my show; he said I sounded bad in the radio and that alternative music is just not his type.
"You are a disk jockey"
"Isn't that obvious, you better get those things to where they should be?" I noticed the things he's carrying.
"What do you mean?"
"Yes, 'till then"
I left him at the elevator. I didn't had the strength to look back, I might as well be tempted to accept his proposition and make life a real turn around.
Still a few more months caught my friend into an amazing recovery. Mark managed to get off the hospital bed, although in wheel chairs, the doctor allowed him to go home. We left the hospital almost at nine for I have to arrange papers for his release. Luckily, my time slot at the radio was used to give way for a special interview with The Corrs. I fetched him and we bound for our apartments. He still carried the deep memories of the accident on his face. The doctor said that surgery is the only way of getting his scars to disappear, but unfortunately we didn't have any.
I prepared the apartment especially for his arrival. The whole place is in great order. I changed the curtains in the windows, vacuumed the carpet and bought new things, particularly scented candles. Mark loved scented candles. He said it makes his worries evaporate with the each scent the candle emits into the thin air of the city atmosphere.
I guided him through the doors of our apartment. And I couldn't almost hold the marvel he had over the new room.
"Wow! Is this the same apartment we bought years ago?"
"I know, and smell the different fragrances". I rolled him toward the candles and he took it into his arms, smelling it in great craving. I never saw him like that, not since we bought this apartment on our own.
"Thank you Roe, you really made my return a real blast!"
"You better go to sleep you have a lot to catch up tomorrow"
I laid him to his bed and tuck him to sleep. I slept at the sofa for we usually share a single bed. Before I close my eyes, I had my last look at my friend as he peacefully drove into deep sleep. I thank God for saving him and for giving him another chance. I turned the lamp off and felt the coldness as the dark of the night slowly ate the room.
It was a bright and sunny day. The rays of the sun looked like stripes moving through the vinyl windows. It was a lovely sight. I stretched and took off the blanket from my body, when suddenly I saw a shadow entrapping the sun's light over the right window of the room.
"Is that you Mark?"
"Yes, and isn't this a lovely day to start filling up my life"
"Yes it is, but how did you manage to get up and get to that wheel chair all by yourself?"
"It's all about a matter of determination and perseverance, which I should be getting used to from this day onward."
"Now that's a very good thing to hear from you. It's about time you cut out being a cry baby". I moved towards him to the back of the chair and put my hands around his shoulders and we both burst into laughter.
It should have been a long sweet laughter, a laughter we'd never had since the accident, when out of nowhere we heard someone tapping at our door. I opened the door and there was the nurse with a bouquet of flowers.
"What are you doing here?" I asked with my pajamas still on and my hair crawling up to the ceiling. I didn't comb my hair then so as to make him go away.
"I just thought I'd drop by and bring these flowers to one of my patients"
"You should have not done such an extravagant thing. He's fine anyway and besides were not in the hospital anymore"
"I listened to your show last night and didn't heard you. I thought there's something wrong, are there?"
"We'll none, I'm not terminated though. You shouldn't bother"
"It's ok, I'd better be going now"
"Good, I mean...so soon?"
"Yes I have my shift at the hospital". It was apparent that he has his job on the go for he was distinctively wearing his white uniform. And he does look good in it especially with the light from the hallway window, which made him look like he'd come down from heaven.
"Just good luck to your job and thanks for the flowers"
"Alright, I'll be waiting for your show. Bye!"
He walked through the hall and into the stairs. I went back in with the flowers and handed it to Mark.
"I shouldn't have this. This is obviously for you" he withdrew the flowers back to me
"No, didn't you heard the nurse that it was for you?"
"I did, but from the way he looks at you he almost wanted to date you or something"
"Whatever happens, man could not be with another man. What you're saying is preposterous!", I laughed with the idea not thinking that what he said could might as well be true to me or to anybody else.
"The benefit of the doubt is yours. So just put those tulips into that vase over there and let's be ready to go out into the world!" He smiled at me taking aside the issue.
Although, I can see that he accepted the idea that that the nurse might be falling over me, I could not let myself drive into some sort of satisfaction without with my friend.
Anyway, we went to different places in the city and we went back at around six. I still have my job at the radio so we hurried to the apartment. I had an hour to take a bath and tuck Mark to bed. I then went to the radio station for my evening show.
It was a two-hour show. I was then finished with the show when I saw the same nurse waiting for me outside the booth.
"What are you doing here?"
"I just want to see what's your work looks like when now that you now how my work looks like"
"Did you wait two hours for me?"
"Can I drive you home?" He didn't answer my question instead he asked a different one. Since I didn't have the car and the fact that it's really getting late that evening, I said yes.
His car was a red two-door convertible. It would be my first time to ride a convertible since there aren't a lot of convertibles in Manila. Then I knew that this guy is sure is rich
"We haven't had a proper acquaintance", he smiled at me, took his sight off the road and pierced his eyes towards my face.
"Oh, yes. So what's your name?"
"I'm David and yours?"
"Are you flirting with me? 'Coz if you are it's really getting very obvious"
"For the first time I saw you, I couldn't get a hold of you."
"Who's the gay here, is it you or me?" I was getting annoyed with his corny flings.
"I'm straight. Why? Would it make me gay to admire someone like you?"
"No, but could you just be real. Just for once!"
"Alright, I think I'm falling in love with you and I can't help thinking of you" He stopped the car over the side on the front of a closed bakery.
"How could you be sure with what you feel. You and me could not go in the same path as what you think. It wouldn't be right. It just wouldn't be right..."
"If its wrong, then what could be right when you're in love"
"Everything could be right...but with you and me...I don't know"
"Look I think about you every time and I don't know why. Maybe its your lips or its your eyes or its your face but the thing is there is this certain feeling inside me that commands me to see you and tell you the things that I am feeling and the things that I think would stop this craziness.
"Yes, you're right, you are crazy. You'd better go and see a shrink."
"This is not a joke. This is love I'm feeling"
"Well tell me this, when you have a friend who dreams a million times to find someone like you and is stuck on a wheel chair, with bruises on his face and a right leg lost in an accident, could you still have the nerve to steel the only thing that he wanted to have and that he longed for all his life. It's not a matter of love, it a matter of thinking about others...about how my friend would feel when he sees us both."
"He's just your friend"
"He's more than a friend. I have spent almost half my life with him. And I couldn't bear see him pathetic while I am having a good time"
"But you can still be with him. All I'm asking is for you to accept the relation I would like for us to have"
"I'm sorry but I'm keeping my friend. If you don't mind I'd like to go home"
Without any word, he started the car and we headed for my apartment.
I don't know if I made the right decision and I don't know if I'm being hypocritical with the way I think or maybe I'm just being too optimistic. Despite of it all, I think I just leveled my pride with my heart and notwithstanding any regret that I might encounter in the near future.
The mahogany door of the apartment was waiting for me as I waited him for things he might want to say for the last time, but the way he looked straight to the road meant that its time for me to go. I opened the door of the car and went to the apartment door.
"But I will always love you", I heard him say these last few words which lingered into my ears as I turned back and saw him still looking straight to nowhere.
I know he cant accept that he was turned down by someone like me. But I must do what I must do. I opened the door and went inside. I could here the noise of his car's engine as he drove away in the dark of the night. It was painful. But it might have been much more painful if I had accepted the relationship. I just did what might have done in the near future.
I went in the room and saw Mark...still asleep. My heart leaped as I behold my friend in peaceful slumber. I went to sleep at the sofa with my clothes still on.
The next day I went to work and felt that there still yet things I have to say but can't. I felt that I didn't made things clear that night and wanted to set things to order for the last time. I touched my trembling lips into the microphone and hoped David would be listening.
"Before I start the show, I just like to say sorry for the man I had failed to envelop in great comfort and trust. I'm sorry, but love alone is not a reason for us to disregard things that we know is morally right. There are things in life that are meant for a certain destiny and that destiny should never be altered or changed just for the reason that it is all that we feel or it is all that we believed is right. You could be much better with someone whom you could call wife. Someone whom you could bring into the altar of God and exchange vows, someone who could prepare you breakfast after a tiring night of sleep, someone whom you could be proud of presenting to your mom or dad. But most especially someone who could give you sons or daughters if you wish. But if I must say again, I don't want to see my friend alone that's why I'm keeping my friend. But don't worry, I'm keeping your love too."
I'm not sure if I cleared things right but tears started to fall into the papers on the table and I had to insert a song to fill up my emotions. I could have done things better than what I did, but then when I think of my friend I knew I just did the right thing.
I returned home and found Mark wide-awake. Tears are pouring over his cheeks and his eyes as if holding me in parallel to his heart. He rolled his wheel chair towards me and he struggled to get up to hug me.
"Thank you" he said.
"You listened?", I was surprised
"I've always have"
"But I thought that you don't like the show"
"But I like you, don't I?"
I took him into my arms and hugged him. I was surprised he listened that night. I hugged him so tight, that I could almost feel his heartbeat pounding my breast. And that I thought was much more to have than anything else. I'm not quite sure David listened that night, but if he did he must understand that from the way I felt my friend hugged me that night, I'm sure I've made the right choice...I'm really keeping my friend.