Waking up was a painful business. My eyelids felt heavy, but I managed to keep them open this time, though the light was like daggers to my eyes and my head was pounding.
It was the worst headache of my life.
This time I won’t be sick. I won’t be sick. I refuse to be sick . . .
Once my eyes focused and adjusted to the light, I looked around me and I saw that I had been wrong. It hadn’t been a dream after all—all that screaming, the oxygen mask, and the ambulance ride. It had been real. I recalled it and re-lived the grotesque nightmare.
Everybody was yelling at me. EMTs. Nurses. Then a doctor. They were talking, talking, talking. Yelling at me. Yelling at each other. Making so much noise. Why couldn’t they just shut up and let me rest?
That changed suddenly. I felt a strange surge and was sick multiple times. Clarity. Everything was too loud and clear suddenly. And then I couldn’t catch my breath. Was I hyperventilating? I could feel my pulse. It was erratic. I couldn’t breathe. An asthma attack? Impossible. I didn’t have asthma. Was I drowning? No, only fish drown in the air. . . . The too-clear sounds and lights and voices began to grow distant.
Terror. Terror overwhelmed me then with the full realization that I was not some detached observer. This was for real. This was happening to me.
I don’t want to die!!
Please, God . . . SOMEBODY . . . I never meant to die. I swear, it’s not what it seems . . . I never meant for it to get this far . . .
* * *
I was sure that I’d seen the end. But I had woken up.
I was alive, but I was so cold and wretched and alone that I wondered if I’d been granted mercy or punishment. I had tubes stuck to different places of my body. My mouth was dry and tasted gross. It hurt to move, it hurt to swallow, it hurt to breathe.
I shivered and was sick, but nothing other than a sickly substance came out. My sobbing sounds brought someone in eventually, but it wasn’t Mara or Julio or Zuri or anyone I knew. The nurse looked at me with contempt and berated me on the subject of choices and consequences. I didn’t care what she had to say. I curled up in my own vomit and began to cry.
It hurt. It hurt so much….
I never knew just how much it would hurt to live.
Part 23 – If You Only Knew