“When’s the last time you took a – breath of fresh air?” I ask, quickly changing my words from something that could have been offensive. It turns out Lane’s expressions are just as effective as mine, even without the use of his eyes.
“You were going to say ‘walk.’”
Not many things escape Lane. My clumsy phrases are included in the "nothing gets by Lane" category.
“You caught me,” I admit.
“It’s okay. If you’re going to force me outside, let’s get it over with,” Lane replies jokingly. I scoff and call another nurse to help me with his wheelchair.
“Good morning, Lane,” Teresa calls sweetly as she enters the room a few minutes later, tossing her hair behind her. At night when my shift is over she takes care of Lane, also on Saturday mornings. Today happens to be a bright, sunny Saturday morning.
“Get some of that nice breakfast they have this morning?” Teresa asks in an airy tone.
“Yes. Delicious,” Lane answers seriously.
I subtlety clear my throat as Teresa and I lift Lane’s legs out of bed and prop him up on the edge.
“You alright?” Teresa says, patting him as he wobbles on the edge of the hospital bed. Lane nods. With his okay, we make the final step of the journey by carefully turning him and lowering his frail body into the wheelchair.
“Good to go,” I tell Teresa, who wishes us a nice day and leaves the room. We follow her path and turn down the hall to get on the elevator. Lane sighs as the buttons pass their light from one to another and the floors pass by with tiny bleeps.
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s humiliating. I’m so pathetic I can’t even get out of bed by myself,” Lane says softly. I brush my hand through his hair, bringing his sightless gaze towards me.
“The fact that you continue to live even after you could have given up on life makes you stronger than a hell of a lot of people,” I whisper. His eyebrows furrow as he contemplates what I’ve said. The elevator stops at the ground floor and the doors ease open with a rush of cool, sanitary hospital air. Across the lobby, past the front desk, down a south hall, through the motion activated doors and we are free. It seems like an awfully long process just to feel the warmth of the sun on our faces.
“Isn’t this nice?”
Lane takes a moment to soak it all in before he gives me the answer he knows I want, “Yes, Sadie. It certainly is a nice day.”
His answer is controlled and dispassionate, somewhat robotic. I park the wheel chair in a sunny spot by a bench and sit down next to Lane.
“You’re lucky,” I tell him.
“Why is that?” Lane laughs, truly finding it funny that I would say such a thing.
“Because you can’t see.”
“Is the courtyard that ugly?” he wonders mockingly, “I mean, I heard that they were re-modeling and planting hedges but…”
A grin spreads across my face. I’m just thinking about how Lane can’t see the little girl in the corner of the garden who is pointing out butterflies to her puffy-eyed single mother. The little girl’s name is Angela. She has bone cancer.
In the center of the strange combination of flowers and pavement sit three women in wheelchairs. They are all terminally ill and so old that they barely have any family to come visit them. One is knitting, one is lost in space, and the last is slowly nodding off as the morning transitions into afternoon.
The last patient I am thankful that Lane doesn’t have to see is Kyle. Kyle is fourteen. He’s my other main ward, but only temporarily. With a thin blade and a system full of cocaine, Kyle made an attempt on his life. He sliced open his wrists a total of 37 times and used the knife to rip open his stomach another five. It’s a miracle he’s even alive. Thank God his sister found him before it was too late.
“Tell me what you see,” Lane says. I look around.
“There’s a woman and her new baby, Samuel. There are five old geezers who have lung cancer are probably on the verge of liver failure, but it never stops them from having a good time. Let’s see. A girl who’s just made a fantastic recovery after she broke all the bone in her leg in a horse back riding accident is eating a scone. And over by the fountain there is a young man, my friend. His name is Kyle.”
With that, I stop and allow Lane a few minutes to digest it all.
“There are stories you aren’t telling me. None of those explains why I wouldn’t want to see the world again. I’m not asking for the omitted information. Well, maybe a little. But if you need to tell someone,” Lane stops and leans closer, “I’m experienced with tragedy.”
“And I chose nursing as a career. I don’t need to burden you with upsetting anecdotes when you have the gift of blissful oblivion.”
“Come on, Sadie. Tell me something. Anything,” Lane pleads. It’s hard to make up my mind on whether I should say “anything.”
“Fine. My friend? Kyle? He tried to commit suicide,” I answer gravely, thinking that Lane will regret his request. Wrong. He looks thoughtful for a moment before he shocks me with his response.
“I tried that once.”
My silence leads him to continue.
“It didn’t go so well. I drove into a telephone pole because I wanted to spite the world and take myself out of the picture at the same time. It’s kind of a sad story though. See, I ended up cripple, sitting in a hospital that can’t even get anyone to tell him the whole truth. And I’ve got no eyes to show me what’s real. I depend on overprotective liars. Somehow the stories I hear always turn out differently than other accounts. But I'm no hypocrite. I have always been honest with you.”