I faintly heard the whispers of people around me as my head pounded. I tried to open my eyes to the bright lights above, but I just squinted them back closed.
“She’s awake!” I heard a voice. It sounded a bit like my mom. I felt something touch me, and the warmth of a human hand seeped into the skin of my arm. That’s when I ventured to open my eyes again, willing to endure the lights burning my eyes. This time, after rapidly blinking, I could make out the eyes of my mom, Uncle Joe, and another woman I didn’t recognize, who appeared to be dressed in scrubs.
“I’ll get the doctor,” said the woman.
Where am I? I look around me, trying to establish my surroundings. The cream-colored walls, the bland curtains, the machines, and the fact that the woman said she’d get the doctor led me to believe I was in the hospital. Staring down at the tubes in my arm reinforced that idea.
“Eryn, honey?” my mom asked, looking at me with apprehensive eyes. “Eryn…”
I looked at her, my vision still coming into focus. A man in a white lab coat walked in.
“Nice to see you, Jaklyn,” said the doctor. “It’s about time that you joined us.” He smiled.
I thought that perhaps the doctor was trying to be humorous, but I didn’t exactly know what he was talking about. It’s time I joined you where?
“You were in an accident. You’ve been out for a week,” the doctor said in response to my confused look. “In a coma.” He took a flashlight out of his pocket and asked me to follow his finger with my eyes.
It took a second for his statement to sink into the cracks of my brain. Coma. Coma. I was out for a week in a coma. I was in an accident.
“Your vitals are good for now, but we need to keep you here for a while. You lost a lot of blood, and we have to see how the coma treated you. We have to run some tests Can you move your arm for me?”
I moved for him, but didn’t understand. What blood? What accident? What are they saying?
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“It’s ok, Eryn. You don’t have to understand right now. It’s ok if you don’t remember.”
“We couldn’t save your arm. There are things we can do about this, if you so choose. Be careful not to lift your head until you’re ready.”
I started a bit, and looked down at my torso on my left side. I had an arm there attached to the machines. I looked to my right. Nothing. My stomach flipped, and I gagged. How did this happen? A bandaged nub sat in place of my right arm. I tried to move and find my arm, but there was nothing in front of me to prove that it was there. I panicked and moved quickly to reach for my nonexistent arm and felt my head spin. My mother started to move towards me, but the doctor beat her to me.
“Shhhh…Eryn, you’re fine. Lie back down.”
“I feel like my arm’s moving, but there’s nothing there.”
The doctor nodded. “Phantom limb. A condition where you feel the arm that’s not there. It’s something many amputees live with.”
I looked down at my nub again, and thought I might throw up or cry. I didn’t understand, and my head was so heavy that I thought I was going to fall back into my coma.
I ventured to look at my mother with her puffy red eyes and pouty lips. It looked like she had been crying continuously for the whole week, a look of death in her own eyes.
The doctor asked me if I felt like I could sit up. I attempted and succeeded with minor lightheadedness. The doctor tested the reflexes of my knees, which were fine.
“Eryn,” my mother squeaked, “a week ago, you were in an accident with your dad.”
I almost jumped out of the bed. “What? Where is he? Is he ok?”
My mother and the doctor looked at each other, exchanging knowledgeable glances.
“You don’t remember anything, dear?”
I looked from the doctor to Mom and back to the doctor, begging with my eyes to know what was wrong.
“It’s fine if you don’t, Eryn. People who were in a coma may not remember immediately. Don’t strain yourself for that,” the doctor told me.
My head throbbed, but there was something I did remember. I closed my eyes and all I saw was red. All shades. Fresh red, deoxygenated red. That’s what I remembered. The blood.
“She doesn’t remember.” My mother began to sob.
“Eryn, would you excuse your mother and me for a moment?” The doctor smiled.
I nodded, knowing they were going to step out and talk about me, but I didn’t care. My head was throbbing too much and my stomach was jumping too often. I didn’t want to be asked anymore questions or answer them at all. I just wanted to find out where my dad was.
I heard my mother let out sobs and the doctor try to calm her down. I closed my eyes in an effort to block the sight. Is she really that worried that I won’t remember the accident? Why would an accident be something I’d want to remember? And where’s dad?
“Where is she?” I heard a voice that sounded very much like my father. My mother pointed to my room. The door opened.
“Dad?” I asked to the figure that stepped in.
“No, Eryn. It’s me. Your uncle.” I recognized him as he stepped across the door. The resemblance to my father was striking, but Uncle Joe’s face was thinner and younger. Although, right that moment, it looked like he had been ill all week. His face was gray in color, and his eyes were about as swollen as my mom’s.
“Joe, what happened? Where’s dad?”
“Are you alright, Eryn? You’ve been asleep for a week. How’s your head?”
“It’s fine, Joe. Where’s dad?” I refused to let him avoid the subject. If my dad was in a coma too, I wanted to know.
“Um…Eryn…” He took a deep breath and his eyes began to water. “Your dad, he didn’t make it through the accident. He um…lost too much blood and his heart was crushed by the collision. He’s…he’s dead, Eryn.”
My heart dropped to my stomach, unable to fathom what Uncle Joe just said. How could it be true? It couldn’t be. He’s fine. He’s in a different hospital bed, and he’s probably fine. Just bumped his head a little. He can’t be dead. He’s not dead.
The doctor and my mom entered again, and I closed my eyes, trying to make the horrid thoughts go away. But they didn’t go away. They only began to arrive larger and more detailed. More minute details about the accident. I remembered blood, his blood, everywhere. I remembered Uncle Joe collapsing to his knees, screaming, throwing himself on Dad. I remembered the blood spewing and the EMTs trying to stop it, but failing. I remembered Dad telling me everything was going to be fine and then crashing into oblivion, not responding. I remembered the white sheet and the doctors saying, “Time of death, 20:32.”
I remembered now.
I tried to hold back tears and subdue the pain, but looking at Joe, who was agonizing so silently I could feel his insides shaking, caused them to come. He leaned forward and embraced me, dropping tears on my shoulder and neck. He looked so much like my dad. They had the same black hair that I also possessed, all-knowing green eyes, and sturdy build. That’s where we were different. I had my mother’s naturally thin body and face shape. When I was younger, I used to believe that Uncle Joe and my dad were twins, but Joe was five years younger than my dad.
“It’s okay, Eryn. Everything is going to be fine.”
I shook my head, still in shock. “No, it’s not.”
Joe nodded, but other than that, he had no rebuttal.
“Oh, Eryn.” My mom hugged me then. I begged to be released from her grasp. Why was she the most emotional one here? Ridiculous. She never even loved my dad. My distaste towards her grew as I continued to regain brain power.
“I don’t understand,” I said to no one in particular.
“I don’t either, Eryn,” Joe said. “I really don’t.”
“How could this happen? What happened?” My brain reached another dead end. I just remembered the horrid sights. But how did we get there?
“It’s not your fault,” Joe said quickly. “The guy isn’t pressing any charges…”
“You just…it was only a mistake…” my mom said, like me, trying to comprehend the situation.
A mistake. Not my fault. What the hell?
“I don’t know what you guys are talking about.”
They looked at each other as if they both were sharing a secret.
“Oh, Eryn,” my mom said again.
“What? Please tell me.” I felt like I was missing something important here, and they weren’t telling me what I needed to know. The doctor walked out, muttering something about a different patient he needed to see, and that he’d be back to check on me later.
“You don’t remember? You don’t remember driving with him?” my mother asked.
I racked my brain once again. I did remember singing on the way home from Olive Garden. My dad was jamming to Aerosmith and I was attempting to do so (my dad’s a fan of all these old bands, but I’m not). But that’s it. Wait…
My dad’s panicked voice as the lights of the F350 truck came to us faster and faster, me with no time to accelerate or turn the wheel. I watched my dad brace himself for the impact.
We were hit, we were down. We rolled. Air bags went off, I probably shouted. I was sure my life flashed before my eyes.
I watched the blood come from his chest and I was the driver. I was driving the car that killed my father.
The one who got a hundred percent on her driving test the first time. The one who is loved by the driving instructors for “practicing” her parallel parking and merging onto the freeway. How could it be me? How could I have...
I choked on my words. “…I killed my dad.”
“No, Eryn-”Joe said. “No, you didn’t.” He seemed to be trying to convince himself of the same thing.
“Yes. Don’t lie to me. I did. I killed my dad.” I stared forward, waiting for recognition. My struggle to contain my tears hurt my chest.
“Eryn, you didn’t…”
“Shut up. Just shut up,” I said, rage in my voice. How could they be trying to lie to me? I remember clearly now. It was my fault. “Get out. All of you.”
My uncle pulled my mother out of the room, seeming to understand.
As they shut the door, I covered my mouth with my only hand. It’s too bad that it didn’t stop me from screaming.