Half-Heartedly

Chapter 15

I have had my share of the agonizing wait in the hospital waiting room. About three years ago, when I was still in middle school, my sister had suddenly collapsed during dinner. One second she had been complaining about a girl in her class who always took her eraser without asking for permission, another second she had been down on the floor, her body limp, her face pale as a sheet of paper. My mom had screamed and clung onto her body like it was the end; my dad had kept trying to do everything to help except call for an ambulance. I was the only one who had kept a calm head and grabbed the phone.

The wait at the hospital had been both frightening and exhausting. It had felt like every time the second hand of the clock ticked, a lifetime had passed. My parents and I had been huddled up near one of the small tables, each with a cup of water in our hands but no one actually aware of it. Truth was, we hadn’t known exactly what we had been waiting for. Would the doctors walk out with a healthy Samantha beside them and let us go home, or would they bring out her body and say it was too late? Would they even bring her out? Or would they be leading us in to see her? All they had told us was to wait in the waiting room.

Finally, a doctor had appeared in front of us and had told us that everything was fine. Samantha had gotten a heatstroke and hadn’t been drinking enough water. This had been when the three of us became aware of the cups in our hands and had gladly downed the lifesaving liquid contained in them. That had been three years ago and it had a happy ending, so I had long pushed the torture of the hospital waiting room out of my memories. This day, however, on the fourth Thursday of November, it all came back like a storm as I sat alone on one of the chairs, a cup of water in my hands again. Tutto had already lost consciousness when I returned to him after calling for help. Luckily the agent on the line had told me to massage the left side of his chest slowly but firmly. He had managed to regain some consciousness when the ambulance arrived, and whatever happened after that was all a blur. Next thing I knew, I was sitting where I was, thinking but trying not to think too much.

"Mr. Ryan?" A nurse had come out from the emergency room.

Upon seeing her, I jumped up and sprinted to her, nearly bumping into her. "Is he alright?"

"We're still trying everything we can. He's stabilized a bit now but his condition is still unpredictable." The nurse gestured for me to sit down. "There are some questions I hope you will be able to answer. How do you know Mr. Freeman?"

"We're classmates." I answered quickly. After thinking over it a bit more, I added, "We're friends."

"How long have you known him?" The nurse was quickly jotting down notes.

I thought back bit. Tutto had started pestering me around the time I started dating Leona. "About a year, I guess."

"Has he ever had an attack before that you know of?"

"No." I shook my head. "Was it a heart attack?"

"Did you know about Mr. Freeman’s heart condition at all?" The nurse lifted her head to look at me.

I gaped back at her. "Heart condition?"

The nurse put down her pen. "Mr. Freeman has pulmonary valve stenosis." When I blinked at her, she added, "It's a type of heart disorder."

"No." I twirled my cup. "No, he's never said anything about that..." My voice trailed off as I recalled the day when Tutto was sitting in our living room, tracing his finger on the world map on our living room table. He had been talking about the Third World War happening in his father's chest. Or, was it his own?

"Do you know if Mr. Freeman has any family or relatives who may know about his condition?" The nurse had picked up her pen again and continued scribbling in her binder.

I thought hard about this question. Besides his father, Tutto never talked about anybody else. No mother, no siblings. "He talks about his father a lot, but I've never met his father."

"No one else?"

"No."

"Do you know where he lives?" The nurse raised an eyebrow at me, acknowledging my uselessness.

"No. I'm sorry." I hung my head. If only I had paid more attention to my friend.

"It's alright. We'll contact the school." The nurse tucked her pen away and closed her binder. "Do you have any questions for me?"

I nodded my head. Everything! "What's wrong with Tutto’s heart exactly?"

"Pulmonary valve stenosis is when the entrance from the heart into the artery that carries blood to the lungs is narrowed. It's a defect of the heart structure that occurred when the patient was still a fetus developing in his mother's uterus. Not enough blood flows to the lungs, the body doesn't collect enough oxygen, thus the patient would be gasping for breath, have severe chest pains, appear pale or even bluish in complexion, and eventually collapse." The nurse stood up. "Mr. Ryan, I can see this was a big surprise for you. Right now too much information might not be the best. I'm going back to see how the doctors are doing, but I want you to do your best to calm down, drink lots of water, and try not to think too much. I'll let you know when it's alright to go and see him."

I nodded. My mouth suddenly felt unbearably dry, but I couldn't call up the energy to even bring the cup in my hands up to my mouth. The nurse walked away, her hasty footsteps echoing loudly in the empty hallway.

My head felt like it was about to burst. Individual questions popped out from the mist of confusion one by one. Pulmon- what? But how could Tutto have a heart disorder? How could he have been dancing and running and everything? The first time we went up to that roof, he climbed the stairs without even panting! Not enough blood going to the lungs? That doesn't make any sense. And why did he never say anything about this? Or maybe he did? When he was talking about World War Three? Was that what it was? But I thought he was talking about his father. Or maybe his father has this disease too. Is this thing genetic? Is his father alive or not? Why does Tutto always have to talk in code?

I must have fallen asleep accidentally, for the next thing I knew, someone was tapping me gently on the shoulder. I opened my eyes and saw that it was the same nurse from before.

"He's awake now." She said quietly.

I followed her to the hospital room. The nurse stood at the doorway and turned to me. "Try not to upset him." When I nodded, she opened the door and let me in.

Walking into the hospital room was like walking into a whole new world. The atmosphere smelled of medicine and chemicals, but it was somehow peaceful, even serene, as if I had stepped into an impressionistic painting. The room was quiet except for the pumping of the ventilator and the soft beeping of the heart monitor. A large window with light blue curtains was situated on the far side of the room, and in front of it stood a nightstand which held a small desk lamp with a light blue shade. The soft light of the desk lamp shone onto the bed, where Tutto lied under a couple light blue blankets. Beneath all the tubing and machines, the amber-haired boy looked unusually small.

I slowly walked up to him, making my footsteps as soft as possible so as not to disturb the silence. He must have heard me anyway, for he opened his eyes and peered over to me.

“Hey, buddy.” I said, as if talking to a four-year-old. “How’re you doing?”

Tutto smiled behind the ventilation mask.

I sat down on the seat beside the bed. “Man, you really gave me a scare there.” I chuckled a bit, trying to keep it light.

Tutto gestured to his throat, pointing at the tubes and waving his hand.

“Oh, you can’t talk with that thing on?” Tutto shook his head slightly. I looked around the room. On one of the counters there was a clipboard with some pieces of paper and a pen. I could see that the doctors had tried to make Tutto write information down for them, but, of course, Tutto being Tutto, didn’t write a word.

“Hey, Tutto.” I handed the clipboard and pen to him. “Write what you want to say for me, alright?”

Tutto slowly started writing:

Sorry for scaring you Jamesy

“It’s alright.” I laughed. “Do you know what happened?”

Albert helped Tutto out of the turkey costume and told Tutto about the party

Tutto wanted to find Jamesy first but his stomach suddenly started screaming really loudly

I paused a while in realization. So that’s what he means when he says his stomach is screaming. It’s when he has a heart attack. “Well,” I placed a hand gently on the other boy’s shoulder. “Good thing you found me eventually.

Tutto doesn’t remember finding Jamesy…

“You did.” I assured him. “Just in time too.”

Tutto smiled again.

Jamesy saved Tutto?

“Nah. I just called for help.” I waved a hand in front of my face out of embarrassment. “The doctors saved you. I had no idea what was going on.”

Tutto let out a small laugh. He winced a bit; the laugh must have hurt.

“Hey, Tutto.” I was still seeking for answers. “Sorry I didn’t know about your heart problems.”

Tutto gave me a look of confusion.

Tutto has heart problems?

I looked away from him, taken aback. He doesn’t know?

“The doctors said you had a heart attack.” I explained. “I thought you knew…”

Tutto continued to look at me questioningly, his head tilted a bit. I thought back on the day when Tutto told me about how he had lost his father’s heartbeat and promised him not to go looking for it. When I had pointed out that his father might have had a heart attack, he had repeated the words “heart attack” as if it were something he had never heard before.

“Tutto, when was the last time you saw your dad?”

About a year ago

So his father did pass away. It seemed like the boy never understood that his father was gone. His father had talked in metaphor all the time, I doubt Tutto ever understood anything concretely. However, I fought the urge to explain things to him, remembering the nurse’s words before she let me into the room.

I opened my mouth to ask another question, but the boy had fallen asleep.

Suddenly, the door behind me opened, and a slender, blond woman stepped into the room. My eyes widened as I began to recognize who it was.

 

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第十五章

我以前就經歷過在醫院休息室痛苦的等待。大三年前我國中時,我妹妹突然在餐前昏倒。前一秒還在抱怨著學校一個女生一直拿的橡皮擦,下一秒就在地上,軟趴趴的一慘白。我媽媽尖叫著抱住癱軟的身體好像已經沒救了,我爸來跑去、什都做了就是沒有叫救護車。只有我冷靜衝去打電話。

在醫院裡的等待又可怕又累人。每一次時鐘上的秒針跳了一下,就好像又過了一生。我和父母窩在一個小子旁,每個人手裡都拿著一杯水但是沒有人有注意到。老實說,我們根本不知道我們在等什。醫生們會帶一個健康的珊曼莎出來讓我們回家呢?還是會把的屍體給我們看說已經來不及了?他們會把帶出來?還是會把我們帶進去看?他們只跟我們說在休息室等。

終於,一位醫師出現在我們面前告訴我們一切都沒事了。珊曼莎只是水喝不中暑了。這時我們三個才意識到手裡的水杯並且開心地喝下杯子裡救命的液體。那是三年前的事,而且有好結局,所以我早就已經把休息室裡那一段虐待之腦後。然而,在這一個十一月的第四個星期四,那一年的回憶像颱風一樣襲來攻擊孤孤單單在休息室裡等待的我。我坐在一個椅子上,手裡又是一杯水。我打完電話回去看土豆時,他已經失去意識了。幸好電話裡的服務員叫我慢慢穩穩地按摩他的左胸。在救護車來時,他有醒來一點,而那之後發生什對我來說都是一片模糊。現在就只知道我坐在這裡,努力不讓自己想太多。

萊恩先生?」一位護士從急診室走出來。

  看見時,我跳起來往那裡,還差一點撞到。「他還好?」

  「我們還在搶救中。他比較穩定了,可是狀況還是不能確定。」護士輕輕地用手請我坐下。「有一些問題我希望能回答。怎麼認識福利曼先生的?」

  「我們是同學。」我快速地回答,想了一下後又補充,「是朋友。」

  「你認識他多久了?」護士一直作筆記。

  我想了想。土豆開始煩我的時候差不多是我開始跟雷恩娜交往的時候。「好像差不多一年。」

  「你知道他之前有沒有這樣病發過呢?」

  「不知道。」我搖頭。「他是心臟病發?」

  「你完全不知道福利曼先生的心臟問題?」護士抬頭看了我。

  我呆呆看著。「心臟問題?」

  護士放下手中的筆。「福利曼先生的肺動脈瓣夾窄。」當看到我沒反應,解釋,「是一種心臟病。」

  「不知道。」我轉著手中的杯子。「他從來沒跟我說過…」我的聲音漸弱,腦中浮現土豆那一天坐在我們家客廳裡用手指描上的世界地圖。他那一天告訴我第三次世界大戰發生在他爸爸的胸中。難道,他那時是在說自己?

  「你知道福利曼先生有沒有親戚會知道他的疾病的?」護士又拿起筆開始在活頁夾裡寫字。

  我仔細思考著這個問題。土豆除了他爸爸以外都沒有提過別的人,沒有媽媽或其他兄弟姐妹。「他常常跟我說他爸爸的事,可是我沒見過他爸爸。」

  「沒別人?」

  「沒有。」

  「你知道他住?」護士對我一根眉毛,暗示著我的無用。

「不知道吔。對不起。」我底下頭。如果我有多關心我的朋友就好了。

沒關係。我們會通知學校。」護士收起筆闔上活頁夾。「你有什麼問題想問我的嗎?」

  我點頭。很多!「土豆的心臟到底是什麼問題?」

  「肺動脈瓣夾窄表示從心臟到肺動脈的出口太小。那是一種胎兒還在母親肚子裡時發育不良造成的。到肺臟的血液不夠,身體得不到足夠的氧氣,所以病人會呼吸困難、胸口疼痛、臉色蒼白甚至發紫,最後失去意識。」護士站起。「萊恩先生,我看得出你很吃驚。現在給你太多訊息可能不太好。我要回去看醫生們怎麼樣了,可是我要請你盡量冷靜多喝水,不要想太多。可以進去看他的時候我會通知你。」

  我點點頭,雖然嘴巴突然很乾,卻提不起勁把水杯到嘴巴。護士走了,急促的步聲迴盪在空蕩的走廊裡。我的頭感覺快要炸開了,一個又一個的問題從謎團裡浮出。肺動脈?可是土豆怎麼可能會有心臟病?他怎麼可以又又跳的?第一次上屋頂的時候他連喘氣都沒有!不多血到肺臟?這根本不合邏輯。而且他怎麼都沒說呢?還是他有?他在講第三次大戰那一次?他就是在講這個?可是我以他是在講他爸爸。還是他爸爸也有這個病?這會遺傳?他爸爸到底還活著土豆每次都要用暗號講話?

  我大不小心睡著了,因有人輕輕地敲我的肩膀叫我起來。當我張開眼睛時看見了先前的護士。

  「他醒了。」安靜地說。

  我跟隨到醫院房間。護士站在門口轉過來看我。「盡量不要讓他激動。」我點頭後,打門讓我進去。

  走進病房好像走進另一個世界。空氣中聞得到藥和化學味,可是整個氣氛寧靜,甚至安詳,像是我進了印象派的畫裡。除了呼吸器的抽氣聲和心跳監測器的嗶嗶聲外,房間很安靜。一個有著淡藍色窗簾的大窗戶在離我最遠的牆面上,而窗前是一個床頭櫃,上面擺著淡藍色燈燈。燈微微的光芒照在床上,而土豆就在床上蓋著幾層淡藍色的毯子。在那數條管子和數台機器下的男孩顯得格外渺小。

  我慢慢地走向他,讓步小聲以不至於破壞安寧。他還是聽見我了,張開眼睛向我看。

  「嘿,小傢。」我好像在對四歲小孩講話。「?」

  土豆在呼吸下微笑。

  我在床邊的椅子上坐下。「喔,你真的嚇死我了,。」我咯咯笑想放鬆氣氛。

  土豆指著自己喉裡的管子,搖著手。

  「啊,那個裝著不能講話?」土豆輕輕點頭。我尋了一下四周,看見櫃台上一個寫字板上有一些紙和筆。我猜可能醫生們原本想要土豆寫一些資料給他們,可是當然,土豆就是土豆,一個字都沒寫。

「欸,土豆。」我把寫字板拿給他。「想說什就用寫的好?」

土豆開始寫

對不起嚇到小詹詹了

  「沒關係。」我笑著。「知道發生什?」

亞伯特幫土豆脫掉火雞裝然後跟土豆說有派對

土豆想先找小詹詹可是他的肚子突然一直尖叫

  我恍然大悟。那就是他說肚子尖叫的意思呀。是他心臟病發了。「這樣呀。」我將一支手輕輕放在另一個男孩的肩上。「那還好最後找到我了。」

土豆不記得有找到小詹詹

  「你有。」我對他確認,「而且時間剛剛好。」

  土豆又笑了。

小詹詹救土豆?

  「沒有,我只是幫你求救而已。」我害羞地在前揮一支手。「醫生救了。我根本楚狀況。」

  土豆笑出聲來。他咬牙一下,笑了可能會痛。

  「欸,土豆。」我還在尋找腦中謎團的答案。「抱歉我不知道有心臟問題。」

  土豆一疑惑地看著我。

土豆有心臟問題?

  我驚訝地轉離他。他不知道?

  「醫生說你是心臟病發。」我解釋,「我以為你知道

  土豆繼續疑惑地看著我,頭向一邊歪。我回憶起那天土豆跟我說他失去了他爸爸的心跳但發誓不會去找回來。當我跟他說他爸爸可能是得心臟病時,土豆說「心臟病」三個字好像他從來沒有聽過這個病一樣。

  「土豆,上次看到爸爸是什時候啊?」

大概一年前

所以他爸爸真的不在了。那男孩好像一直無法了解爸爸已經去世了。他爸爸一直用譬喻說明事物,我懷疑土豆有真正聽懂他的話。然而,我決定不和他解釋真相,遵循護士臨走前的叮嚀。

  我張開嘴巴又要問問題,可是男孩已經睡著了。

  忽然之間,我後方的門被推了開來,而一位瘦小的金髮女人走進房間。我眼睛睜得大大的開始認出這個人的身份。

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 -羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo

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