I woke up to the gentle glow of the sunlight coming through the window curtains. Leona and I had both stayed the night at the hospital. I was lying on one of the benches next to Tutto’s bed. Leona was still sitting beside Tutto’s sleeping figure, her head tucked in her arms, her hand still holding onto Tutto’s. Tutto hadn’t moved from the position he was in the night before. His head was slightly tilted towards where his sister was sleeping; his hands limp at his sides; the rest of him hidden underneath the blankets, with his chest moving up and down along with the rhythm of the pumping of the ventilator.
I quietly got up and stretched, being careful not to disturb the others. After brushing up in the washroom, I went out the building for a walk. I learned a lot of information last night, and I needed some time alone to digest it all.
I looked at my watch. It was eight-thirty. My first class would be starting in an hour, yet I had no intention of going. My buddies would definitely notice my absence and start worrying though. I’ll give them a call later, I mentally noted to myself.
It was a chilly morning, even though the sun was blazing like a huge bonfire. I turned up my jacket collar to keep my neck warm. The hospital garden was deserted except for a few nurses pushing patients in wheelchairs, taking them out for a morning stroll. It was November, so most of the birds had already migrated south; the trees were bare of leaves, their naked branches stretching to the sky as if trying to extract as much warmth from the sun as possible; there were very little flowers in sight, most of them small and withered, losing the battle of beauty against the harsh Canadian winter.
I followed the little stone path that cut across the garden to a little fountain. A squirrel scurried across in front of me, stopping for a few seconds to see if I had food for it. Above my head, a crow cawed loudly as it soared towards the hospital building behind me.
I kept walking; hands in my pockets, head hung low, eyes on the ground. I thought about everything Leona had told me yesterday, about Tutto’s disease, his childhood, the death of his mother, the death of his father, and how he and Leona are twins. I thought of how much the both of them had already gone through within only eighteen years.
The more I thought, the more I stood amazed at how easily life can be changed. If Tutto’s heart had developed like a healthy boy, he and Leona would have grown up in a happy family as beautiful children. He would have grown up to be a brighter kid, and would be able to keep up with his peers. With his cheerful and positive personality, he would have become one of the most popular people in school. He wouldn’t have locked himself in his own world. Everyone would have been able to hear the amazing stories he had told only to me.
As for Leona, she would have turned out to be such a different person. Without Tutto’s heart defect, she would have nothing to be jealous about, for they would be treated in a similar way, just like how people treat other twins. She would have become a more cheerful girl, and with her beauty, would also have become very popular amongst her peers. She would have been able to trust people more, and understand that people are kind, and that she cannot survive in this world as a lone she-wolf. She would have learned to work with people more, rather than do everything herself. Her talents would have been seen by everyone.
But because there was a defect in Tutto’s heart, the twins’ family fell apart. I shuddered at the realization of how one small thing could lead to almost disastrous consequences.
Perhaps Tutto had had it easy in the mental sense. Although he had to live with a ticking bomb in his chest, his simplicity prevented him from understanding that his life was constantly threatened, as well as the pain and suffering the people around him had been going through. The fact that he was slow actually allowed him to lead a happier, more carefree life.
Leona, on the other hand, was not as lucky. She understood everything that was going on in her family. She is a clever person, and even at a young age she knew that her brother has a condition that puts his life on the line. Even as an infant, only a few minutes into the world, she knew that her brother was different, and was taking the love away from her.
I recalled my impression of Leona before I started dating her. Her pride, her stubbornness, her isolating herself from everyone else. It all made sense how she turned out to be that way. Because of Tutto’s health, he often got more attention from their parents as well as other people. Leona had to grow up mostly on her own, always observing the care that Tutto was receiving and contrasting it to the lack of attention that she was getting. She learned to do everything on her own, because no one else was going to help her. She eventually lost faith in other people, resorting only to herself.
But no one could live like this and not feel resentment. Her jealousy was seeded the day she was born, and it was watered every time her parents looked at Tutto and not at her. It grew into a strong tree that could not be cut down easily. She had finally managed to overcome it when she discovered her mother’s dead body. The trauma had sawed the tree of jealousy in half, and shame had buried what’s left of it out of sight. It was then that she learned to notice the kindness people were still giving to her. She opened up to her aunt, and learned how to rely on someone else. When her father died, she learned to trust me, someone who’s not family. She started learning how to make friends.
But the honesty between Tutto and I had revived the tree inside her. Out of its stump sprouted a new branch of jealousy, the jealousy she felt after she realized someone she had started to trust was not being wholly truthful to her. It had newly sprouted, but it grew fast, like a horrible cancer. Although she knew her neglect of her of brother would cause him his life, she couldn’t feel guilt for her jealousy was too strong.
Yet once again, the horror of death stumped the tree and brought her back to her senses, but once again it was too late.
I let out a long breath and watched as the steam from my breath floated up and disappeared. Tutto was dying. Just like the steam from my breath he had appeared in my life, and now he was floating in the air, about to vanish.
I neared the small fountain in the middle of the hospital garden. The water had dried, and the marble statue of a child stared blankly at my direction. Judging by how long the statue has been there, the child probably has seen many people like me, wandering aimlessly in the garden, too much on their heads, too little words to express the sadness and regret they feel. If the statue could talk, it would probably tell me to just let go, for life is so unpredictable it makes no sense to get hung up on it.
But how could I just let go of Tutto? Our friendship was very brief, but it meant a lot to me. The stories that he told me taught me things about life, friendship, and faith; he showed me that even though life can be tough, a laugh always makes things better. Most importantly, he was still the orange-eyed saviour from my childhood.
How could he be dying? I still couldn’t quite grasp the fact that my friend, someone who was the same age as me, someone who was still eighteen and hadn’t even had a chance to fully grow up yet, was lying on his deathbed, relying on machines to support him during the last handful of hours left of his life.
I kicked the side of the fountain, a small flame of anger had lit up in my chest, but just as quickly as it appeared, it died. There was no one, nothing to be mad at but…fate? God? Life? I sighed at how useless one could feel in front of the face of death.
I slowly headed back to the hospital building. Leona should be awake by now. Hopefully Tutto would wake up sometime too.
I was a little lightheaded from all the thinking so much. The swarm of questions that tormented my head last night had mostly been answered. However, there was still one question that clung to my brain, and I didn’t think anyone could answer it but Tutto himself. Why did he open up to me? He wouldn’t even talk to his own mother or his twin sister. Why me?
This thought occupied my mind all the way back to the hospital room. I gently opened the door to Tutto’s room, and was met with a couple somber-faced doctors and nurses. Leona was still sitting by Tutto’s bedside, her back to me, her hand holding his to her face. The room seemed very quiet, much quieter than before. I walked towards Tutto’s bed, highly self-conscious that my footsteps might be too loud.
Halfway through the room, I realized the silence was due to the fact that all the machines had been turned off.
I sprinted over to where Leona was sitting. She had pressed Tutto’s hand against her lips, gently kissing it. Tears ran down her cheeks uncontrollably, and she just let them flow. She turned to face me as I stood beside her.
“He never woke up.” She told me, her voice cracked. “He went peacefully.”
I leaned over and touched Tutto’s cheek. It was still a little warm. “Bye, buddy.” I said softly, before resting my forehead on his bony shoulder.
I had never cried so hard in my life.
-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo