Saturday afternoon, June 8th
“Mrs. Brooke asked you to come by some day. Says the cat misses you,” Kade mentioned as the elevator climbed to the 20th floor, where our condo waited patiently for us.
Mrs. Brooke was a sweet lady in her late seventies who had a 3-year-old white Munchkin cat named Misty, a bone-meltingly beautiful and playful creature. I fell in love with the cat the moment I saw her three weeks ago. That is, four weeks ago, if we counted the time I spent at the hospital.
I occasionally helped out Mrs. Brooke here and there in her two-bedroom condo on the 6th floor, and in return, I got to play with her ball of white fluff. Misty warmed up to me right after my first visit and before I noticed, I started spending an hour or two per week playing with her and bringing her snacks or toys. She really seemed to love the feather wand.
“Thanks. I miss playing with Misty too. I'll check on her tomorrow.” My lips quirked upwards at the thought.
Kade looked at me with the familiar sparkle in his pale grey eyes but instead of engaging him, I looked away. I didn't apologize for doing that anymore. Kade asked me not to, but his sigh ate at my conscience, nonetheless.
Keeping my distance from Kade was turning out to be my new habit. I loved being the center of his attention prior the car accident. I craved his mesmerizing gaze and relished in it. I knew him, I knew how good we were together and yet … It was my turn to sigh. The intensity in his eyes and his closeness now evoked negative feelings in me, and I felt guilty for not being able to shut them down.
I could blame my banged head for feeling and acting different, but it wasn’t that. The hospital and being forced to stay there for nearly a week—that’s what royally messed with my head and emotions.
It didn’t matter that the hospital or the circumstances of me being there were completely different; my mind didn’t care for logic one bit.
Since my mom died in one, hospitals had become my trigger. For me, it was a place where false promises were fed and last remnants of hope robbed. A place where pain and grief lived.
I was barely eighteen when she passed away. Mom had been my hero since I was a kid and having her die was … She wasn’t just my mom, she was my drawing teacher and mentor, my best buddy, my inspiration. She was my pillar of endless support.
My mind dealt with the loss by compartmentalizing in a way. All the bad memories related to her death were tied to medical facilities and as long as I stayed away from them, I was perfectly fine. The second I stepped into one, my defense mechanism would start to crumble and I’d be ruthlessly bombarded with heartbreaking recollections of my mom suffering and dying.
When I had opened my eyes Tuesday morning and found myself in a hospital bed, I pleaded to be discharged immediately. Severe concussion, whiplash, left upper arm fractured, left shoulder and right wrist sprained, countless cuts and bruises all over my body—none of that frightened me as much as the hospital itself. What it would do to me if I didn’t leave soon.
I was willing to endure physical pain and heal from home, but everybody was against me, even Kade. The person who was supposed to always have my back had kept me trapped in my worst nightmare.
A part of me understood the reasoning behind it. They needed to monitor my concussion and handle my fractured arm and numerous cuts, but they didn’t understand the toll being kept in the hospital would take on me. And why would they? They weren’t the ones forced to relive every memory of their mom’s slow decline and death.
The nausea, the pain, the ever-increasing fatigue, seeing her silent tears of acceptance after doctors said nothing more could be done. Her not having the strength to draw anymore. Her weak hold on my hand. Her pale skin and shaky breath. The growing fear of losing her, the daily torture of not being able to do a single thing to help her. Cancer eventually taking her away from us.
My mind replayed those painful memories again and again.
Kade tried his best to keep me distracted, but what worked for short medical check-ups didn’t work for a forced stay of four and a half days. I shuddered at the memory and broke into cold sweat at the mere thought of staying there longer. Originally, the neurologist wished to keep me at least for a week as a precaution, but a conversation with Kade and my shrink convinced him that healing from home would be best for my sanity.
Sleeping in a hospital without sedatives was out of the question from day one. My mom’s frail body lying on the hospital bed haunted me whenever I closed my eyes. Her raspy whispers tormented my mind. I constantly remembered how I tried to pass some of my strength by keeping her cool hands in mine, how I wished to take part of her disease so she would have it easier. All futile.
Overwhelmed with heartbreaking memories, more often than not I found myself crying. When no more tears were left, I ignored or snapped at everyone in my vicinity. I listened to the shrink talk to me about the suppressed trauma of my mom passing away and me developing signs of depression.
Freaking depression. I wouldn’t have that if I wasn’t confined to a hospital for so long! I told them I needed to leave from day one!
A light brush of Kade's fingertips against my tight jaw brought me out of my dark thoughts.
“Try and put it behind you. It’s over.” My lover was asking me to let it go.
I’d love to, but despite being out, the damned hospital continued to hold my emotions hostage. A part of me was still trapped there.
For the thousandth time, I chastised myself for not leaving earlier against medical advice. I should have and would have done so if not for Kade’s worried eyes and fearful reasoning of potential consequences if I left too soon. Kade genuinely feared for my well-being and begged me not to leave too early, promising he’d get me out as soon as it was safe.
So, I stayed for him, and I hated him for it. Hated him for not understanding, for keeping me captive.
Kade noticed the change in my demeanor, of course. We talked about it, but logic didn’t help.
He’d touch my hand to lend me some comfort, yet my mind would vividly show a memory of me holding Mom’s frail hand. He’d talk to me to distract me, but my mind would plague me with moments when I, my brother or father did the same for Mom. I’d clearly remember her struggles to stay conscious, battle the ever-increasing fatigue.
I didn’t want to be angry with Kade for forcing me to stay at the hospital and yet I was. It wasn’t fair to blame him and yet I did. I felt disappointed with him and thankful for looking out for me at the same time. I wanted to hug and push him away—all at the same time. I hated myself for having these conflicting emotions, yet I could do nothing about them.
My shrink had confirmed that using Kade as my personal scapegoat was my way of coping with the stress of the forced stay. Kade wasn’t to blame for my hospital trauma and my triggers, nor was he to blame for the accident. He didn’t deserve the cold treatment. I knew all that. I just needed time to let go of the hospital nightmare, time to return to my usual self.
I mustered Kade’s profile. If I'd be in his shoes, I'd feel hurt, misunderstood, frustrated, and a dozen of other things. I wished none of that for him, yet I was the one making him feel that way now and for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t fair.
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