Over time, Lydia became used to the hospital. From her bed, she could map the very slight difference in the movement of the sun outside her window as fall started to settle in on Houston. As the days got shorter, Lydia continued to heal. Shortly, she would be able to go home. But go home to what? That is what Lydia most often pondered. It was too late for her to go back to school. The semester was well under way. It didn’t matter much anyways. Lydia knew she would not return. It was not just that she had been in an accident, or that she had lost her best friend. As bad as that was, there was another, unspoken, unarticulated wound. But Lydia could feel it festering inside her.
The things that had at one time seemed important, no longer did. Sororities, clothes, classes, boys, all seemed so flimsy to her. What was the point if one day we all just died anyways? Tragedies happen everyday. You go for a check-up and it turns out you have cancer. You’re sitting at your office desk, when all of a sudden an acute pain grips your chest. Or you’re driving down a two lane highway when you get T-boned by a truck driving too fast… For the first time in her life, Lydia knew what it was like to fear.
The thought of going home, though the practical decision, only made her shake her head. There was no way. There was no way that Lydia could go back to her childhood bedroom and resume her same life. She had seen too much, aged too quickly. The cuteness of her previous life seemed so naive and hopeful, trite and useless. She knew her mother, a lethal mixture of boundless optimism and passive aggressive tendencies, would only further exacerbate the issues. Besides, there were too many memories of Tuck lingering there.
Lydia did not know what to do. She couldn’t stay where she was, and she couldn’t go back to where she had come.
And with that, Lydia opened her book and read.
Lydia tossed in bed, trying, willing herself to sleep, but every time she closed her eyes, Tuck visited her. Tuck smiling, laughing, holding her hand. Tuck in agony, crying, immovable. All she wanted was to sleep, to turn off her brain. She turned onto her back and stared at the white blankness of the ceiling. The rhythmic white noise of the respirators heightened the sense of silence and lead Lydia even further down the path of solitude.
Lydia sat up, spun around, and exasperatingly punched her flat hospital pillow. Her fist barely lifted from the pillow before it found contact again. And again. Fury suddenly filled Lydia and exploded from her body in a fit of rage. She punched because Tuck died. She punched because life was unfair. She punched because those that visited deposited their trinkets and baubles and left to go back to their hinged lives. Lydia was furious and angry and pissed off. And fucking trapped in this bed in this place with these fucking ridiculous stuffed animals and cards and flowers. Lydia grabbed a fuzzy brown bear holding a heart and viciously tore at its arms and legs. With all her might, she threw the stuffed animal across the room and barely missed the trashcan. She grabbed another one and threw it. Then another one. And then a vase of flowers.
People come and go from her room. First her parents, then a myriad of friends. They all bring things, flowers and balloons and stuffed animals, material things that are supposed to relate some sort of thought, but only further accentuate that no one really knows what to say.
Lydia woke with a start and had a moment of confusion, disillusion, realizing she was not under the fluffy, eyelet comforter at home. And for a split second, just the most minutest of moments, she thought she was back at her friend’s shore house on Jamaica Beach. A wave of gratitude, the understanding and inkling of waking up from a nightmare began to wash over her. As the smile was just beginning to travel from her mouth to her eyes, an unfamiliar sound, the sound of whirling and a beep, followed by additional beeps caught her short. Half propped out of bed, Lydia remained motionless. To move, to turn her head, to acknowledge the machinery behind her would only confirm what Lydia could not bring herself to confirm. As long as she didn’t know, didn’t really know, maybe it didn’t happen. So she sat there, in the dark room, unable to move or to turn her head. Alone and wishing and listening.
Tuck pulled the black BMW out of Jamaica Beach and on to the two-lane road leading back towards Galveston. Lydia rolled down the window. She wanted to feel the warm salt air tousle her hair and kiss her face. She leaned back in the leather seat and stared through margarita eyes at the canopy of stars above. The entirety of the moment washed over her. The love of a true friend, George Strait’s soft croon of Amarillo, the smooth rhythm of the wheels on the pavement. The day of sun and the night of tequila felt like a warm blanket tucking her in. Lydia looked one last time at the stars above as she gave her body permission to drift off to sleep.
Out of tranquility, the world erupted with the pained screeching of metal against metal. Lydia was thrown forward. She slammed against the dashboard as her head careened into the windshield. Her vision exploded with fireworks. Lydia tried to raise her arms to cover her head. Pain screamed through her body. The world spun for a few more seconds then came to an abrupt and disquieting stop. Lydia took a breath and then another one. She raised her head to look around. She could taste blood in her mouth and feel glass in her hair.
Slowly, she attempted to crawl off the floorboard of the passenger side and pull herself onto the seat. Her right shoulder roared in pain. She let out a scream.
Lydia looked over at Tuck. He sat erect in his seat, his eyes partially closed. “Help me, Tuck,” Lydia whispered. Tuck’s head barely shifted as he tried to look at her.
From the glow of a nearby streetlight, Lydia could see tears running down his cheeks, “I can’t.” Lydia looked closer. In the blackness of the shadows, she could see dark liquid oozing out from Tuck head.
Forgetting her own pain, Lydia launched herself forward. She yanked her t-shirt over her head. Her shoulder made an unnatural crunch as agony careened through her body. Lydia placed her shirt against Tuck’s head. “Tuck! Oh, Tuck… Oh God… please… please… Don’t, don’t leave me.”
Her shirt slowly filled and blood began dripping down Lydia’s arm. Tuck closed his eyes. Lydia lowered her forehead against his, her tears mixing with Tuck’s blood. She could feel the heat from her words, willing him to not give up, to keep trying. A few seconds later, sirens filled the air as red and blue lights ricocheted off the interior of the car. Lydia sat there hugging Tuck. They would come for her soon enough. She just needed a few more seconds with her best friend.