Everybody's Wounded - 18. Chapter 18
It was two hours later when Rob and Angie returned, and the waiting room, with its single small window overlooking the hospital parking lot, was dreary and dark. They brought with them a serious supply of Tim Horton’s extra large coffees – eight cups of the stuff in two cardboard trays – to spare us more of the watery brown liquid dispensed by the hospital vending machines.
Because Josh, thank God, was still there, sitting quietly beside me. Calm, distant, with a space around him that I knew I had put there and which I didn’t know how to cross, but still there. Watching me. Waiting for me. And though I didn’t know how to reach across the gulf, I was glad he was still there, because even with the new space between us, I found his presence hugely comforting.
Rob was oblivious to the changed mood between us.
“Any word yet?” he asked, handing around the cardboard cups, and then slumping down into the seat across from me.
Angie sat beside him, and I couldn’t help but notice the way her hand just seemed to automatically stray to his, making small comforting grazes that I don’t think either of them were really even consciously aware of.
I thought of Josh’s hand on my shoulder.
I shook my head. “Nothing yet.”
“Well, it shouldn’t be much longer.”
Rob had talked to the surgeon at great length before the operation, and as we waited for them to come out, he filled us in on the conversation. It was only then that I realized how incredibly lucky we were – and how incredibly lucky Luc was – that his brother had made it to the hospital before the surgery. Silently, I thanked God that I’d decided to call him despite my misgivings about betraying Luc’s confidence and notifying his family. And that he had come so quickly.
Because as he told us about his conversation with the plastic surgeon, I realized that if Rob hadn’t been there, it would have been me the surgeon had spoken to. And that would have been wrong. Because as much as I cared for Luc, I really didn’t know him well enough to have made a difference to the surgery. My ignorance would have cost Luc enormously.
It wasn’t just that Rob was a med student and so in some kind of command of the jargon and the significant details of hand structure. It was first and foremost that he was Luc’s brother and so knew him intimately.
Rob had known to explain to the surgeon about Luc’s music, and that’s something that I realized would never have occurred to me. I mean, I knew Luc played marvellously well, but I really had no idea how important music was to him. After all, he’d only played for me the once.
I had no way of knowing that he had been considered quite brilliant, that he’d won numerous competitions, that he’d studied with important teachers, that he had considered, and was maybe still considering, a musical career. He’d never told me any of that. All he’d told me was that he only played for himself. All he had ever mentioned to me about his future plans was that he hoped to go to law school.
But Rob knew.
And because Rob was there, and because he made the point forcefully with the plastic surgeon, the operation that was being undertaken down the hall from us that day was just that much more complex, that much more delicate. Because Luc was a musician, Rob assured us, the surgeon would be that much more careful assessing possible damage to nerves and ligaments, that much more aggressive in repairing even the tiniest blood vessels.
These were subtle things, Rob explained. Repairs that wouldn’t matter much to the recovery of the non-dominant hand of a lawyer. But they could mean everything to the recovery of a pianist.
It was around 8 when the plastic surgeon finally stuck his head into the room and beckoned to Rob. Angie went with him, and Josh and I stayed there, waiting. Neither of us spoke. I watched my hands and Josh watched me -- I know that because every time I looked up, I met his eyes. I was always the one to look away.
“Well,” said Rob, sitting across from us once again. “It went pretty well.”
Angie sat beside him, lacing her fingers through his.
“The damage could have been a lot worse. He didn’t slice straight across his wrist; the laceration is actually off to the side, like he twisted his wrist away from himself.”
He held up Angie’s left hand to demonstrate, running his thumb from the about the middle of her slender wrist to the outside edge, beneath her baby finger.
‘The worst of it was very deep,” he said, “But fortunately it was into the bone, which will heal. The tendons to the thumb and index finger are completely unharmed, and the damage to the middle finger seems minimal. So it looks like it’s just the ring and baby fingers that will be affected.” He ran the tip of his finger over Angie’s ring finger, the diamond ring that glinted there.
His voice was a little shaky as he continued. “That’s bad enough, but he’s hopeful that with the right therapy, he’s got a good chance of an almost full recovery.”
“Almost?” I asked.
Rob met my eyes. “Yeah,” he said. “Almost. It’s still a pretty vicious laceration, Scott. Wounds like that rarely heal without permanent effect. But what we’re hoping is that the permanent damage will be minimal. Workable. But it’s not going to be easy.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, even if all the reconnections work the way we think they will, and the scar tissue is minimal, he’s in for a brutal rehab. The good news is, the plastics guy figures he could restore 90% functionality or better.”
90%. I nodded slowly. I couldn’t help but wonder what that meant. For the lawyer Luc thought he wanted to be, 90% functionality of his left hand was enough. But even if he didn’t want any kind of career in music, would it be enough for the jazz pianist that comforted his soul?
“But the rehab will be long and painful,” Rob continued. “He’s going to have to want it really badly.”
I looked up at him.
“But will he?” I asked. “Will he want it at all?”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I regretted them.
Rob winced and shook his head slowly. “I just don’t know,” he said. “We’ll just have to see.”
“Can we go in and see him?” I asked.
Rob glanced at Angie. “He’s not really awake yet,” he said, “But they’re going to come and get me when he’s fully conscious. Policy is only family in the recovery room, but I’ll see what I can do, okay?”
But as it turned out, there was nothing he could do, and not because of any hospital policy.
I stood up when Rob came back into the waiting room, and he came over to me.
“Can I go in now?” I asked.
He shook his head.
“Why?” I demanded. “It’s a stupid bloody policy. Just for a few minutes--”
“It’s not that Scott,” he said, and I saw him look past me to Josh. “He doesn’t want to see you. I’m sorry.”
I felt like I’d been punched.
I opened my mouth and closed it again. I was aware that Josh had gotten up and was standing beside me, standing close, but not touching me. I knew why. I’d already pushed him away once. But as much as I wanted to, somehow I couldn’t touch him either.
“He’s going to be here for awhile,” Rob continued. “There’s the hand, of course, but also they can keep him 72 hours for a psychiatric assessment. I’ve convinced him to let me call my parents.”
I nodded dumbly.
He put his arm around my shoulder. “Don’t think he doesn’t want to see you, Scott. It’s that he wants to see you too much. He’s scared. And he hurts. Give him some time. Give me your number and I promise I’ll keep you posted. And I know my parents will want to speak with you.”
So I gave him my cell number, and returned Luc’s phone to him, and that was it. We left the hospital. Josh was quiet by my side, just there. He had this amazing capacity to be just there.
Josh led me out to his car with a slight touch to my arm, and I followed like an automaton. He drove, and neither of us spoke. With every silent mile, the space between us seemed more unbreachable. Somehow, I’d just assumed that we were going back to his place, and it wasn’t until he stopped in front of my residence that I realized where he’d taken me. It felt like another blow, and for a few moments I just sat there, and stared out the window.
“My laptop’s at your place,” I said finally. I didn’t look at him.
He didn’t say anything for a moment, and then he sighed softly. “What time is your first class?” he asked in that calm, even voice.
“I’ll run it over before then.”
That was all.
My throat was too tight to speak and my eyes so full of tears that I couldn’t see my hands. I undid the seat belt and opened the door.
But I couldn’t look at him.
I couldn’t listen to him.
I just got out of the car, closed the door behind me, and went inside. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t bear to.
I had no sooner closed the door to my room when Bran and Laura were pounding on it. I let them in.
Laura took one look at my face, scooted away from Bran who had his arm around her, and gave me a hug. “Hey, Scottie,” she said softly.
I just kind of stood there hugging her back. I remember thinking, she’s very small.
Bran met my eyes over the top of her head. “How’s Luc?” he asked.
I just stared at him for a while. Then I shook my head. “They just finished operating on his hand,” I said. “He’s in for heavy duty rehab, but it’s looking pretty good.”
Laura stepped away from me and looked up into my face. “How’s – how’s he otherwise?” asked Laura.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. They’re keeping him for a few days of psychiatric assessment. His parents are coming.”
“How do you think he is? How did he seem?”
I just stared at her bleakly. “I don’t know,” I said. “He doesn’t – he doesn’t want to see me.”
And then nobody said anything, because nobody quite knew what to say.
Finally Bran spoke. “Josh?”
I just shook my head.
He nodded. And then he made a suggestion that a lot of people probably wouldn’t understand.
“Um --- the gym’s open til midnight. You wanna go?”
And I realized that that was exactly what I wanted to do.
We headed over to the gym in silence, and then put each other through a pretty vicious couple of hours of running and machines and free weights. Bran pushed me hard, as he knew I needed to be pushed, and by the time I was done, every muscle in my body ached in the best way possible.
“Fuck, I needed that,” I said, as we towelled off after a long, hot shower.
And that was pretty much all we said.
Bran was letting me know he was there to talk to if I needed it, but right at that moment I didn’t need it, or at least I didn’t want it, and he was ok with that, too.
But if I thought the workout would help me sleep, I was wrong. It was after midnight when I got back to my room, but it was hopeless. I paced for an hour, tossed and turned in bed for two more, and finally I just gave up. I got up, pulled on some clean clothes, and called myself a cab. When it got there, I gave the driver Josh’s address, pressed myself back into the seat, and closed my eyes.
God, I hoped this was the right thing to do.
Ten minutes later, I added an extra five to the fare and tip. “Can you wait here for a few moments?” I asked him. “If I’m not out in five you can go, but I may need you to take me back again.”
The cabbie was a middle aged guy with tired eyes. He kinda laughed as he took my money. “Worried she won’t take you back, son?” he asked sympathetically.
“Something like that,” I replied.
The building has one of those security systems where cameras in the lobby are hooked up to residents’ television sets, allowing them to see who was ringing for entry from the lobby. I figured Josh was probably asleep, so I phoned up instead. He answered on the first ring, and there was no sleep in his voice.
“I’m downstairs.” I said, staring out the glass lobby doors at my waiting cab.
He didn’t say a word. He just buzzed me up. I opened the door to the lobby with a strange mixture of enormous relief and enormous apprehension.
When I reached his floor I found the door to his condo unlocked, and when I went in, I found him sitting in the recliner, watching me steadily. He was wearing the same narrow black jeans and black ribbed sweater he’d worn all day, and he looked tired and enormously sad. There was a glass on the table beside him with a little red wine in the bottom, and the bottle, almost empty, beside it.
When I came in, he got up slowly, but didn’t come to me. The space was there, wide as could be, and he just watched me from the other side of it.
I locked the door carefully and hung up my coat. Then I made my way to him slowly, watching his face. It was unreadable.
I stopped about two feet from him and still he said nothing, did nothing. I’d created it. I had to bridge it.
“I’m sorry,” I said finally. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
And there were tears running down my face and I didn’t fucking care.
He raised a hand and wiped them away, and I broke. I just broke.
I reached for him and pulled him into my arms and held on.
And then, to my own enormous surprise, it happened. No plan, no big moment. It just … happened. With tears streaming down my face, and my throat so choked I could hardly speak. Somehow, somehow the words found their way out.
“I love you.” I said.
And he said nothing at all.
With my face buried in his neck and my hand fisted into his sweater, the words just seemed to hang in the air.
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