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Hope, Need & Fear
Chapter 1: Everything is Wrong
and for next week you need to read Romeo
& Juliet. Well be going over this and there will
be a quiz. Be sure
Yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah. I cant believe
were getting stupid Shakespeare after just two days back to school.
What the hell does this teacher think we are anyhow? This is seventh
grade; come on! Most of the people in this class barely know how to
read! If Mom finds out about this Ill get some stupid lecture
about Shakespeares brilliance or some other crap about
what she would expect me to know about that play if she were teaching
it - like Im ready to learn something that shed teach at
college not likely. Ill be lucky if I can stand reading
a few pages before I get completely sick of it. Whats it matter
anyhow? Nobody expects me to get better than a C in this class anyways,
especially my parents. I think they finally gave up believing
that I was going to be some super brain just because theyre both
Finally, the end of school for the week - even if it was just
two days. Whats with this stupid two-days-to-start-school thing
anyhow? Why not just let us start the school year on a Monday and do
a full week rather than two stupid days? I dont understand. Its
probably just some evil plan to steal two more days from summer vacation.
But I guess I shouldnt complain. At least it gets me out of the
house, and I was about going crazy sitting around with nothing to do
I guess Id better get my stuff together and leave or Mr. Daniels
will try to talk with me if Im the last person in the classroom.
I really dont want to go out into that mob in the hallway, but
I guess its better than telling the teacher "how my summer
was." Well, Mr. Daniels, my summer sucked cause I was
all alone and practically starving to death since my parents dont
even think to buy food since theyre never around. Okay, so
I wouldnt really say that but what exactly could I say
I sling my backpack over my shoulder and move out, head down as always
so that I dont make eye contact with anybody, looking just ahead
of my feet enough so I dont trip or run into somebody. I stopped
making eye contact a long time ago. If people see me looking, it must
seem like an invitation to rag on me or beat me up, cause thats
all that ever happens. With my head hanging down and a mess of curls
falling over most of my face, nobody seems to see me most of the time,
and I can usually just quietly blend in and wander past. I can only
hope that today will go that smoothly.
"Oooff!!" I drop my backpack as Im slammed into the
lockers. I didnt even see that one coming. Somebody just threw
all their weight against me and I bounced right off of them. Maybe it
was an accident? I lift my head just enough to look through my curtain
of curly hair and see whats happening.
"Stay out of my way, She-man, you little pussy. Ive got football
practice today, so I dont got time to really pound you now,"
Tom Fix growls at me with a glare. Then, smiling in an evil way he adds,
"But Ill make time soon. Just you wait, bitch." He turns
around and walks off with a shared laugh among his jock buddies, probably
working out some ugly plan so that they can all share in my torture
throughout the year.
Tom has picked on me for years. Ive never been very smart, and
Ive always struggled in school, and some kids make fun of me because
of it. Not only are my grades pretty bad, but I always used to end up
looking like a fool when a teacher called on me for an answer that I
always stuttered out wrong. Tom wasnt the only one to make fun
of me, but he was one of the only ones to beat me up for being a dope
way back in third and fourth grade. The last couple of years have been
worse from Tom and everybody else because theyve all been growing
while I havent. Im still just a scrawny, short little kid
with no muscles, and absolutely everybody is nearly a foot taller and
fifty pounds heavier than me even the girls.
The name everybody has taunted me with since first grade is obviously
still going to haunt me, too, even though I have finally started Junior
High School. She-man. God, how I hate that name. Can I help
it if my name is Sherman? What the hell were my parents thinking anyhow?
The teasing started on my first day of school way back then, and it
never seemed to stop. Most people in this situation would just try to
go by their middle name, right? Well, Ulysses never stuck. Nobody could
seem to find a way to warp it like they had Sherman, but they seemed
to love teasing me with She-man so much that they wouldnt
let it drop. Kids with normal parents get normal names, but I get names
from history and ancient myths names that are just stupid to
any kids my age. With all of the abuse Ive been getting lately,
my name should be the least of my concerns today.
I grab my backpack and quietly try to wander down the hall out of school,
but everybody has obviously seen whats happened. Among all the
rest of the noise and conversations in the hall I can hear sing-song
calls of "Sheee-mannn, Sheee-mann" and a few snickers of laughter.
Two days and already Im the joke of the school. This has to be
a new record, even for me. Their taunts really hurt me because they
just emphasize that this is going to be another year alone with no friends
and a lot of abuse.
I used to have friends a few years ago, back when all I got was just
a lot of teasing. They didnt really care how I did in school,
and they just wanted somebody to play with. But once the bullying started
I lost pretty much everybody. I dont suppose I blame them. I mean,
who wants to get beat up a couple times a week just because theyre
hanging out with me when I get beat up?
Damn my shoulder hurts! I really hit that locker hard. That pounding
feeling in my head and the pressure on my eyes means Im about
to cry, but I push it back. I will not cry in school. Thats
all I need to make the teasing even worse than it is now. Just a few
more steps and I finally reach the main doors and shuffle out into the
I should try to get my mind off of this. Maybe a quick walk downtown
to the comic shop to get something mindless for the afternoon at home.
Yeah, thatll do.
Even though that scuffle in the halls lasted just a minute, it seems
like most of the kids are long gone now that Im outside and free
from that hellhole. I keep hanging my head in case anyone is still around.
I shove my hands in the pockets of my old jeans and trudge along the
sidewalk past the police station, shops, and restaurants that lead me
from school towards the center of downtown and the comic book store
just a few blocks away. I am just about to make it to the comic shop,
when I hear some curses and a few "Oooff!" sounds from down
an alley I just passed. I know those sounds too well from experience
somebodys getting beaten up.
Having already had a reminder just a few minutes ago about how much
I can get hurt, Im thinking, Just keep going and dont
get yourself into something worse than youve already had today.
But something makes me stop and turn around. Curiosity? Concern? Stupidity?
I dont know. Just something inside me tells me I need to see whats
Walking back a few yards down the sidewalk, I turn into the alley and
look ahead, my eyes adjusting to the dimmed light filtering in. Mid-way
down the alley I can make out three guys pounding on a figure on the
ground. The figure, a man I think, is half-lying, half-crouching in
a muddy puddle while kicks and punches sail into him from every side.
The three thugs throwing the punches are much bigger than me, but they
just seem old enough to be in high school. The high school is only a
block away from my school and lets out at the same time, so these guys
probably came downtown after school just like me. Theyre really
beating the shit out of this guy, though, and I dont get it. Beating
other school kids seems to happen all of the time, but Ive never
seen anybody get beat up downtown. Hell, even I dont get
beat up downtown. Its just too visible. And this guy on the ground
aint no school kid hes too big.
Big or not, hes hurting. The "Oooffs!" have turned to
"Ohh!"s and "Aahh!"s that are drawn out and filled
with pain. Theres no telling how long the beating has been going
on, but I know from experience that you cant take kicks for long
and not be seriously hurt. Hes obviously trying to ball up his
body to protect himself, but with attackers on all three sides hes
pretty much screwed. And they arent letting up a bit. In fact,
they seem to just be kicking and hitting harder, making little grunts
of effort each time they land a kick or punch.
Im scared to death watching this guy get beaten because it feels
almost like Im watching myself being kicked and hurt. I can feel
my whole body shaking and my legs getting wobbly, and I want with everything
in me just to run away, but I surprise myself and stutter out with a
gust of all the air inside me, "St-st-Stop!"
They pause for a moment and turn to look down the alley at me as I continue
with the last air from my lungs, and softly moan out, "Youre
To me that old cliché about "Time standing still" isnt
so much a cliché - it's a simple fact of reality. Its happened
to me before when Im terrified, and its happening again
now as I watch them stand stiffly in place watching me. I know that
nows the time to run, but my level of fear has reached some kind
of trauma level, and I cant seem to move my body at all. Im
screaming inside my head without making any real sound when one of them
smiles at me and starts laughing.
youre k-k-killing him!
ha, ha, ha!"
he says, putting a lilt into his voice and overemphasizing my stutter.
His pals burst into laughter and point at me while my fear grows deeper.
I finally recognize him now that hes facing me. Thats Steve
Fix, the older brother of my worst personal tormentor, Tom.
The man theyve been beating, left alone for a moment, tries to
push himself off the ground and onto his knees, but the effort is obviously
very painful as he moans and clutches his side. Steve, seemingly the
leader of this attack, diverts his attention back to his victim and
throws a sweeping kick into the mans chest, knocking him over
and causing a loud cry of pain. Turning his attention back to me, Steve
"Get lost She-man, or Ill have to spoil my little bros
fun and beat you to a pulp myself."
Leaving sounds good to me, but I just cant seem to move right
now. This momentary hesitation is unfortunately not lost on Steve, and
the smile leaves his face.
"Fine. Im more than happy to draw out beating this asshole
to death," Steve emphasizes with another kick to the man on the
ground. "It wont take long to crush your scrawny body anyhow."
He and his buddies turn toward me, a sadistically gleeful expression
on each of their faces as they begin to move in my direction. The terror
in my mind seems like it will make me pass out, and I still cant
stop shaking or make my legs move to get me out of there. Im just
about to scream when I see the guy on the ground grab Steves ankles
and yank, causing Steve to fall off balance and land hard on the ground.
Hoarse and filled with pain, the voice of the man on the ground cries
Im still stuck in place, now partly due to the shock of this recent
change of events. I see Steve kick down straight into the mans
face. Steves buddies, seeing his fall, turn back to their earlier
victim and resume kicking him viciously. As Steve gets up and joins
his buddies I see the face of the man on the ground, full of fear and
pain. He locks eyes with me and winces as another kick sinks deep into
"Go!" he calls out without much volume, almost pleading.
I look at his face once more and, although he looks nothing like me,
I see myself. The fear that has hung around me is still there, and I
am shaking like a leaf in the wind, but my legs are working now and
Im running and running. I run back past the restaurants and shops,
one block, two blocks, three blocks. I run back past the Police Station
and I stop with a start.
It strikes me hard, without warning, just like Tom throwing me into
those lockers today. Not a physical blow a mental one. It hits
me that I was just saved from the worst beating in my life by a man
who is very possibly being kicked to death without anyone to help him.
No one to help him. Just like me. But he helped me.
I look around, coming back from my thoughts, and see the Police Station
right in front of me. I run in and fly up the few steps, across the
lobby to a desk where a uniformed policeman sits, seemingly unaffected
by my entrance.
"Slow down, kid. Youll knock somebody over," he says
I need h-help!" I say in a strained cry as I can
feel tears coming on again.
I quickly try to calm down and put my thoughts together as the officer
looks at me without much more interest and replies, "What kind
I think through everything again in my mind, spitting out what happened
in a hopefully intelligible manner, "A-Alley
The officer at the desk stays as dispassionate as before, pauses a moment,
then says, "Youd better not be lyin, kid." He
looks to a side door where two policemen have just entered and waves
"Hendriks, Peters, this kid says some guys getting
beat up in an alley. Take care of it," he says with an air that
suggests hes happy Im not his problem anymore.
The taller of the men, Hendriks clearly inscribed on his nameplate,
looks seriously at me with a sense of urgency. "Where at, son?"
"Off M-Main Street. C-c-couple blocks. Hurry!" I say as I
grab the hand hes put on my shoulder. I start running toward the
door, dragging his hand in mine as I go. Hes not moving as fast
as I want as we head out of the building, but hes coming quickly.
"Go ahead, kid. Run to where you saw it, and well be right
behind you," he says as we get to the sidewalk. I tear off back
to the alley, the fear in me still growing, not just for me anymore
but also for the man. I glance behind me as I run, making sure the cops
are keeping up, and skid to a halt as I reach the alley.
The groans of pain are gone, but Steve and his friends are still throwing
everything theyve got into heavy kicks into the abused form at
their feet. Theyve gone back to cursing abuses at the man as they
kick, obviously tired of simply causing physical pain. My Airwalks make
a scuffing sound as I slide to a stop, and the three thugs look to the
sound, seeing me at the end of the alley. Smiles quickly spread across
their faces as they decide on a new playtoy, but the smiles fall off
almost as quickly as they appeared. All three turn and run as I look
to my side and see the police have just caught up.
"Police Officer! Halt in the name of the law!" the shorter
officer says. Hes got his hand by his gun, but its a useless
threat by this time; it only took a few seconds for all three guys to
clear the end of the alley. The officer races off after Steve and his
goons while Officer Hendriks quickly moves to the man in the middle
of the alley.
I feel stuck at the end of the alley again, frozen in place by fear,
but not fear for myself at all anymore. I watch as Officer Hendriks
crouches down beside the man on the ground, leaning his head down near
the mans face and then grabbing his wrist, checking for breathing
and a pulse I guess from what Ive seen on tv. Hendriks grabs what
looks like a walkie-talkie from his belt and calls into it.
"This is Officer Hendriks, we need an ambulance in the alley off
Main by Franklins; over."
The walkie-talkie spews out some static, then, "Roger, Hendriks.
Dispatch has your call. What is your situation?"
"We have a man down, mid 20s, multiple contusions, possible
broken bones, possible broken nose, possible concussion. Hes unconscious
right now. Peters is in pursuit of three assailants, late teens. Pursuit
is on foot; over."
"Roger, Hendriks," the walkie-talkie calls back, "Do
you need backup?"
"No. It's under control; over."
I realize as this conversation ends that Ive slowly been moving
forward, still shaking and not really taking all of this in. Ive
been drawing closer to Hendriks and the man on the ground, and I finally
get to within a few feet of them as the sirens echo down the alley from
the ambulance at the street. Paramedics race down the alley with a backboard
and supplies while I look down on the still form on the ground.
He is older, but not as old as I would have thought earlier. He might
even go to college here in town, I think idly. He is somewhat stocky,
but the swelling in his face and arms makes it hard to be sure how much
of that is normal. Blood covers much of his face, pouring from his nose
and cuts in his lips and mouth. Here and there around his body are patches
of blood from cuts, and his hands look swollen and filthy. Dirt and
grime cling to his clothes and body where he has been rolled around
in the alley.
The paramedics check his vital signs and look for broken bones. Officer
Hendriks, backing out of their way, sees me staring and stands in front
of me, blocking my view. I look up as he places a hand on my shoulder
and says, "Lets let them do their job."
It has been four hours since Officer Hendriks pulled
me back to the station. Everything has been going on around me, but
its been like Ive been seeing everything from a distance.
I keep trying to pay attention, but my mind just keeps playing everything
over and over again in my head. At this point Ive finally stopped
seeing the attack in the alley endlessly repeating itself, but now Im
replaying everything in my head thats happened since then. Its
weird its almost like I wasnt even there, just seeing
it from a distance. But I know I was there. I was involved whether I
wanted to be or not.
I didnt want to leave the alley while the paramedics were still
working, but Hendriks didnt give me a choice. He was pretty decent
for a cop, but he wasnt about to take any shit from me either.
We waited a while for his partner, Peters, to return and tell us that
Steve and his buddies had gotten away, and then both men wanted to take
a statement from me and write up their reports.
I dont know quite what was going on in my brain, because normally
I would have done whatever I could to get out of there as quickly as
possible and with as little conversation as possible, but I couldnt
shake this feeling of needing to know that the guy from the alley was
alright. So when Hendriks and Peters insisted on my statement, I insisted
right back that they drive me to the hospital and I would tell them
everything once we got there. They were patient at first, explaining
that I could go later if I wanted and then telling me that I wouldnt
be allowed to see the guy anyway since I wasnt family and I was
too young. Eventually they just got pissed off at me and told me just
to answer their damn questions. By that time I was scared of the cops
I was with, but I didnt back down. I dont know when I grew
a backbone, because Ive never stood up for what I wanted before,
really, but I wasnt about to change my mind at that point. Finally
Peters just got fed up.
"Look Mark," he said to Hendriks, the tension obvious in his
voice, "lets just take the brat to the hospital so we can
get this report done. I am not staying here past my shift."
With a grudging acknowledgement from Hendriks, we were off in a patrol
My statement was pretty straightforward since I didnt know much,
but having Steves name seemed to make both cops happy. They left
me after they were done, and I decided I was going to have to figure
some way to scam my way into this guys room if I was going to
see him. The first big problem would have been finding out who he was,
but that had been solved by arguing so long with Hendriks and Peters
at the Police Station. While they kept trying to get me to make a statement,
I was able to glance at the report on their desk and see the name of
the victim: Simon Porter.
"Knowledge is power," my father had once told me. Fat lot
of good knowledge has ever done me before, but in this case he was finally
right about something. Knowing this guys name was going to give
me a few chances I would have missed if I had to ask around to find
out who he was.
I hadnt been sure what good it was going to do me when I saw the
guys name or when I insisted on coming here, but now I have to
figure out what to do. I want to just go right to his room, but I know
Ill get stopped. The cops hadnt told me anything new when
they said the thing about me being too young and not being family
I had been kept out of my grandmas hospital room while she died
even though they knew it would be the last chance I had to see her alive.
Just cause Im too young I dont get to say goodbye.
What kind of shits that?
I sure hope this guy wont die
he just cant die. I
have to see him somehow. I dont know why, but I just do. At least
the cops are out of my way. They headed for the cafeteria as soon as
they finished their report and left me in here in the lobby.
The lobby in this place is sort of small, just like the whole hospital,
but then again how big of a place do they need in a small town like
this? I get out of the chair Ive been sitting in and look around.
Theres this seating area, of course, and a gift shop, some restrooms
with some phones, and a receptionists desk by the hall to the
Maybe I can
no, that would never work
hell, I dont have a lot of options here. Ill call the receptionist
from the pay phone, get the room number, and sneak into his room. Then
I can stutter out a "hello" as security drags me away and
throws me out. Like I said, itll never work. But I cant
think of anything else to do, so I guess I might as well try.
I wander past the receptionists desk and pick up a business card.
I head over to the bathroom, duck in, then slip back out to the phones,
hoping nobodys paying any attention to me. I drop a few coins
in the phone and dial the number on the card to call directly to the
"Hello, Memorial Hospital, how may I direct your call?" she
"H-h-h-hello," I say, trying to keep my voice as steady as
possible, "You ha-ha-have a p-patient
Can you t-t-tell me his roo-room number?" So much for my steady
"Are you a family member, young man" she asks cheerily, seemingly
unfazed by my stuttering, "I can only release that information
in person to a family member, but I can connect you with his room if
you would like. My computer shows that hes been moved from recovery
to a standard room. He might not be awake, but I could ring if youd
like." She seems like shes trying to be nice, but shes
not helping me any if I cant get that room number.
"M-miss," I reply in my most respectful voice, "I he-helped
the p-p-police save him. I w-want to send f-f-f-flowers and a g-get
well c-c-card. P-please?" I finished in a pleading tone.
"Well, young man," she tells me, "I suppose that I can
let you know under the circumstances. Mr. Porter is in room 402 East.
Be sure they put his full name and room number on the flowers or theyll
never get to him." She pauses a moment, then continues pleasantly,
"Good job young man."
Damn. That was almost too easy. "Th-th-thank you, ma-mame."
"Im glad I could help, young man. Goodnight."
Goodnight? I hang up the phone and look at my watch and realize its
already after seven. Damn. Now what do I do?
I glance down at the business card that Ive been flexing in my
hand between my outstretched fingers and see that the card not only
lists the phone number for the receptionist but the visiting hours as
well. Visiting hours end at seven-thirty. If I can wait for another
hour and then sneak around, I might do better. Hopefully nobody will
be watching things very closely by that time. I remember from being
in this hospital myself a few times that the staff seems to just disappear
after visiting hours end. They may claim to want to let patients rest,
but they must just screw around or something, cause I could never
get a nurse when Id push the call-button after visiting hours.
Well, maybe not never, but it did seem to take forever. I can only hope
they leave the rooms alone now as much as they used to.
I still have to pass a half-hour to an hour before I can make
my appearance, so I guess Ill head to the cafeteria to grab
a bite since I havent eaten since lunch. Heck, I may get more
to eat here than I would have at home. Id better move my
stomachs grumbling something fierce.
I walk across the lobby to the stairs; this way I can avoid passing
the receptionist to get to the elevators. The cafeteria is in the basement,
so I scramble down one flight of steps and almost dash through the door
when it occurs to me that Ive forgotten the cops. They had come
down for coffee (and doughnuts as well, no doubt) after they finished
with me, and they still had to take a statement from this Simon Porter
guy. They could screw up everything.
I cautiously pull open the door and look into the hall. Nobodys
around, so I move out and toward the cafeteria, keeping close to the
wall. The hall just sort of opens up into the cafeteria further down
the hall, and I look around the corner when I get there. Nobody. Damn,
this place is dead. At least the cops are gone.
Hospital food is pretty gross, but how can you go wrong with a Pepsi,
some chips, and a hot dog? Even a hospital cant really screw that
up! The food hits the spot, too. All this worry and activity has made
me very hungry.
It occurs to me while Im eating that I am not acting at all like
myself. Why am I taking all of these risks for this guy? Whats
it matter if I see him? Its really weird.
I still have that image in the back of my mind of that guy
looking up at me from the alley and then seeing myself there.
Is that what Im going to be like in ten years? Getting beat up
by high school kids in an alley? It cant be like that. It has
to change by the time I get out of high school. Ugh!
I have to stop thinking about stuff like this though. Visiting hours
just ended a few minutes ago, and I need to find a place to hide. I
know! I head over to the cafeteria restrooms and lock myself in a stall,
sitting cross-legged on the toilet so no one can see my feet.
The whole ugly day keeps playing over again in my head, and somehow
by the next time I look at my watch its a quarter past eight.
I am just completely spacing out today.
I head to the stairs that lead to the East wing, listening for anybody
walking around corners that might catch me. Once in the stairwell, I
head up to the fourth floor. Fortunately, nobody seems to be around.
Up on the fourth floor, I crack the stairwell door and peek out. Where
the hell is everybody? I move into the hall and see that a nurse is
at the main station, facing away from me as she types into a computer.
I dont see anybody else. I start creeping towards the desk, having
to pass it to get to room 402, according to the room number signs on
Im shaking a bit again, and my heads throbbing some. Im
actually terrified of getting caught, but I just dont feel like
I can turn back now. Once I get past the nurses station, I find
the room quite quickly and realize as I walk to the door that the loud
argument Ive been hearing since I passed the nurse is actually
coming from this room.
yes, sir, I understand, and Im sorry. You do have
a right to your privacy, but this is a criminal investigation. Its
normal procedure to find out why someone is being assaulted." I
recognize the argumentative voice right away. Its Officer Peters.
"Look," a strained and hoarse yet angry voice rebukes, "I
dont want to press charges." The voice breaks off into coughing
for a moment. "Just leave me alone and let me try to forget this
day ever happened "
"I cant do that, sir. We cant just
let these punks get away with this. You could have been killed."
I strain my ears to hear the reply, sure Im missing
something, but theres just this long pause. After a while I hear
Hendriks say, "Lets go."
"What?!" Peters is not pleased. "We cant
"Lets just go." Hendriks repeats. "Hes not
going to say anything; he doesnt want to press charges; our shift
ended a half-hour ago; and he should be resting by now. Were lucky
we werent thrown out of here an hour ago by security after the
way you told off that nurse when she said visiting hours were over.
We cant do anything more here. Lets just go."
"Lets go." Hendriks is using a more commanding tone
now. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Porter. We hope youll
be feeling better soon."
Shit! I have to hide! I look around quickly and dash into an open supply
room a couple of doors away. I dont think Hendriks or Peters saw
me, but Im just going to hide in here for a little bit longer
to be sure.
I dont understand why this
isnt going to press charges. It doesnt make any sense. Much
as I have grown to dislike Peters in the few hours Ive known him,
I have to say he was right those guys would have killed Simon
if they hadnt been stopped. I wonder if Simon will tell me why
if I ask.
I crawl along the floor up to the doorway and peer out. Nobodys
in the hall, and I crane my neck out a bit further to look fully down
the hall both ways. All clear. I make my way across the hall to room
402. The door is closed. Im still shaking, and I tense my muscles
and relax them to try to calm down, but that just doesnt do anything
at all. Well, its now or never.
I open the door quietly and step inside, the door swinging shut behind
me. I raise my gaze to look at him through my curly bangs. There he
is lying on the bed, a bunch of tubes running out of his arms, bandages
on his arms and face, and the skin around the bandages is black and
purple in more places than it is the normal flesh color. His eyes are
shut - squeezed shut. Its like hes trying to block out everything
in the world from his sight. Im not sure how to approach him now,
worried that he wont recognize me or hell be mad at me bothering
him. Im thinking what to say when I hear it. A soft whining
no, a whimpering. Hes crying. No tears, no sobs, but thats
it the scrunched up eyes, the whimpering
Im stuck for a minute. This guy is old enough to be my older brother.
I never expected someone that old to cry. Im not sure whether
Im doing something wrong or not, but I move forward and put my
hand on his shoulder. I cant look him in the eyes, but I raise
my head enough to see him on the bed.
"Dont cry." I state simply and quietly.
He jumps at my touch, opens his eyes to stare at me, and pauses for
a moment. He smiles weakly and makes a gurgly little laugh and then
wipes his eyes and nose with the back of his hand.
"Thank you," he says in almost a whisper. "Thank you
for saving me." He pauses for a moment, maybe waiting for me to
say something. After a minute he asks, "Do you do things like this
all the time?"
I sure dont! Hell, I can barely look at people! As Im
standing here with him watching me, I get very nervous again. I shake
my head in answer to his question, but I cant say anything. Jesus,
what am I doing here? What the hell has happened today? This is all
just too insane. I can feel myself getting more nervous and upset, and
I just feel more trapped and afraid. It feels like Im not getting
enough air, and I keep taking more breaths, but I keep feeling like
Im running out of oxygen. My head is pounding and I feel light-headed,
and the fear and nervousness are like a heavy blanket being draped over
me. I can see my vision blurring strangely as I feel my hands being
gripped tightly by two large hands.
"Listen to me! Stop it! Focus!" I hear Simon speaking forcefully.
"Breathe deeply and just think about breathing! One big breath,
keep pulling it in!
Okay, now exhale. There, now breathe deep
again, just one big breath." I can hear his tone calming down,
calming me down. "Thats it. Exhale.
Okay. One more
I can feel my vision clear and my head stop pounding. I feel like I
have enough air again. Damn, I feel tired, though. I look up to see
Simon holding my hands and looking at me, smiling but concerned.
"Are you okay?" he asks.
I nod my head. That was weird. "What j-just h-h-h-happened?"
"You had a panic attack. At least thats what it looked like
to me. I have them sometimes. You started hyperventilating, and you
were probably on your way to blacking out. Has that ever happened before?"
I shake my head, no. "Well, lets hope this is the only time.
Ill bet youve had a pretty upsetting day thanks to me, so
its probably to be expected. Youve been riding on adrenaline
all day since you found me, havent you? And you finally just crashed,
It all seems to make sense to me. Sure. I nod my head.
We keep looking at each other for a little while. I
have no idea whats going on in his head, but Im lost now.
I still feel like I want to be here, but I have no idea why Im
here or what to say. I mean, he looks like hell be okay. Ive
done my good deed for the day, right? Shouldnt I just move on
back to my empty little life? Hmmm. That thought stops me.
I dont know if thats it or not, but as upsetting as this
whole thing has been, this has not been my normal sucky little life.
I saved a guys life
at least I saved
him from a worse beating. And what about the hiding to get in here?
That was major! And I even stood up to those cops! Maybe theres
hope for me after all.
"Im sorry gentlemen, but visiting hours are over," a
nurse calls gruffly from behind me. I almost jump through the ceiling,
but Simons still holding onto my hands.
"Nurse, can you just give us five more minutes to say goodnight?"
Simon asks in a pleading voice.
"Sure. But just five more minutes. You need your
rest," she scowls, and with a spin she turns and walks out the
Is that it? I think thats
what the police said your name was
" Simon says, wondering
if he has my name right. I nod. "Look, Sherman, weve only
got a minute. You will never have any idea how much you did for me today.
I dont really know how, but I want to thank you somehow. I just
dont have any idea what to do." He seems to be deep in thought,
and I feel sort of lost in my thoughts, too, but I make a quick choice.
"Here," I say as I put my backpack on his bed and open it.
"T-take this." I pull out my CD-Walkman and a few CDs
Ive had with me. "They d-dont have real c-c-cable in
here, and all y-youll be able to w-w-watch on t-tv t-t-tomorrow
are re-re-religious programs and n-news."
Hes looking at me sort of funny before he says, "I cant
do that. How would I get it back to you? Youve already done too
"P-please," I say. "It m-means a l-l-lot to me. Youve
d-done a l-lot for me, too." A confused expression crosses his
face. "J-just trust me," I tell him. "I n-need to d-do
this. Ill g-get it back somehow." I smile at him as I finish,
and he smiles back.
He grabs my hands in each of his own one more time and squeezes. I feel
warmth from his hands and his smile. I even feel warm inside. Its
an almost unfamiliar feeling, but I remember it somehow. This is what
it used to feel like to have friends.
Hope, Need & Fear: Chapter 1, by Paul
Cales, © September 2001
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