by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author
Four months later, I am lying in my old bedroom at my parents’ home in
Although this is the home I grew up in, I don’t feel like I belong here. Freeport, Illinois
Sports posters purchased when I was in middle school hang on the wall next to pictures of me at various high school dances. In most of the pictures, I am standing next to Jennifer. At the time those pictures were taken, Jennifer and I were planning to grow old together just like the typical couple that has been married sixty-five years after being high school sweethearts.
Baseball Trophies line a shelf above my bed and cover my dresser. The dresser drawers are still full of my high school wardrobe. From the state of the room, it is apparent that my mother was in no hurry to have me get married and leave the house. In fact, I am sure she wanted me to stay seventeen for the rest of my life.
I am unshaven and probably resemble a mountain man. For the past four months, I have not moved from my bed except to eat, go to the bathroom, take an occasional shower, go to my medical appointments, and, for a few hours each week, go jogging or lift weights on my old weight-lifting set in the basement. During this time, I have simply been unable to find any other reason to get out of bed – with Jennifer gone, there has been no purpose. I didn’t even get out of bed for more than an hour when I turned twenty-one two weeks ago.
If I had not been as embarrassed as I was the first time I tried to walk after my coma, I most likely would hold myself back from lifting weights or jogging. But, when I attempted to walk for the first time again, Trevor had to hold me up on one side, and my dad had to hold me up on the other. In the off chance I would ever go somewhere in public. I did not want to repeat this experience. I already feel helpless enough.
My family has continued to treat me like a ten year old, and I decided that I at least wanted to be treated like a ten year old that can walk. Because I have to travel to appointments with Dr. Jensen, I’m glad I decided to learn to walk again so my family doesn’t have to carry me to his office like an invalid.
Regardless of the progress I’ve made, if I could disappear, I would. The depression of Jennifer being gone has unfortunately, or fortunately, consumed me. Most of the time, I simply lay in bed looking up at the ceiling and hoping I’ll die.
I like to sleep because then I forget reality and dream about better things. I have had the same dream where Jennifer gives me the gift at least one time a week for the last month, which is every time I have had a seizure during that period. I think that my dreams are a result of my medication, but I like the dreams because they make it seem like I am actually with Jennifer. Even if I can’t talk to her or touch her, the dreams seem real enough that they bring me comfort.
Although the intensity of my seizures has been successfully tamed by the medication, I still seem to have my fair share of seizures. The seizures were annoying at first, but I’m getting used to them.
Physically, my seizures mostly consist of my muscles tensing up and losing control of my senses. The sensation is difficult to explain, but I feel like I am somehow in limbo between consciousness and unconsciousness – like I am zoned out. After a while, I’ll snap out of my zoned state without knowing exactly how much time has passed unless I looked at the clock right before the episode. I usually am only zoned out five to ten minutes on average.
My family says that when I have a medicated seizure, I freeze up and stare straight ahead or my eyes glaze over like I’m a zombie. The first time it happened my mom rushed me to the hospital, but the seizure was long over by the time we got there. The staff told my mom it was normal and that, if I didn’t snap out of one of these episodes after more than ten minutes, she could worry. I am sure that I would be having more seizures if I actually left my room for more than just doctor visits and jogging.
For the first month after my coma, my seizure dreams – I call them seizure dreams because they feel different than my normal dreams – were all the same. Repeatedly, I had the dream where Jennifer was giving me the gift in the endless white room and telling me that I can’t waste time mourning for her.
After about a month of only having that dream, I had a dream where I was running on an empty street with a huge dark shadow pursuing me. Because I was out of shape from lying in my bed, the shadow would catch me every time. Before the shadow would reach me, I would be running towards a female jogger who seemed to get farther and farther ahead of me the more I tried to catch her. I have no idea who the female jogger was supposed to represent because I could not see any of her features, but before the figure would get too far from me and before the shadow pursuing me would inevitably consume me, I would be able to make out a series of numbers on her back: 5677999091.
Because I figured that the dream was a result of my subconscious letting me know I needed exercise, I decided to go running three or four times a week. I go out at in the morning so no one sees me. The last thing I want is for old high school chums to think I am back from college to be their best friend.
To my relief, after three weeks of jogging, my dream about the shadow chasing me and about me following the girl with the number on her back was replaced by the dream with my wife and the gift, which is much better.
However, when I had a seizure two nights ago, my dream of Jennifer was replaced again. Only, this time it was swapped with the lame dream about the graveyard, the twenty-two headstones, and the man with the scar – the dream I had in the hospital four months ago. For the most part, the dream was exactly the same, but, when I got to the first of the nameless headstones, something different happened. As the dream concluded and just before I felt myself regaining consciousness, a name – clear as the names on the other headstones – was slowly etched into the stone’s surface. The name was Marjorie Dunnison.
Today I have a follow-up appointment in
with Dr. Jensen. Depending on Traffic, Chicago Chicago
is an approximately one hour and forty-five minute drive from my parents’ home
in . Because
my mom and dad are both working today, they asked my sixteen year old sister,
Liz, to drive me to the appointment. This should be interesting as I imagine
that it will take two hours longer to get there with my sister driving. I am
not concerned though – I have nothing better to do. Freeport
Trevor is in
for school and told my mom that he would meet us for lunch. I have one other
brother, Jacob who is twelve. Jacob won’t be coming with us. Sadly, Jacob keeps
asking my parents when I’ll be happy again, but I don’t have any aspiration to
be happy. Chicago
Knowing that my mother will be pounding on my door in ten minutes like she did when I was trying to sleep as a young teenager, I sluggishly drag myself out of the double bed and rub my eyes while slouching my shoulders in defeat.
After pausing for a minute, I pull myself to my feet and open the top drawer of the dresser. Moving myself from drawer to drawer I dress myself in some of my high school clothes. Although the clothes are three years out of style, they still fit, and I don’t really care how I look.
I don’t know exactly what my family did with all the things I accumulated over the last two years of my life before the massacre. I think my father tried to explain to me once that my things were in a storage shed in
, but, because too much of Jennifer’s
stuff would also be there, I haven’t had the desire to ask for details or to
make an effort to retrieve my things. Chicago
Money is not an issue for me because the life insurance policy Jennifer and I took out on each other several months before the shooting paid out almost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money, but I would much rather have Jennifer alive than have the money.
So far, I’ve refused to spend any of the money because I feel guilty – like spending the money would be disrespectful to Jennifer. And besides, if my family is going to treat me like I am ten years old, I might as well have them provide for me like I am ten years old.
On cue, an abrupt knock comes at the door and startles me in my thoughts.
“Dave, are you ready to go?” my mom asks in a demanding voice. “Izzy is waiting for you in the car.” Izzy is what my mother calls my sister – her actual name is
and I usually call her Liz. Elizabeth
Not in the mood to argue with my mom today, I finish tying my tennis shoes, get up from the end of the bed where I was seated, and move to the door. I open the door just as my mom is about to give a second knock.
“Good morning sunshine. It’s good to see you today,” my mom says with a mocking tone, most likely calculated to inform me once again that she is not happy that I never come out of my room.
I ignore her and methodically head to the garage after grabbing my wallet from a small table stationed awkwardly in the hall.This will be fun, I sarcastically think to myself as I make my way out into the garage and into the passenger side of the family sedan.