Monday, April 18, 2011

Jenny (Part III)

Jenny was right about my pneumonia.  Though the doctor was worried by the high fevers and my X ray results of my lungs, I was fine during all six days of stay in the hospital so they released me on the seventh.  Jenny never made good on her plan to keep in loose touch with Maria. Instead she stayed close to me, and the other younger kids.  Maria tried to exchange letting Jenny wear that little crown, the one with sparkles that shone in our eyes, for playing exclusively with her but Jenny said no.  I also stopped crying myself to sleep at the thought of my parents and friends on the outside, much to their collective relief and surprise.

So when the doctors told me my parents were here to pick me up, I didn't jump or ran to tell everyone the good news.  I walked slowly back to the ward, heads so low I saw every little rock and creature crawling along the side walk.  They hurried to their destinations, while I dragged my every step.  Then the wind picked up speed out of nowhere, picking up sand, dust and every inch of gray and throw them all at me, pelting me in a solid rain of ashes. 

When I finally arrived at the door, I looked up. Throw the gray mist of wind tunnels and shaken leaves, I saw Jenny standing at the balcony talking to the girls in our ward, pointing to the sky while the other children, each of whom a beneficiary of her kindness at one time or another, listened. She looked as pale and thin as I always remembered, she was tall but still a child inside and out, but she had captivated the attention of others like she had mine.  Unlike the wind powered dust storm our city is famous for in early spring days, she did it with a life force that ran as quietly as a small stream that nourished until it ran itself out. 
I felt the sting of tears then, I whispered goodbye under my breath, afraid to disturb their talks, but she turned and saw me, pale faced, red nose and watery eyed. She knew it wasn't the sand storms, she knew it was time, and the calm on her face disappeared when she lowered her eyes and then ran like the little girl she never seemed but always was.  She ran to hid herself from the rest of us, leaving the hall hollowed with a frozen wasteland of whites and gray shadows.

I didn't bother with the motions of packing and goodbyes.  I knew my parents would rather fuss over it so I sat on the bed staring into space.  Our window framed a world we can hold between our palms, so in the comfort of all those behind it, I had relinquished the need to return to the massive city beyond it, to the giant courtyard in which I lived.  Even though my house was the size of a shoebox, it suddenly seemed as though I might drown in it, in that ocean of people, activity, of hushing and fussing and hovering, and worst of all, of the prospect of going back to the galaxy of school.

Jenny came back then and sat next to me once more.  Collecting together the few items of clothes to keep her hands busy, she tried to put some senses into me, and perhaps into herself.

"Hey, it was great having you here, we had fun didn't we?  But it's time to go back with your parent, like the doctors said."

I couldn't think of anything to say except:

"Can I come back to see you?"

Then without hearing her answer I felt dad picking me up silently and turned to leave.  I didn't know when he came in, and why he sneaked up on me the way he did. Perhaps he saw something, and instincts took over.  I didn't protest, so we stayed silent while he carried me home, my ears deafened by the ocean of city sounds or perhaps it was the sound of nothing at all, the sound of a closed book and a tiny rock tumbling over a grassy hill, crushing any tender growth of moss grown in the briefest mist of rain.

The next day came and went. So many relatives and my old friends in the courtyard came to see me and brought me their best (secretly stashed) fruit and sweets.  I was eager to go see Jenny and didn't want to have anything to do with anyone, the world so alien and scary without those sterile white walls, the comforting clinks of the medicine tray and most of all, without Jenny's soft voice and gentle laughter.

Dad dismissed my requests to go back to the hospital right away fearing I will catch another infection.  I sulked until I became fully recovered in his eyes the following week and he reluctantly took me back.  As I rush through the familiar corridors waving excitedly at every familiar face, my heart thumped at the sight of our room.  Jenny was standing at the far corner, even more frail than I remembered.  Compared to my "healthy" friends, She looked shrunken, aged somehow, her hair fraying away and grayed by the sunlight streaming through the window. Even her skin had become translucent, nearly melting into the overly washed and faded hospital gown.  Then she smiled and I recognized her again, heart flipping with both joy and bitterness. Neither of us ran towards each other.  Five thousand words developed from five thousand years of civilizations at our disposal, yet we felt the divide between the world of health and hospital standing tall, beyond penetration or crossing over.  We just stood there, smiling and nodding for an eternity, our legs leaden with the weight of trying.

The second time I went to see Jenny was a month later, but I did not find her.  No one could tell me where she had gone, or what had happened to her.  The hospital changed, so none of the nurses I knew were there anymore either.  I looked for Maria but she had been picked up or transferred too.  For months I wondered about her. Had she gotten better so her parents had finally came to take her home, like mine did?   Or had she been transferred to a bigger and better hospital for advanced treatment?  Or..., I didn't want to think further but I'd return every few months to ask about her, to see if maybe she had returned, or maybe if I could run into one of the nurse I knew.  I searched for her in vain.

Two years later my family was moving to another part of the town, hours away from the hospital.  Though Jenney’s words and actions stayed with me, I had transitioned into my normal life of school and friends, her memories a shadow held in a distant yet bittersweet corner of my heart.  While I struggled with every aspect of this move, I more than anything wanted to check in the hospital one more time, and that's when I found nurse Yang.

Nurse Yang worked in our room sometimes when I stayed in the hospital that week but I never ran into her before in all my visits, it was almost like she was hiding from me.  That day, she was waiting in the room, our room, and told me in hushed voices that she was not supposed to say anything, but she knew I had been back many times, and she wanted to let me know what had happened to Jenny.

Jenny's parents had wanted to try an advanced experimental surgery to correct her heart defect once for all.  It was very risky, but Jenny wanted to try it too.  They moved her to the specialist hospital for the surgery, thinking she'd stay there until she’d completely recovered from it.  But she never did, as the surgery created a complication and she passed away shortly after that.

I could hardly remember how I walked out of the hospital that day, but I remember shaking so much my muscles ached later, like I was hit again with deadly fevers, and for moments I almost wished I were. So afraid I was to be discovered that I had learned something I was not supposed to, I hid my tears like I thought Jenny would have done, and held my head high like her, whenever someone walked by me.  But when the night was set and the world settled down for bed, her pale and translucent face, her lighter than wind physique, and her gentle laughter would come in and out of my dreams often, breaking my heart and my dreams over and over again with all that I remembered of her and all that I imagined she’d become.  This continued until the drama in my own life grew to a proportion that overshadowed her visits with a dream of a different kind, darker and scarier. 

I want to think of Jenny as being misplaced in another hospital, not another world like what the nurse had told me.  She had simply gone for a visit, that's all.  I want to believe that someday I would turn the corner and run into her, and though we'd both changed we'd still know, instantly, who we were and who we are, even as we stand and stare at each other for an eternity.


  1. Oh, so sad, Shopgirl. An awful lot of sadness for a little girl to absorb. But so lovely and lovingly written.

  2. Thx Jayne. t'was a bit difficult to write based purely on an impressionable memory. Not a popular piece so appreciate the comment




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...