The rhythmic wails coming from Calvin’s mouth rocks him as he slowly leans back and forth as his own emotions consume him. His once lively bright green eyes now showed nothing but despair and utter sadness. His short curls swept to the side of his face, each curl drenched in sweat. The left side of his cheek is scattered with dark gashes and his right eye looks hollowed out with a purple lining surrounding his eyelids. Cuts and scrapes paint a horrid picture all over his body. But the physical pain is nothing compared to his emotional disbelief. The slightest thought sends his inner demons to work as they tear down his walls, making him incredibly vulnerable. Everything’s so cold and numb. The type of cold where you can see your own breath in air and the numb pain that’s not in your hands or feet but in your heart. Where every breath, every second, every minute is weighing your heart farther and farther down to a point where under all this pressure you know is going to break. You’re going to break. Calvin’s eyes are almost entirely crusted in dried tears and blood dripping from the gash on his face. Everything seems hopeless even as a small ray of light lands onto Calvin’s knee. But to no avail he doesn’t notice the light shining on him. Then a figure appears behind Calvin laying his hand ever so slightly onto his shoulder. On instinct Calvin flinches and pulls away. He always thought he was cursed to never have the comfort of someone else or is this just another one of his demons pulling him farther into his own withering pit of sadness. Calvin snapped his head around to the shadowy figure. He lifted his battered hand to his eyes to see the figure, as the light, which he didn’t notice until now, was blinding everything else. Though there wasn’t much else to see. But the man was still blinding from the light behind him. Calvin blinked to get used to the unexpected brightness and tried his best to squint and visualize the face of this figure standing over him. With a startling halt of his heart Calvin saw who it was. Max Elkin. Calvin shook his head and closed his eyes tight as if trying to make him disappear but as soon as he opened his eyes Max’s face was still hovering over his head with an expressionless face and something indecipherable behind his icy blue eyes. Before Calvin could even think of what to say Max cut him off but instead of his usual calm and comforting voice, an unfamiliar and steady voice from a woman came through.
“Hi Calvin, my name is Dr. Drea I’m going to ask you to stay with me okay? I’m going to need 5 cc’s of Relda stat!”
The last part came in low and scratchy. Then the light began to fade and a low rumble ran through the darkness. The voice of Dr. Drea began again.
Then another shake rocked the darkness and the light kept flickering with a now small glow. Calvin now looked up again at Max whose eyes were no longer staring at Calvin but at the source of light coming from behind him. Just like he came quietly and endearing into sight Max walked away from Calvin without a second glance. His footsteps made an echo as rubber from his sneakers hit the cold hard ground. But before becoming completely blocked from the light Max looked back into Calvin’s now glazed over and tear soaked eyes. His mouth twitched into a wicked smirk and he nodded his head to the light and spoke with his own voice.
“See ya on the upside Cal.”
With a wink Max walked into the light. Then everything became eerily quiet almost to the point of insanity. The light then became so bright so much so that if Calvin didn’t look away when he did he surely would have been blind. It was so quiet you could hear the blood pulsing through out your body. Calvin slowly fluttered his eyes open and once again his eyes watered from the brightness and he quickly closed them. Then he heard faint whispers all around him, making him scrunch up at every word. He hesitantly opened his right eye then his left. Splattered tiles covered the ceiling with huge lamplights on every other tile. It was complete chaos around him with doctors spitting orders and nurses running around, it was madness. Questions thundered their way through Calvin’s mind. How did I get here, where’s Max? Then a doctor who he assumed was Dr. Drea was hovering over his head with scrubs on and a cap on over her hair, some of it sticking out. She quickly pushed the hair under her cap and moved it back into place. But then she gave up as each strand wouldn’t remain under the cap. She gave a slight humph and then focused all of her attention back to Calvin. She pulled out a flashlight from her pocket and shined it into his eyes. She half walked half ran to keep up with the nurses pushing the bed to the surgery room. Shining the light in his eyes, making sure he was stable enough for amnesia. Calvin’s heart monitor was starting to slow and Dr. Drea knew it was time for surgery now.
“Calvin you’re going to feel sleepy soon okay? This may pinch a little.” Dr. Drea interrupted his inner thoughts.
Ouch. If he had the strength he would have rubbed his arm due to the discomfort. But everything started to get blurry. Calvin’s eyes drooped heavier and heavier, until the last thing he saw before he entered the horrific blackness again was a small sign above the surgery doors. It said, “Sometimes we make mistakes, it may even cost us a life but you have to push on.” Inspiration for any doctor who’s going into surgery, it’s their worst nightmare to lose a patient. But Calvin didn’t know those words would grab him by the throat and tear open wounds that would never heal over a lifetime or eternity.
Calvin began to stir in his hospital bed, bending first his thumb then his index finger, then a muffled cry and curse came from someone after they hit their knee on the bed as they moved quickly to reach the side of their only son.
“Cal, please wake up Cal.” Whispered his mother into his ear. She smelled of cinnamon and vanilla an odd combination but it worked for her.
“Come on buddy just open your eyes at least.” Encouraged his father.
“Charles you can’t rush him after what he’s been through the doctor said most patients don’t even make it to the surgical room.”
“I know Mandy it just that.” He let out an exasperated sigh. “After what happened to Max and the pain John and Carla are going through…”
“What happened to Max?” Calvin was so concerned when they mentioned Max’s name, he had just seen him what felt like minutes before. But his parents were too involved in their conversation to see their son open his eyes and sit up with a painful feeling radiating throughout his whole body. Almost like getting hit by a truck twice. It made him want to pass out from the pain but he had to know what happened to Max.
“Mom, please.” Tears now welling in his eyes one falling and landing on his lap. Then another leaving a spotty mess over the hospital blankets covering his legs. His mom couldn’t look at him she had to look away and hide her face into her husband’s broad shoulder a muffled sniffling coming from his shoulder then it slowly subsided. Calvin’s head was beginning to spin again and this tugging feeling began pulling on the loose strings of his heart.
“Calvin I’m so sorry but Max…he didn’t…son, Max is dead.” Calvin would never forget what happened next. His father began weeping uncontrollably and his mother reached out her hand to draw Calvin in closer into this circle of mourning. The pain was excruciating watching both his parents cry it hurt more than what his whole body was feeling. They sat there for hours holding onto each other too afraid to let go and lose one another. When all the tears had dried up and their throats too dry to barely speak his parents left Calvin to rest but that was something that wouldn’t come for weeks. He closed his eyes only to see the memory that would haunt him and his family for the rest of his life.
“Roll down the window Cal tunes like these need to be heard by everyone.” A devilish smile crept onto Max’s face making Calvin laugh at how young that made Max look even though they were both seniors at Rockem High. It was Max’s life long dream to get out of the small town they lived in and become a famous music producer. He was always discovering new bands and songs right before they got popular he was quite good at it too.
“Sure whatever you say Max. “ Then the cool fall breeze crept into the car as Calvin rolled down the two windows on either side and stuck his hand out the window as Max turned up the music. Calvin moved his hand outside the car to the beat of the music that was quite catchy. Max just laughed at how ridiculous he looked bobbing his head back and forth to the music.
“What’s so funny Elkin?” Questioned Calvin as he tried to keep a straight face but failed miserably. They both began laughing; the two of them were like a stand up comedy act together. Always cracking jokes at one another leaving students amused and teachers speechless. Calvin felt a slight vibration coming from his front pocket; he took one hand off the steering wheel and reached for his phone. He had to thrust his body off the seat to dislodge the phone because he was sitting at a too awkward of an angle to remove it. When he finally was able to look down at the phone it said he had received a text from his friend Tom from the next town over. Max looked over and just snorted through his nose.
“You know it’s illegal to text and drive you could get us killed.” Max just kept staring at Calvin with one eyebrow raised until Calvin looked over at him and Max willed him to put it away.
“Yeah, yeah in a minute Tom just wanted to know when we were coming over.” Calvin just looked back at the screen of his phone trying to type quickly with his right thumb. Max gave up on his attempt to get Calvin to put his phone away. He always acted before he would think of the consequences and it could get really annoying sometimes. Then the tires began turning towards the side of the road before the two of them knew what was happening. It all happened too fast. Calvin tried to gain control again but the tires were already off the ground as the car flew in the air before slamming into a tree. Calvin looked at Max and Max looked at Calvin right before they made impact. Max just smiled and nodded his head while Calvin gave his best friend since Preschool one last nod. Calvin always thought when he would die it would be in a hospital bed as an old man with his children and grandchildren maybe even his wife sitting next to him. But now his life just passed before his eyes memories with family and friends. His first birthday, his 10th birthday party when he broke the neighbors window, even the time in freshman year when he had his first kiss with Jeanine Sanders and she ran away crying. He laughed at the thought of that. Every memory a kind reminder of how good his life was. Then it all caught up with him when the car crashed into the tree. Both Calvin and Max’s bodies fell forward with the momentum of the car, Max’s head hit the dashboard, hard. Calvin was caught by the airbag, the seatbelt almost completely restricting his oxygen. Max’s whole head was covered in blood he had broken his nose and his breathing stopped as soon as he hit the dashboard. Calvin just placed his head back on the headrest finally realizing what he did. He took one last look at his friend lying still with his head on the dashboard. With all his strength he propped him up against the seat taking a good look at his friend shaking him repeatedly. Begging him to wake up and believing it was just another joke. But it wasn’t. He closed his eyes then a feeling of a deep sleep overcame him and if not for the care of the doctors he would have died too.
Calvin opened his eyes his whole body was trembling and he was sweating through the sheets. He just screamed his name over and over.
“MAX!” Calvin couldn’t help it the guilt of what he had done was eating him alive. His mom ran into the room and hugged him closely soothing him with her voice as they rocked back and forth. She lied back in bed with him, her breath returning from ragged to a steady intake. Calvin listened closely to the beat remembering the song from the car ride. He slowly began humming the chorus until the only sound he could hear was his heart monitor beeping to every pump of his heart. All he could think of was how wrong the monitor was. His heart wasn’t working it was broken every beat was another second without his best friend and he caused it. It was his entire fault, something that could never be taken back no matter how many times he wished and prayed time wouldn’t go back to the moment before he crashed the car and how he had to answer the stupid text when he should of just listened to Max and put the phone away. The moment right before they crashed kept replaying in his head and the horrible image of what he did to his friend, the blood dripping from his face. It was so real it was like he was reliving it again. Every day for the next week was the same. He would wake up with the whole scenario replaying in his head like a movie that would never stop. Each day got harder and harder especially Max’s funeral. The hospital was nice enough to let him out for the day to say goodbye to his friend. The service was beautiful the whole school showed up there was no dry eye in the room. Mr. and Mrs. Elkin both cried as they hugged Calvin telling him that they had learned to forgive him that things happen for a reason. The forgiving words didn’t help how he felt it only kicked him harder in the dirt. When everyone was talking in murmurs about how Max died Calvin snuck out of the church looking at his new shoes his mom got him the day before as well as his new suit. He began walking down the road to where it all happened. He stood by the tree and just held himself up with his elbow as he wiped the tears away from his cheeks. The snap of a stick behind him made him turn only to face the open woods. No one was there. So he turned his head back to the tree examining the dent marks made from the car. Figures Calvin thought. Then he heard it again and snapped his head back faster to catch a glimpse of whomever it was. Memories began flooding back of being encased in darkness when he died and Max was there to show him that it wasn’t his time.
“Max?” Calvin called out with hope and anxiety running through his voice.
“No kiddo just me.” Mr. Elkin replied standing in front of the tree with his hands deep in his pockets.
“I wish he was here too.” He didn’t quite look Calvin in the eyes only around him at whatever caught his attention. He walked over to stand next to Calvin and a comfortable silence surrounded them. Then Calvin saw out of the corner of his eyes a shadowy figure standing next to a tree but when he turned his head the figure was gone.
“Yeah, I do too. But he’s always close by.” A toothy grin escaped from his mouth and he finally felt some relief, something he hadn’t felt in days.