Beat – Part Three
Air flooded into my lungs in a shuddering gasp, the silence blinding me. No. No. No.
“Eric, is everything all right?”
The teacher was walking toward me in slow motion, but I was being squeezed by the foreign nothingness invading my head. Then there was a faint thump, a beautiful beat. And another and another. I caught my breath and unclenched my fists.
“There’s something wrong… with mine,”
“Oh, my- okay,” he blanched and scrambled. He’d probably never had to deal with a problem like this in his classroom before.
I could feel every eye on me, except Ben who was looking fearfully at Ashley. I didn’t care. I had to get out of the room. I had to do something.
“Why don’t you head down to the infirmary. Go quickly.” The teacher said.
I pushed myself up from the chair and struggled for the door. Her heartbeat picked up pace as I rushed through the hallways.
“Shh…shhh…” I soothed her as if it would do any good. Panic had claimed me and there wasn’t any more room for rational thought.
I stumbled into the infirmary, clutching my aching skull.
“Please,” I choked out to the nurse at the front desk. “There’s something wrong with mine. Her heart, its racing and stopping. Please-”
Her eyes widened as she took me by the elbow and hastily led me to a cot cordoned off by curtains. She sat me down and asked me exactly what I’d heard. I recounted the sputtering beats, the painful length of time they had stopped.
“I’ll put calls into the local hospitals and see if anything matches that description.”
Before she rushed out of the room, she gave me a terribly pitiful look. “Just try to relax,” and she slid the curtain closed.
I curled around myself, tears pooling uncomfortably on the thick plastic mattress by my temple. Her heartbeat thundered on unevenly, working, struggling for the next pump.
“Please,” I whispered to her. “Please hang on.”
But the beating slowed steadily. It grew more labored and oppressed because in reality, whispers die in the darkness. They fade in the growing silence. They never reach their destination. My fists clenched again as if I were holding onto her lifeline, the rope that connected us. If I grasped tightly enough I could keep it from unraveling. But with one final, weak push the once vital heart I had heard and loved my entire life, stopped.
I laid in the deafening silence for the full two hours it took for my parents to drive from our hometown. I laid, waiting for another beat. Holding my head so the terrible silence didn’t blow it apart. When the nurse came in again, I didn’t hear her. I didn’t answer her questions. I had to listen. I had to pay attention. There would be another beat. Her heart would start again.
When my parents came and coerced me to sit up and come with them, a grotesque howl filled the room. I didn’t realize it was mine until my raw throat stung when I tried to swallow.
My parents led me to the car and I laid out in the backseat, listening to my mom quietly sniffling. She would never be a grandmother. I made them stop at some point so I could crawl out onto the side of road and vomit whatever I had eaten at the cafe that morning.
I stayed in my childhood bed the following days, trying to adjust to the new void in my head, refusing the painkillers the nurse had given my parents. I had to adjust to life this way. In a moment I had lost everything. I had become one of the forgotten people. Children would one day trade scary stories about me that would teach them a lesson. It would make them stop teasing each other for a moment and feel grateful for their normal lives. That’s what I was now.
Sam visited. She walked awkwardly into the room, that sympathetic look I’d been dreading in her eyes, and she sat on the floor beside me. I couldn’t find the words to speak. Silence had infected me. It began in my head when her heart died, flared down to my esophagus and bled into my own heart. So, Sam and I held a gaze for minutes before a line of tears welled in her eyes.
“I know I didn’t believe in it. I know I always yelled and lectured about it.” She whispered, the tears flowing like rain, choking her words. “But I really wanted to be yours.”
I blinked, unable to make sense her words. I let her familiar voice wash over me, a soothing balm to the wound silence had left on me. I reached my hand out from the sheets and took hers. We sat in my old bedroom, wrapped in silence. The abyss of our own loneliness didn’t seem as crushing with our hands entwined.
previous: BEAT – PART TWO
more by NOELLE CURRIE
photograph by Margot Pandone