Arriving at Miami University Middletown (MUM) at 2:20, I park and walk into the side entrance of Johnston Hall. While humming Dave Matthews’ Ants Marching, my head begins to swell as I pass by a couple of cute college girls walking by, how could they know I was only seventeen and a Junior in high school. Squaring my shoulders and walking a little taller, I watch their eyes as they pass, wishing/hoping that they would look my way. I pause as they pass, taking time to savor the expensive perfume that is wafting in their wake. Regaining my composure, I head towards the Records and Registration desk. “Hello, I’m a Post Secondary student, here to sign up for the second semester,” I say with an air of confidence, nodding to a couple of jocks as they pass by.
”Do you have the PSEOP voucher?” she asks dully as if she had got there far too early and been there far too long.
Kicking myself, “I forgot it at home.”
“Well, we’re gonna need that to finish the registration process,” she replies, not too snidely.
“Okay then,” I start slightly miffed, “I guess I will go call my mom to see if someone could bring it to me. I mean it would be a bit of a hassle if I had to run home and get it myself.” I walk dejectedly to the pay phones, place my quarter in the slot, and dial home. The monotone ring of the phone plays in my ear four times. After the fourth ring, it sounds like the phone is picked up. My heart jumps at my good fortune.
“Hello, you have reached 988-6,” I sigh as I listen to the greeting my Mom had left on the answering machine, “570. We’re not able to come to the phone right now, but if you would please leave a message, after the beep, we’ll be sure to get back to you.” Beep…
“Hey mom, It’s Kyle. I guess you’re not at home right now…” I start, hoping she is screening phone calls, but forgetting that she went shopping with my older brother and his girlfriend, “I was just wondering if maybe one of you could run my PSEOP voucher to me. I forgot it on my dresser this morning.” Pause… “Welp, I guess I’ll try you on your cell. Love ya, bye.” I hang up and dig another quarter out of my pocket. Someone picks up on the second ring.
“Hello,” It’s my brother’s girlfriend Katie.
“Hi Katie, is my Mom there?” I ask kind of shortly.
“Yes, but she’s busy at the moment. What do you want?” she asks, trying to sound helpful.
“I was wondering if someone could bring me a paper I had forgotten on my dresser? I need it to register for classes at MUM.” I inquire, hopefully.
“Well, we’re at Lazarus in Dayton Mall, Christmas shopping, we can’t do much here. Sorry,” she answers.
My heart falling a smidge, I say, “That’s okay I can just run home and grab it real quick. You guys have fun and be safe.”
* * *
A dreamless oblivion…
A flutter of thought, a twitch of the leg, and eyes slowly opening. It is dark. Where am I? What’s going on? Feels like I’m in a body cast; I just can’t move. It must be a dream… but I don’t remember falling asleep. In fact, I don’t remember much at all, but I have a faint recalling of my dog Chase. I try to move my head to look around but find the attempt to be futile. I must be dreaming. I conclude and close my eyes, wanting to be lost in the dreamless oblivion again.
* * *
“Kyle, Kyle are you in there?” says an odd but all too familiar voice, as if I know it but haven’t heard it in a long time.
My eyes open and look toward the voice. My memory is kind of fuzzy, but I think it is my mom. “Hi Peepers,” she says, in a soothing whisper, using my childhood nickname, “I love you.” I take my eyes off her to glance around the room. With the limited mobility of my neck, my eyes encompass a small portion of a hospital room. Only then do I notice the sound of the machines: whirring, buzzing, beeping in their attempts to keep me physically stable; and the smell. The smell of alcohol and adhesive plays with my senses. An odd aroma that I was somehow used to.
“Kyle,” Mom says getting my attention, “you were in a very serious accident…” I stare blankly at her; this news not fully registering. “… you suffered some very serious injuries,” she continues not fully aware that I can comprehend every word she is saying. I am just realizing that my arms are bent double at the elbow; I can‘t move them, partly because of the bandages, partly because they just will not move. My left leg is drawn up almost knee to chest, but my right leg is still quite operational. My neck, on the other hand, is incredibly stiff, I can hardly move it at all.
I look toward the door, as much as I can with, my neck not being very cooperative, as more people walk in. I don’t quite know them, yet they are still so familiar. For some reason, they are all acting surprised toward me as if I were a newborn baby or some other magnificent creation.
“Kyle look at me,” Mom says regaining my attention, “you are at Drake Rehabilitation Center in Cincinnati Ohio. You were in a very serious car accident…”
“What!!” I try to mouth, finding out that I could not fully open my mouth, no matter how hard I tried. What’s wrong with my voice? I think to myself remembering how I used to sing.
“It’s a little past Valentine’s day,” Mom says, “your car accident happened on December 15, 2000.” It’s then that I notice the decorations, cutouts of hearts, cards of all kinds and sizes, and flowers… boy, there are tons of flowers. All types of flowers, which I recognize but do not recall the names of. “
* * *
The bus rounded the corner. The smell of school and all that that entails, new notebooks, pencil shavings, and the remnant of a not too healthy lunch, permeated the air. It was a bittersweet memory as I saw my new home come into view.
It was late November 1996 and we had just moved in less than a week ago. The memory of my grandmother, who died a day after we moved in, still lingered in memory. Man, I miss her. My day is brightened as I see Chase. A German-Shepard/Chow mix, he is the most gorgeous dog I have ever seen, let alone own. Laying on top of his dog house, and wagging his tail in anticipation of the bus disgorging his owners, he brings a fond memory of the Peanuts character Snoopy to mind.
Climbing off the bus my brother, who is two years older, and I race toward our dog. Dustin wins by a head, but that does nothing to affect my jovial mood. Chase hops off the doghouse and bounds toward us, as much as his chain will let him. “What a crime it is, that we have to keep him chained up,” I tell Dustin.
“I know. I wish we could let him run around the yard like we did at the old house,” he replied, ”I feel sorry for him.” Chase hops up to me, putting his front paws on my arms, I give him a big hug.
“I love you, buddy,” I say scratching his head generously, while Dustin fills his water bowl.
* * *
I am restless. I can hardly move, I can’t get up and go play soccer, I can’t talk, I can’t play the guitar, and I can barely communicate. I do that only by a system of eye blinks my Mom and I worked out. Once for yes, twice for no, and four times as a reply to my Mom’s “I love you”. I am beyond bored, along with being restless. Communicating with yes or no questions is tedious.
“Do you have to go to the bathroom?” my Mom asked, in an annoying sing-song voice. Two blinks. “Are you hungry?” Two blinks I replied, in a more agitated state. ”Would you like a drink of water?” One blink.
* * *
I walk out of my high school, toward my car. I am filled with an air of confidence as I move on to more mature surroundings. It is a crisp, clear December afternoon with the smell of winter in the air, fresh snow from the night before covered the landscape. I wasn’t that worried, for the roads had been cleared fairly well, and I had already traveled on them that morning. I chuckle as it is 1:55 and I have gotten out of school a little early.
I am feeling good to be out of the drama of high school for the weekend and heading back to MUM. Today is Friday, December 15, and is the day for PSEOP students to sign up for classes for the second semester at MUM.
* * *
It’s now late March. Spring is in the air, I can feel it, as well as smell it. It’s making me all the more depressed. How I wish I could just to get up, shake it off, and go play soccer with my buddies. But no, I’m stuck in a hospital bed with nothing to do besides entertain myself with my right foot. I remember Chase again, and how it was such a crime to keep him locked up at our new house.
“Kyle,” my Dad says, while I am looking away from him, “say Mom.” I roll over toward my Dad and attempt to say, Mom. Expecting the same routine I had performed for days on end, in which I would roll over, mouth the words, and no sound would come out.
“Mom,” came the audible reply, clear as a bell.
“Julie, Julie, he said it!,” my Dad shouts excitedly.
“What!” she cries running from the hospital room bathroom. She comes from behind the curtain that surrounds the hospital bed, jubilant. “Say it again, hunny.” “Mom,” I say matter-of-factly with a big smile on my face as if I could do it all along. “Can you say Dad?” she asks overtly excited and a bit winded, anticipation apparent on her face.
“Daa… Daaa… Daaad,” I struggle with the hard consonants.
“Good job, hunny,” my Mom says, a smile spreading across my Dad’s face. My Mom hurries out of the room, excited to show the medical professionals, who said I was going to be a vegetable. She comes back in with a male nurse.
“Hi Dale,” I say, causing shock to spread across his face. What the nurses had mistaken for immaturity as a side effect of brain injury was me actually pulling their nametags closer to me with the toes of my right foot, in order to read the names of my caretakers.