A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

by Robert Parks (Sep 2013)


I tried to force open my eyes, but with each attempt, the pain in my chest seemed to grow worse. The pale, gray dimness of the room made it difficult to get a grasp on my surroundings. I felt as though an anvil was sitting on my chest, compressing my lungs and robbing them of much needed oxygen. The smell in my nostrils was familiar but I couldn’t place the odor. Mustering all the strength in my body, I moved my arm toward the anvil to push it off my chest. Something stopped the movement and I looked at the tether which restricted my movements. My eyes followed the tether to a pole towering over my head and I noticed another tether leading to the other hand. I couldn’t move either arm very far and the crushing weight on my chest was becoming more of a burden.

“Try not to move. You will start the needles in your hands bleeding again,” a voice said.

I couldn’t see who was speaking but the voice was female, soft and soothing. I tried to raise my head to scan the room but the voice called to me again.

“Please, try not to move around too much.”

“Who’s there?” I asked. “Who are you… and where am I?”

She stepped from the corner of the room and as she drew closer to me, the light, seemingly coming from nowhere, illuminated the face of someone I didn’t recognize. Her hair was radiant, like silk draped across her shoulders. The blouse and skirt she wore seemed to put off a glow of its own. But the radiant light, which now seemed to fill the room, made her smile glow also. Looking into her face, I could see the beautiful smile on her lips.

“Who are you?” I asked again. “Can you lift off whatever this is on my chest?”

“You have nothing on your chest,” she said softly. “You’ve had a heart attack, and you are in the hospital intensive care unit.” Her hand gently brushed the hair from my eyes, and I caught that familiar scent again. She turned to adjust the IV tube running to my arm. “My name in Alisa and I’m here to take care of you until it’s time to go home.”

I watched her move gracefully around the room as she fluffed my pillow, then wet a washrag in cold water and gently wiped my brow.

“Why is my chest hurting so much? Why can’t I catch my breath?”

She continued to caress my face and arms with the washcloth. “You’ve had a massive heart attack.” Pausing a moment, she looked into my eyes. “It was a bad one.”

Her words were like a hard punch to the stomach. “When can I go home?” I asked.

“We don’t know yet.” Once again she wiped my face with the cool cloth. “Try to get some sleep and I’ll wake you when it’s time to go.”

The curtain across the entrance to the room drew back and another lady I didn’t recognize brought bag of drugs and replaced the empty bag on the IV pole. She also fluffed my pillow and raised the head of the bed slightly. After taking my blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration, she checked the flow rate of the IV running into my veins. Satisfied, she turned to face me.

“My name is Bobbie. I’ll be your nurse for the night shift. Is there anything I can do for you?”

As Bobbie’s eyes met mine, I tried to read her thoughts as to my condition. “How am I doing?”

She smiled and touched my hand. “You get some rest. The doctor will be in first thing in the morning to run some tests. We’ll know more when we get the results.” Bobbie pulled the blanket up closer to my chin. “Would you like for me to wipe your face with a washcloth?”

“Alisa’s already done that, but I could use a drink.”

Bobbie disappeared past the curtain and reappeared with a glass of water. She bent the straw and held it to my lips. With her hand so close to my face, I could smell the familiar, soft scent once again, but I still couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I drank far more water than I wanted so I could inhale that sweet aroma as long as I could.

“Thank you,” I said, pulling my lips away from the straw.

Placing the glass on the bedside table she said, “If you need anything, I’m right outside the curtain.”

“If I need you, I’ll send Alisa for you.”

Bobbie smiled and drew the curtain closed as she left.

The night dragged on and the pain in my chest grew stronger. I was now at the point of desperation and needed some relief. I reached for the button to call for the nurse but couldn’t quite grasp it. I looked for Alisa and began to panic.

“Do you need something?” Alisa asked.

The sudden sound of her voice startled me. “I didn’t know you were still here,” I said, looking around for her. Again she stepped from the corner of the room. “I’m really hurting,” I whispered. “Can you get me something for the pain?”

“Let me check,” she said. “I’ll see what I can do.”

She passed through the curtain and I was left in the dim room alone. The coldness of the ICU room chilled me to the bone. I watched the curtain for her to return, but even hurting as badly as I was, I soon drifted off to sleep.

The movement of the curtain allowed the light to shine in my eyes which awakened me.

“Is that you, Alisa?” I asked.

“It’s Bobbie,” was the reply. “I have some pain medication for you. This should help lower your pain level.” She pushed the syringe into the IV tube and injected the contents, took my temperature and offered another drink of water. She smiled at me as she again checked the speed of the IV drip and gently shook the bag. “Need anything?” she asked.

I shook my head and closed my eyes once again. The effects of the medication Bobbie had given me and the cool air blowing on my face took me back to the early spring of my senior year of high school. Sitting on the bench of the ice skating rink, I was lacing my skates and watching the prettiest girl in our school skate gracefully around in the center of the rink. Twisting and turning, jumping and spinning, she put to shame everyone else on the ice. She was at the top of our class in most everything she attempted. As she skated across the ice toward me, I could feel the butterflies in my stomach cast off into flight.

“Hi,” she said as she sat on the bench beside me. I remembered the sweet smell of the lavender perfume she was wearing. “Would you take me home, please? I finished early and my dad won’t be here for another hour.”

I had just sat down to put my skates on, but I wasn’t about to pass up this opportunity. “Sure,” I said with a straight face. “I was just leaving anyway.” For the next week my car smelled like lavender. We were married two years later.

“What?....What,” I repeated. The touch of someone taking my hand awakened me. I felt so at ease and the pain in my chest was gone. I looked into the attractive, smiling eyes of Alisa and noticed that the whole room smelled like lavender.

Now I remembered. “Alisa,” I said looking into her eyes.

“This may not be an ice skating rink, but it’s my turn to take you home,” she said, gently pulling me from the bed.

Alisa and I held hands tightly as we walked from the room and into the ICU hallway. Bobbie was sitting at the monitoring station watching the stats of the patients. We stopped at the counter to say good-bye; however, before I could speak, an alarm interrupted the silence in the room Alisa and I had just left. Bobbie jumped up and ran from the station. Several other nurses and a doctor followed close behind her. Not wanting to leave without thanking Bobbie, I tugged at Alisa’s hand until she reluctantly accompanied me back to the room I had just left.

A doctor was pulling a sheet up to cover the body and turned to end the annoying buzzing from a machine. “It’s a shame he had no family to be with him in the end,” the doctor said.

“But he kept talking about someone named Alisa,” Bobbie replied.

The doctor, with the look of surprise stared at Bobbie. “Alisa was his wife. She died last year in this very room.”

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Revised September 2013.