IYPAD Creative Writer Winner
The following story, written by a 15-year-old female HomeBridge youth, won second place in the International Year for People of African Descent Creative Writing Contest 2011.
This honour won the young lady a cash prize and lunch with the award winning author of the Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill. She says the experience was one she will remember forever!
Confessions of a Dead Girl
It seems I have long forgotten what a minute can last. In this dull existence, I have learned to measure time by the consistent drip-drip-drip of my IV or the beep-beep-beep of my heart monitor. I have been here, trapped in these titanium white walls, for nine million beeps. My body has been here, on this cold hard excuse of a mattress for even longer. It cannot escape; and neither can I. Although I go where I please for a few minutes, I eventually get bored of exploring the hospital, so I explore my body instead.
My hair is much longer than I prefer, its ebony locks tumble, a midnight waterfall around my dark, cocoa toned face. A machine orders my lungs to rise and fall in a robotic manner, another commands my heart to pump blood. I almost feel inhuman. My breathing does not slow when calm, nor does it speed up when excited. Thin, transparent tubes drive oxygen up my nose; water down my throat, and nutrients into my veins. Scars cover my arms and face, memories of when that car ploughed me. It was an accident I did not cause, it wasn’t my fault.
I touch my wrist, tugging at my ID bracelet. “Wake up,” I whisper pleadingly. My body ignores my request, as she has so many other times. She is no longer me, I am no longer her master. She is the spoiled brat, and I, the desperate babysitter.
I hear footsteps approach and immediately back away, as if I had been doing something I knew I shouldn’t have. It’s the nurse. I don’t like her. She checks the IV, deciding it has enough serum until the end of her shift. Then I won’t be her problem. She shoots me look of disgust and leaves. It’s funny; I haven’t seen one colored doctor or nurse in this hospital. I loom over the monitor; how can she understand all those lines and numbers? My life has become a maze, a complicated labyrinth I do not understand.
Another person enters. It’s my stepmother. I don’t like her either. She looks down at me, smirking. I’m sure she’s glad I’m here and not home, “causing trouble”, and to be honest, so am I. I’d much rather live with a beeping machine than listen to her maddening voice.
My dad walks in with the doctor and my stepmother quickly changes her smirk to a carefully crafted mask of agony.
”How is she?” my dad asks, his face, normally so carefree, worn and creased with worry. “Same as before, I’m afraid. That’s why I ask you to come with me.”
I look at the doctor, suspicious. Why talk now, instead of before or later? I follow the three of them out of the tiny room.
Nothing has changed in the hallway since I last left my room. Even the coffee pot has the same amount of liquid in it. Had someone changed it? Was it stale? When was the last time I left my room anyway?
We reach the doctor’s office in under a minute. He sits in a wooden chair behind a large, black desk. My father and stepmother sit in smaller, simpler chairs in front of him. I take the plastic chair in the corner.
The doctor starts, making no effort to ease the situation for my dad. “Your daughter came to us in a very fragile condition, Mr. Brooks.”
My dad nods, urging the doctor to continue.
“She was in a lot of pain. We had to induce coma to spare her suffering. The problem now, is that she doesn’t seem to want to come back. And chances are, after four years, she won’t ever come back.”
I disagree. I want to come back. It’s my body that’s lazy enough to want to lay in the hospital bed forever.
My dad argues, “But, I’ve heard of people being in comas for decades…And they came around.” But the doctor seems determined to free a bed as he shakes his head. Are they really that needy? “Those cases are extremely rare, sir. And, even if it did happen, she would be tremendously confused. The shock might send her right back.”
Again, I disagree. Right after this happened, my dad would come in every day to read me the newspaper. And when that stopped, I would listen to the radio in another patient’s room. I want to talk about the latest issues; it’s my tongue that doesn’t want to cooperate.
“The thing is, Mr. Brooks, the bills will pile up until you just can’t afford her life anymore, and you’ll be forced to disconnect her.”
I feel my fury rise. Afford my life? How dare he even think to put a price on a human life? Would it be the same if I had the same skin?
“I’m offering you the choice now, sir. Do the right thing,” the doctor says as he extends a pen and paper. My dad doesn’t look convinced, but he doesn’t look against the idea either. My stepmother places a hand on his. Finally, he takes them, sighing as he clicks the pen. “No…No…” I plea, but he can’t hear me. There are tears in his eyes, and resignation. For him, I have just died.
All three of them rise, my stepmother hugs my dad, and the doctor exits. It only takes me a second to realize what he’s going to do. He’s going to disconnect me.
I run back to my room in a panic, with the doctor gaining on me quickly, although he’s walking calmly. The scarce hair of a cancer patient stands on end as I pass him.
A newborn baby begins to wail at an unseen presence. The doctors and nurses all of a sudden feel anxious for no apparent reason. They all feel a tiny sample of my pure terror.
“Wake up,” I say again to my still form. She ignores me.
“Wake up!” I scream at her, she plays dumb.
I try to shake her but my hands pass through her shoulders as easily as a rock through water. She can’t hear me and I can’t touch her. My inaudible screams dissolve into helpless cries of despair.
I stop crying now, not because I’m calmer, but because I can’t breathe. The doctor presses buttons, as one by one, the screens’ lights fade and the machines go still for the first time in four years. An icy hand grips my chest, squeezing the last drop of life from my heart and lungs slowly. The cold touch of death sends me to the ground, wheezing for the oxygen that is no longer there.
The doctor gives my dad a faint smile as he passes, not at all genuine. He returns, it, but it doesn’t reach his eyes, which always used to be so happy.
“I’ll leave you alone,” the doctor says, and he exits.
My dad caresses my cheek. Through the pain in my chest, I can feel him. Can he feel me too? “Dad,” my voice can only reach a soft whisper.
Inch by inch, I reach for his pant leg, like I used to when I was a child. He needs to know I’m alive. My fingers close over empty air as he walks away. Darkness begins to corner me. How much longer can I fight it off? He stops and turns around.
“Honey?” I hear my stepmother’s voice, like poisoned chocolate, deceptively smooth and sweet. “I thought…She moved” my dad answers, looking down at my body. Hope sparkles in his eyes; it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
“You must have been imagining things.” Every shard of hope has been obliterated as he lets himself be led away by her arms and illusory mask of pain. I try to move, to whisper, anything to make him come back. But, as the darkness finally defeats me, I am gone too. Leaving nothing behind but a lifeless corpse on a hard mattress in a sterile white hospital gown.
“HomeBridge helped me be more confident in myself.”
- HomeBridge Youth