Who will miss me when I'm gone?
Justin woke up once again in a bed that wasn’t his, unable to feel his legs. Has it been five days or two weeks already? He had lost count ever since the doctors said there was a chance he wouldn’t be able to play baseball again. Justin doesn’t quite remember how the accident happened, except he ran to catch the bus to be on time for practice. If only he had waited for the next one instead, he would have been playing for his school’s baseball team during the current tournament season, not laying in an uncomfortable bed and getting woken up at four a.m. by the morning shift. After taking three bites of the bland breakfast they served him every morning, Justin painfully dragged himself out of the bed and into the wheelchair. A passing nurse ran to help him, but he nicely shoved her away for he did not need any help.
He wheeled down the hallways, with his team and parents’ disappointment on his mind. He sustained spine injuries on top of breaking both his legs, so it will need him at least another surgery and plenty of rehabilitation just to be able to stand once again. No matter how hard he tried, Justin couldn’t get the doctor’s words out of his mind: “There is a chance you won’t be able to play baseball anymore. Truthfully speaking there’s a risk of being paralyzed if the spine surgery goes wrong.
Just Thinking about it pissed off the young man even more and made him push the wheels of his wheelchair faster.
In front of him, a girl his age wearing the same ugly hospital gown and holding her IV pole was gesturing for him to stop. He made a hard stop to avoid hitting her. As her hand turned into a handshake, a smile suddenly spread on her face.
“Hi, I am Jenna. This is your first hospital stay, right? Welcome.”
Surprised, it took Justin a moment to process what had just happened. He hadn’t met or talked with another patient since he was admitted to the hospital. Nonetheless, this girl caught his attention, therefore he gladly shook her hand and presented himself.
“I am Justin. How do you know it’s my first time being hospitalized?”
“Oh, I know a lot of things in this hospital,” Jenna said with a smirk on her face.
“Let’s go sit somewhere and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”
As they walked and wheeled to a nearby bench, Justin heard Jenna’s abnormally long and uneven breaths. As she sat down, she let out a heavy sigh and her uneven breaths slowed down before she quietly laughed at Justin’s puzzled look.
“You’ve never met someone with a weak heart, have you?” Justin shyly shook his head, with his eyes towards the ground.
“I have often been hospitalized ever since I was young, but I have never seen you around before. A nurse confirmed that not only you are a new patient, but you are also twenty years old, like me.”
“Are you waiting for a heart transplant?” Justin mentally slapped himself for asking such a stupid question. He really doesn’t think before he speaks.
“Well, it’s a bit complicated. In the worst case scenario, yes, I’ll need a new heart. But, for now, I am treated with medication and surgeries.” Jenna stopped to take her breath and she continued, “What about you? What brings you to my lovely hospital?”
“As you can see, I broke my legs.” The boy said while pointing towards the cast that trapped both his legs. “I ran across the street while the light was red to catch the bus and I got hit by a car. My spine got damaged, so I am paralyzed for now until I undergo surgery.”
“At least, you are not feeling any pain from your broken bones.” Her failed attempt at a joke didn’t spark a reaction from Justin, but when he sadly lowered his head, she tried to apologize.
“I’m sorry. I went too far. I’m really bad at making jokes. Nearly all my friends had a dark sense of humor and close to no filter.”
“Oh no! I’m not mad. I didn’t laugh because what you said is completely true. I don’t feel anything.”
That said, Justin started punching his legs to show her it didn’t hurt, but deep inside, he wouldn’t mind writhing in pain if it meant he wasn’t paralyzed. He could hear Jenna asking him to stop, but he kept hitting his legs until she held his forearms to stop him and looked at him straight in the eyes with a glare that could pierce through his soul.
“Justin, we are both twenty years old. You are frustrated and lonely and I am desperate to live and lonely. So, let’s be friends.”
Jenna’s reaction caught him off guard, but who is he to talk? He had just punched his broken legs. She’s the one who must have been taken aback by his actions.
“How do you know I am lonely?” He asked with curiosity written all over his face.
“I told you I know everything in this hospital.” Jenna released his forearms before answering his question.
“You probably didn’t notice, but we are the only ones in their early twenty’s in this wing. Therefore, it wasn’t hard to spot you. Every day, I see you pass in front of my room quite early in the morning. You must be a morning person.”
“I’m not. The morning shifts wake me up and I hate laying in bed all day, so I leave my room as much as I can.”
“Ah, the morning shifts. You’ll get used to it, don’t worry. Now, back to you being lonely. It’s been close to a week since you came here, but I’ve never seen you talk to anyone and you don’t even seem to have visitors. Don’t you have friends and family members who’d come to visit you?”
Justin shrugged before answering, not realising how scary it was that she knew so much about him. “My parents are quite busy, so they come once a week. My close friends are all part of the school’s baseball team and we have a tournament now. They came when I just got admitted, but I doubt they’ll come back soon. What about your friends?”
“Well, during all my life, I’ve had 6 friends and I’ve met them all at the hospital. One of them is in a coma right now and another one transferred to another hospital. The four others all had leukemia, but they are not here anymore.”
“I really hope your friend will wake up! I’ve heard that this hospital has a lot of great doctors. I’m sure they’ll help your friend get better.”
Jenna smiled at Justin’s cute attempt at saying something nice.
“But you have friends who left the hospital, that’s great! What about them, do they come back to visit you?”
For a second, Justin saw sadness cover Jenna’s features. She looked away and answered him.
“No Justin, that’s not great. I don’t want them to come. I don’t want to be hunted by the ghosts of my dead friends.”
They are not here anymore means they passed away. How could he be so stupid? He tried blurting out some excuses, but Jenna shushed him.
“I don’t want to hear that you are sorry. You don’t have to say that. I’m okay, I got used to it.”
Justin looked devastated and felt guilty for opening an old wound. Jenna saw his pitiful expression and decided to brighten up the mood.
“Do you want to eat snacks? My friend’s sister had brought her a box filled with unhealthy snacks to eat behind the doctor’s back, but she is in a coma now and I inherited it. However, I am not allowed to eat sweets or junk food. It’ll give me a heart attack.” She said it as if being in a coma was a normal thing, which shocked the young man.
“No! That’s wrong, I really shouldn’t eat them, it’s like a memory of your friend. You should treasure them.”
“Oh, come on, it’s just food. If you don’t eat it, I’ll just give it to someone else. Besides, she said she is leaving me everything in her room and the box of snacks was part of it.”
Justin half-heartedly followed Jenna, but only after she threatened to push his wheelchair despite her weak heart. He’ll never understand how someone can be so carefree about their dying friend in a coma. Jenna must be quite strong; she saw most of her friends pass away. As soon as the two patients passed through the door, Justin admired Jenna’s room in awe for it was 10 times more awesome than his. Colorful curtains were decorating her windows, while a thick comforter that she obviously brought from home was lying on her bed. The giant flat screen TV, the gaming console and all the posters on the walls got Justin slightly jealous.
“Wow, your room is amazing! I didn’t know we are allowed to bring all this from home.”
“Only if you are hospitalized for a very long time, in order to feel more comfortable.”
Jenna looked around her room and found her controllers.
“Are you a gamer? I’m tired of playing alone.” Jenna asked while handing him a controller. She didn’t need an answer as the sparkles in Justin’s eyes spoke for him. As he moved closer to the TV, Jenna went to collect the gigantic box of snacks from her closet. Detecting hints of struggle from Jenna while she was trying to push it out, Justin went to her aid and she awkwardly laughed at the situation.
“See. If I had tried to eat those snacks, I would be dead even before opening them.”
“It’s okay, I’m a baseball batter. Look at my muscles, I’ll lift and push things for you.” Justin said while making funny poses, pretending to show off his muscles.
“Alright, alright Mr. muscles. Now, quit being arrogant and let’s go play.”
They played for at least an hour with 4 different games but, although they were games he knew very well, the Golden Gamer Justin didn’t come close to winning, not even once.
“How are you so good? I’m one of the best players in my neighborhood, they call me the Golden Gamer.”
“First, that’s such a cocky title, I’m never calling you that. Second, I’m often hospitalized, so all I do is play all day long.”
Just at that moment, a nurse barged into the room, out of breath. Apparently, the staff has been looking for him for the past 30 minutes and they were close to declare him missing.
Later that night, while Justin was reading one of the mangas he had brought from home, someone came knocking on his door. He wondered why a doctor, or a nurse, would come at such a late hour, but his curiosity grew once he heard the person speak.
“Justin, can I come in?”
Why was Jenna knocking on his door this late? Once she came in, he waited for her to catch her breath before asking what was going on.
“I missed your beautiful face and wanted to see you,” Jenna said with a wink and laughed at how flustered Justin was.
“Oh my god, can’t you take a joke? Well, you do look good, but that’s not the point. I came because I have something really cool to show you.”
“You’ll show me the way to the hospital’s dungeon?”
“No, I’ll show you a galaxy.”
Justin didn’t know the hospital had a balcony. Although he spent most of his time exploring the hospital, he avoided places where he’d have to socialize with other people. Unbeknown to him, there was, in fact, a small forest, behind the hospital building, where the stars were easily visible in the night sky.
“Do you like the view? I always come here at night when I can’t fall asleep and I thought you might like it.”
“It’s really peaceful and it’s been a while since I took a breath of fresh air.”
A comfortable silence quickly installed itself between them. Justin glanced in her direction and thought about how she made this day more enjoyable just with her presence. If everyday were going to be as fun as today, he was willing to stick with her.
“Can I ask a silly question on a sensitive subject?” After all, they had just met today, and Justin didn’t want to say anything inappropriate.
“Is it about my friends who passed away?”
Justin nodded, and Jenna signaled him to go ahead. If it weren’t an appropriate subject, she would have never brought it up in the first place.
“Did you randomly stop them in the hallway to ask them to be your friends?”
A smirk graced Jenna’s face before she answered him. “No, I told them that their shaved head was cool.” Justin’s jaw dropped in shock, which made the girl laugh.
“Before you judge me and label me as heartless, let me tell you that I was six years old and, at that time, it boosted their self-confidence. I had also convinced my mom to let me shave my hair to fit in, so I kept it shaved until my last friend with cancer passed away a few years ago.”
Justin’s jaw was still dropped but in admiration this time as he knew how much girls tend to value their hair.
Jenna caught him looking at her and she couldn’t hold herself back from asking, “What is it? Can’t take your eyes off me?”
Justin, completely oblivious to what she said, shook his head and answered: “No, I was just wondering how great it must have been to have your friends around.”
Jenna burst out laughing at how oblivious he was, but her laughter was soon replaced with a coughing fit and fear took over Justin’s body as he didn’t know how to react. Thankfully, it didn’t last long. She soon calmed down, but he could see worry and anger over her usually cheerful face and it pained him.
“When my friends with leukemia passed away one by one, our remaining friends and I missed them a lot. Once when they were all gone, I realized that, except my parents, nobody would miss me when I’m gone. Soon then, I met my friend who is now in a coma, and now you. I was hoping you wouldn’t have cancer. I’m sick of having all my friends die. I want to have at least one friend who will live a long and successful life.”
“I will!” Justin spoke so loudly and confidently that it startled Jenna.
“I’ll miss you wherever you go, and I will live a long and successful life. I will become the best Korean baseball batter!” He turned to Jenna with a huge smile on his face and held her forearms.
“Jenna, we are both 20 years old. You know how to make my days more enjoyable and I am looking for something to help me get through my time here, so let’s be friends.”
They both exploded in laughter in the warm silent night, with Justin’s laugh obviously louder than Jenna’s.
The doctor had noticed that Justin wasn’t grumpy anymore and even looked forward to his surgery because, like Jenna said, even if he gets paralyzed he can still become Korea’s best paraplegic batter. Jenna had left the hospital for 3 weeks. She made him promise to talk to other patients and even left him her gaming console to practice for their next game. During her absence, Justin worked hard in rehabilitation to get back on his feet as quickly as possible.
When Jenna came back, his wheelchair was gone, and he could walk with the help of crutches. He looked as good as she left him. He was proud to show her that he could finally stand on his legs. He even introduced her to his new friends as a proof for keeping his promise. Since the weather became warmer, they spent a lot of time in the hospital’s backyard. Since Jenna’s heart condition got better and Justin can now stand up, walking outside was a good exercise for them.
“It’s good to see you happy and optimist. I was afraid you’d be so bored without me and you’d go back to your hopeless and grumpy self.” Jenna said while they were walking around the garden.
“In another situation, I would tell you should be more modest, but it’s thanks to you that I didn’t give up. So, I’ll just say yes, it was boring without you, but I wanted you to be proud to see me on my two feet.”
“What's the first thing you'll do when you leave the hospital?” Jenna asked out of the blue.
“Well, I’ll probably go see my baseball team's match if I'm discharged soon enough. I'll also try to buy tickets for ENDO’s and BST’s concerts since I missed their last ones because of my accident. I’ll eat the delicious food with my friends. What about you?” Justin could see the sadness in her eyes as she answered.
“I've never seen a sports match, I've never been to a concert and I don't have friends to hang out with. I really don't know where I would start.”
“But you have me! We can do these things together.”
“Oh my god, Justin, are you asking me out?” Jenna said comically while exaggerating her reaction.
As they were both laughing, they suddenly heard someone playing guitar. A crowd quickly gathered around the girl who was playing. Jenna walked closer towards them and looked back at Justin with a huge smile on her face.
“I love that song! It’s “A hopeful sky” by Jia from B-Pink! It's really beautiful and calm. I heard that she wrote it for her father.”
All the patients who knew the lyrics sang with the performer, including Jenna who really seemed to enjoy this sudden performance. The woman was a great singer and Justin enjoyed her performance and clapped to the beat with the audience. Once she was done, the crowd was asking for an encore and the woman played a song that Justin knew very well. “Look over there” by his favourite group BST was a nice upbeat song and everyone was dancing along, or at least trying to dance with their injured and tired bodies. Justin joined Jenna who was carefully moving her body side to side and tried to dance as best as he could with his crutches. To an outsider, it might look like a weird or funny crowd, but everyone was having fun and that's what truly mattered.
On their way back inside, Jenna asked when he was getting discharged since he could almost walk without any help.
“Soon, but hopefully it's before April 24th. My baseball team has an important match that day and I would like to see them. Don't worry, I'll come visit you often, bring you healthy snacks and play your favourite games with you.”
“Thank you,” Jenna said with a beautiful and genuine smile that almost made Justin blush. He's not going to lie, she was really beautiful, and her outgoing personality brought him out of his shell, gave him hope and courage to pull through his situation. He was thankful for that and it led her to have a special place in his heart. Although it felt as if he didn’t know Jenna that much, he stilled valued her presence in his life.
As the days passed, Justin was eager to be finally discharged, but felt bad for his friend as it seemed she was destined to be chained to this hospital. He never dared to ask any details about her condition since, whenever they talked about his, Jenna never said anything concerning her situation. Maybe the worst was awaiting her. After all, she's been in a hospital for almost all her life. He quickly brushed away those dark thoughts from his mind and decided to do something for her. He wanted to help her as much as she helped him feel better.
Justin finally got discharged the morning of the baseball match, April 24th. After switching his hospital attire to his team's jersey and his favourite jeans, he bought flowers at the hospital's shop and went to see Jenna. He was ready to tell her how important she is to him, how he'll never let her down and tell her about his surprise. He was planning to video call her during the match, so she could see it live with him. Justin was expecting her to barge into his room as soon as she woke up since he was getting discharged, but maybe she was planning something. However, it piqued his curiosity when he had no answer after knocking on her door. It was already passed ten a.m. and she never oversleeps. He pushed the door open only to find the room empty. As fear reigned over him, he went to search everywhere; the balcony, the backyard, his room, he even asked a woman to check in the bathroom, but nothing. As he went to ask at the office near the entrance, he saw her. He didn't recognize her without her IV pole, her hospital gown and with her hair untied. Jenna had been sitting in the waiting room for a while. When she saw her friend come down the stairs, she walked up to him. His first reaction was to hug her out of relief.
“I thought something happened to you, I was so scared! What are you doing here?”
“Congratulations on getting discharged! I wanted to surprise you, so I hid in the waiting room. I didn't mean to scare you. Remember when you said you’ll do a lot of things with me when I get discharged? Well, we are starting today with your team's baseball game because I’m going with you! The doctors have accepted to discharge me and my medication is in my bag.”
At that moment, Justin realized how stunning Jenna looks when she's not wearing her hospital clothes. Although he could still see her IV lines, with that beautiful spring dress she had on, she looked healthy and that's what truly mattered.