La Dolce Vita. That was how I described life two years ago. I was young, I was happy, I was content. Two years ago, I was eighteen years old. I had a future before me, various lifestyles and professions to choose from. I had loving parents who looked out for me. I had friends who I had fun with. I had someone who loved me. There was nothing more I could ask for.
That was until the crash.
It was December 2 then. He and I were going home from a seminar about music—I came with him, the aspiring musician, because he didn’t want to go alone. He was the kind of boy who was quiet and didn’t talk much, the kind who had a mountain of thoughts to share, but only reserved those thoughts to the people he felt he could divulge his secrets to. I wanted to come with him because I knew it was the only thing I could do to show my support; his parents didn’t like the thought of their son, the talented straight-A achiever, to only end up playing musical instruments all his life. They wanted more for him; I, on the other hand, wanted just his happiness. So I came.
It was a long way home then, and traffic wasn’t exactly light. I was listening to the radio, an old Beatles song wafting through the air inside his secondhand pick-up truck. I liked the smell inside his truck—like a mixture of woody parks, soapy smells, and his very own cologne. I told him so and he chuckled as he gave me a quick glance.
“I love you, I love you, I love you…” he murmured as the Beatles song continued to play. “That’s all I want to say, until I find a way…”
I smiled as he continued to sing the song, replacing my name in the song lyrics. I laughed as he continued to sing the verses, and I saw him raise his hand, looking for mine. I quickly took his hand with my own and squeezed it.
The SUV came out of the blue. It was over before I knew it.
When I opened my eyes the very next moment, my world was upside down. I slowly closed my eyes again. My head was spinning as I tried to remember what happened and why I was in such cramped space. When my head finally found its way back to what had happened, my eyes opened with alarm. It was dark, but I knew I was still inside the car, my seatbelt forcing me to stay put, and I was glad for it; had it not been there, I probably would have found myself out of the truck and into the open and dangerous road.
I looked at my left, fearing for him. His head was leaning against the broken glass of his window, and I could make out the dark forms of liquid stuck in the cracks of the glass. Blood.
My hands quickly went to him, trying to shake him into waking. Nothing helped. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do, so I did what I thought was the one thing I should do—fish around for my phone and call for emergency.
Before I could, however, my world became black.
I woke up inside a white room with blurry figures overlooking me. Once my eyesight had finally gone back to its normal state, I recognized that the blurry figures then were my parents. My mother asked if I was okay, my father quickly called a doctor. I slowly blinked a couple of times before I remembered—blood.
I shot up in alarm, remembering what had happened and why I was in what looked like a hospital room in the first place. My first question was about him.
“He’s…honey, I think you should rest for a bit, and we’ll talk to you about it later.”
I pressed for an answer, urging my worried mother to tell me about his condition. There was something in my mother’s voice that scared me, and my mind kept going back to the vision of him inside the truck, his eyes closed, blood running down the side of his head—
It was then that the doctor came and injected something through the IV line. I protested, but before long, I could feel the sedative lulling me to sleep.
I woke up after a few hours of sleep and I quickly pressed my mother for the answers to my questions. I’m fine, I kept telling her with a cracking voice, just tell me where he is.
I could still feel my mother’s hesitation as her eyes flicked over to where my father stood. I was getting impatient; I never did well with worrying.
My last memories of the accident were of him bleeding. I know he might be in a worse condition than I am…I need to know.
It was then that my father told me. My eyes welled with tears as the news slowly made its way to my brain and my heart. It felt so unreal; it was only a few hours ago when the boy I loved was driving his pick-up truck and softly singing me a love song. I was holding his hand firmly with mine then, my head filled with thoughts of love and contentment and happiness and forever. It was an understatement to say that the news crushed my heart and my very being.
I was discharged after two days, and all that I received from the accident were minor cuts from shards of the glass windows, a small bruise on one arm and a whiplash. Meanwhile, he was still unconscious in the ICU. There was no assurance that he would be okay once he opened his eyes—no, there was no assurance that he would open his eyes at all.
Mother told me I shouldn’t put more stress to myself, and everytime she asked this of me, I grew silent. How could I not, when I was there when it happened, when someone important to me was still hanging on to his life by a mere thread, when I’m awake and he isn’t? The pain of losing him, the one boy who has ever loved me in return, the one boy who I have ever shared my dreams and fears with…it hurt too much to even think about it. I was scared that every passing minute would become his last, and I was scared for even thinking that way. I knew then that I needed to think positively, but fear always crumbled every last one of the hopeful thoughts inside my head. Each day burned inside me, and I would find myself lost in tears and prayers that he would soon wake up and everything would go back to how it was before then.
He woke up six days later. I was inside the room with his mother when he did, and I felt more than relieved when he slowly opened his eyes and looked around the room. I quickly called for the doctor as his mother went to his side and cried with tears of happiness and relief. He was alive, and that in itself was something to be happy about.
When I came back to the room, everything changed. His mother was still crying, and so was he. The air in the room didn’t feel one that was festive and celebratory; it felt far from that. I saw only intense grief and agony on their faces as I tried to make sense of what was happening.
I was silently crying in the corner as I painfully looked at him and realized what was happening. He was screaming louder than I have ever heard him, his face contorted with such anguish that I couldn’t bear to look directly at his face. Two doctors were trying to calm him down, to no avail.
The doctors explained to us various complicated jargons about his condition that I couldn’t decipher, but there was one little bit that I understood: severe damage to parts of the temporal lobes of his brain. Apart from other things, he could no longer hear.
Everything changed from then on. He was still alive yet he was robbed of his life. I wanted to act positively and think that with everyone’s help he could get through his biggest obstacle and move on, but I knew that was hard to achieve. He was only a boy who wanted to become a musician—he was no Beethoven and there weren’t any guarantees that he could continue with his music. Even his motivation and drive were gone. For the first few months, he barely touched his food and stayed inside his room unless he was called for rehabilitation. His communication to any relative or friend would be one curt head shake, and that was it. His eyes, those brown ones that I loved to look at, were blank and devoid of life.
I tried to stay strong for him, and every day I would visit with a smile on my face, when in the shadows I would cry for him. My act was tough in his presence, even when he pushed me aside and shook his head for me to get out, even when he avoided my eyes and acted as if I wasn’t even there. Everytime I forced my company to him, he would scream so loud, his voice full of pain and anger and sadness and I could do nothing but wrap my arms around him and cry along with his screams. I knew his wish everyday was to hear even a faint sound of his earsplitting screams, and every single time he would be filled with disappointment and anger and nothing but silence.
It was one early Saturday morning as I was about to enter his room when I heard several things happen inside—the thud of several things being thrown, the sudden crash of glass becoming broken, and another one of his earsplitting, heart-wrenching screams. This time, he screamed one word.
I quickly opened the door and saw him on his knees. On the floor were torn sheet music, fragments of his broken window and the remains of the acoustic guitar he once loved to strum and sing along with. He repeated the word, this time with a whisper, as he slowly took the closest sheet music and cried. I stood there the entire time, looking at the boy who lost any hope of fulfilling his dreams. I cried with him then as I slowly walked towards him. I knew he was aware of my presence inside his room, but he neglected my presence and avoided showing any awareness that I was around. I sat in front of him and slowly reached up to stroke his cheek with one hand, for fear that he would push my hand away once again.
He froze at my sudden touch and looked up to meet my eyes. It was then that I once again saw a tiny glimmer of life in those brown eyes that had been avoiding me for the longest time. We sat there like that for a while, our eyes never leaving the other, with my fingers lightly touching his face.
I showed him a small smile, and slowly whispered the lyrics of the Beatles song that he last sang for me. “I love you, I love you, I love you… That’s all I want to say…”
His eyes widened and tears ran down his cheeks once again. Even if he couldn’t hear it, I knew he could feel every bit of emotion that ran through those words.
“I love you too,” he mouthed barely a whisper.
I knew at that moment…somehow, things were going to be fine.