As I looked out the window, the 6 train was getting close to my stop, 77th street, with the usual EEEEE OOOOO sound. Getting off the train always made my heart race because I thought of it as the “critical moment.” In order to be ready to go to the main world, I looked at myself in the mosaic-built number: 77, and smoothened my hair down. Next, I gently tucked in my shirt, so that the coffee stain was not visible, and again flattened my messy, morning hair. “Decent,” I whispered under my breath, and walked up the subway stairs onto the sidewalk. Walking on 77th street always feels like paradise. As I look into the stores’ windows, I see shiny coats, bright-colored lipsticks, pants with big fancy logos, and many other flashy, Upper East Side items. I always dreamed of having a fancy wardrobe, I would be a whole different person, I would feel different, but as I walked closer and looked inside the window my jaw dropped.
“$203.99 for a pair of shoes?” my inner voice exclaimed.
Looking at my watch, I realized that it is already 8:15, school started in 5 minutes and I had 6 more blocks to walk! I rushed up East End Avenue and ran as fast as I could possibly run, not letting anything around me make me stop. In the corner of my eye, I saw a big black van, it did a sharp turn my way. Looking up, I saw a red street light, my vision started to blur and blood started rushing to my brain, I suddenly lost control of my body and didn’t know where I was. “Probably will be marked late,” I thought.
I woke up to a loud beeping noise, it hurt my ears, so I tried getting up, but I couldn’t, because I couldn’t feel a single part of my left rib cage. I looked around.
“Where am I?” I called out.
Managing to turn my head, I saw my mother and father sitting on a bench next to me. I had never seen them like this before. Mom’s face was swollen up and her eyes were red, like they were when grandma had died. Dad was holding mom’s hand, and as manly as he was, I also saw a worried look on his face.
“There’s been an accident, Kiki. Are you feeling alright?” said my dad in a soft and gentle voice.
“Thank God you woke up!” exclaimed mom, crossing her hands over her chest.
Suddenly, I started remembering: the black van, the red light, the shoes, East End Avenue. It was as if the puzzle pieces were somehow coming together to create a picture, a memory. I laid back down onto the pillows. The pain in my side started to grow again. Through the glass door, I saw a man in blue scrubs and a white doctor’s jacket. He seemed very busy and sleepy, but once he opened the door into my room, he put a bright smile on his face.
“Kiara, how are you feeling?” inquired the doctor.
“Fine,” I answered as energetically as I could.
“You did great in the rib cage repair surgery this morning! The nurse will check on you again tonight, but it looks like you can be discharged soon!”
Surgery!? Ribcage repair!? I suddenly felt trapped.
Get me out of here! I yelled inside my head, knowing that if I actually yelled, I would probably be brought to the psych wing of Lenox Hill instead of being discharged. Again, I started to feel weak, and giving up on my thoughts and worries, I closed my eyes.
It was a normal morning, I was sitting in the kitchen biting into my morning toast (slightly hot with melty butter).
“Time to get going, Kiki!” said my mother, sitting down at the kitchen table, putting down my jacket and my backpack on the chair next to me.
“I’m not 6 anymore, but thanks, Mom,” I responded, picking up my bag and jacket.
Like always, I walked on the dirty, gum-covered sidewalk of 34th street and entered the smelly, underground world in which I traveled every day to get to school. There I sat, thinking about nothing at all because, well, it was the morning and I am NOT a morning person. When I arrived at 77th Street, I quickly looked into the numbers, checking out how I looked today. I was my usual morning self, my curly hair poofing out of my head, my eyes still sleepy. I quickly fixed that up and began trotting to the place I was intending to go.
I opened the heavy, early 20th century doors of my school, entering the massive building embellished by a green sign, Chapin.
“Hi, Kiki,” said my friend Lili, greeting me in the lobby.
“Hey,” I responded, stepping closer to Lili and walking up the stairs to the 5th floor with her. As usual, it was torture, because we weren’t allowed to take the elevator, and it was even worse in the morning, I was never up for this physical challenge. As we entered the 5th floor I saw the usual group of girls talking by their lockers, in other words, my friends. We smiled at each other, because even though it was morning, we were always glad to see each other.
“Where did you get that shirt? It’s super cute,” asked my friend, Sammy.
“Well, sorry, I don’t reveal my secrets,” replied Lili, making all of us laugh.
I lifted my head from the laughter and was ready to go to class. I looked around to say bye to my friends, and to my surprise, saw Sammy making a weird face. She was looking somewhere near me and seeming as if she just ate the grossest thing in the world.
“Ewww, Kiki, what is that on your shirt!” she exclaimed, pointing down to my waist.
Shoot! I completely forgot about my stain! What was I thinking?!
“Ewww,” agreed Lilly.
The other girls joined in and laughed, pointing at me as if I were a circus animal.
I wished that I disappeared. How was I not paying attention in the subway?!
Suddenly, my vision started to blur and I saw the black van, the red light…
I woke up breathing hard and sweating. I still heard their “ewws” echoing in my head.
“Is everything alright, honey?” asked my mom gently, leaning towards my hospital bed and touching my hand as she would always do when there is something going on.
I was not in the mood for talking, but I was glad that there was someone to comfort me after the nightmare. The thoughts of it still couldn’t come out of my head though. I couldn’t bear that feeling of shock, of being scared of nothing, when there were actual things to worry about. The pain in my side was like sticking a knife in my body every time I took a breath. I tried to take shorter breaths, but that only made it hurt more.
As the doctor planned before, the nurse came in and checked on me.
“How is everything going?” asked the nurse politely, leaning over my hospital bed.
“She has been in a lot of pain,” replied my father, worrisomely.
The nurse gently touched the area around my left lung. I grunted from the pain. It was as if there were a million guns in there, shooting me.
“Don’t worry, everything will be fine, I will just quickly get Dr. Firn, who was on your case from the very beginning,” the kind nurse assured us.
Dr. Firn came into my room and examined me yet another time. After a while of feeling different spots, and asking me where it hurt, it seemed as if something was on his mind.
“Kiara, unfortunately, I have to tell you that there was a complication from the surgery. Since you had a severe rib injury, now you have developed pulmonary contusion,” said the doctor, informing my parents and me. He seemed very nervous and unhappy to break us the news. The clipboard he was holding was shaking the slightest bit and he began to bite his lip. I always thought being a doctor was hard. How hard is it to tell your patient that something is terribly wrong with them, that they are going to die?
I cried out, but that caused me a lot of pain. “There is no way this is happening to me,” I thought, “this is all a dream.” But unfortunately, this was nothing like a dream, it was reality, I had a pulmonary contusion. What on Earth even is that? Beside me, Mom was on the verge of crying. I knew she didn’t want me to see her weak, to see her in pain too, but she couldn’t help but let some tears out.
“I know this is very hard to hear,” said Dr. Firn compassionately. “Since Kiara’s condition is basically a bruise in her left lung, right now, all we will do is wait for it to heal, and in the worst-case scenario, use a ventilator if she is short of breath,” he informed us.
“About when will it heal, doctor?” inquired my dad in a slightly shaky voice.
“It depends on how the process will go, but your daughter will probably recover in 5-7 days,” he replied, handing me a bright red lollipop. I know the doctor was trying to make me feel better, but, I’m sorry, that was the least I needed right then, especially with this lung thing I had.
I felt like an animal in this hospital, all I did was sleep, grunt, listen, and eat nothing but strawberry flavored Jell-O. My parents always wanted me to be a good student, to be wise academically, and in life, right then I felt like I was doing the opposite. I felt useless! I understand now why everyone was feeling so bad for me, maybe I should have even felt bad for myself.
At the hospital, time seemed to pass very fast. My theory is that if all you do is eat Jell-O, take painkillers, and sleep, time is nonexistent: no worries, just lying down in a stupid hospital bed.
5 days later, a different nurse came in. This time she was not so smiley and gentle, but after examining my lung, she concluded that I could be discharged. Even though I still had some pains in my side from time to time, I still wanted to end my long visit at this zoo. I could finally go back to normal! Go back to the place I was raised in, the place I belong!
Riding home from Lenox Hill gave me extreme deja vu. It seemed as if I had already been on that specific train, and sat in that specific seat. I was creeped out by how visually it reminded me of somewhere I’ve definitely been, and the spooky part was that I didn’t know if I actually had been there.
When I entered my apartment, I could already smell the scent of spices and carpets. Even though it usually didn’t occur to me as the best smell in the whole world, right now it was what made me happy.
“Kiara, since we know there has been a lot going on, your father and I have bought you a surprise,” said my mom, taking my hand and bringing me into the living room. What could it be? I thought to myself. I was intrigued, but knowing that my parents usually get me lame stuff like books and pencil cases, I didn’t keep my hopes too high.
On the couch in the living room, lay a box. It was neatly packed and lined with a fancy red rope.
“Thanks, Mom and Dad! You really didn’t have to do that,” I thanked them before opening the box. They smiled, and I was glad that I made them happy. I gently untied the rope and opened the box. My breath stopped. Inside lay something I didn’t expect at all, the reason for my injuries. I couldn’t stand on my feet anymore, and collapsed onto the couch. “The shoes,” I whispered.