Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Short Stories: A Thousand Cranes for Leila [PART 1]


Thousand origami cranes (千羽鶴 Senbazuru?) is a group of one thousand origami paper cranes (鶴 tsuru) held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. This makes them popular gifts for special friends and family. The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures (others include the dragon and the tortoise), and is said to live for a thousand years.



“If you leave now, I won’t run after you.” Leila halted when she heard Christian spoke. He didn’t shout, he stated those words firmly as if he wanted her to make a difficult choice. Can she? Walking away from heaven and into something that she is not sure, someone needed her more.
              
  Leila didn’t look back at him. She can’t, she was scared that the pleas in his eyes would just make her stay.

“I’m sorry, X. Please understand me this time, just this time. Like the way I have understood you for years.” Before he could even answer, she opened the door and left.
           
           
             
            ***

Leila grasped her phone tightly, wishing she could throw it away--- but after remembering how much her phone cost, she changed her mind. She counted from one to  ten to calm her nerves after that phone call from Christian. He promised her, she made him reiterate it a couple of times but he still broke it the last minute. He was not coming again. There was an emergency case he needed to attend to. Last night, he assured her that he was free today. Didn’t he hear of the word ‘day off’?
           
 She closed her eyes and muttered a soft curse. Since the day after his graduation at med school, he started to lose time for her. At first, it was because of his application for his post-graduate internship. Then after he was hired, there were a lot of emergency cases that could not be delayed or cancelled. Sometimes, he would tell her that he was busy with reviewing for his board examinations. She thought all the while that she should understand, that complaining about his lost of time for her is a petty thing since she was also a med student, she ought to understand.
           
 Yet, she could not bear even to think that she should have to schedule an appointment with him if she wanted to talk to him. An appointment that he could cancel anytime that he wanted. She doesn’t feel secure anymore.
           
 This has been going on for more than a year already. At first, it was okay, but after a while, a long while, she finally decided that she had enough. She was not born a martyr. God gave her brains, so she should use it before it atrophies.
           
 Her relationship with Christian used to be smooth-sailing. They didn’t have any problems, especially with their schedules. But now, it is the very thing that is separating the both of them.
           
 Tears began to fall from her eyes, not because she was starting to get weak with her emotions, nor she wanted sympathy or pity. She’s crying because holding back the tears is no longer possible, the pain, the hurt, and the agony she had been enduring became too big to be kept inside.
           
 Leila missed him. A lot. She just hope the moment he finds time for her, she would still remember what he looks like.
           
             
            ***

 Christian took off his gloves and washed his hands. The operation was over and the surgical team just saved one life. At the same time, his relationship with Leila is getting rougher each day. He knew it was his day off and he can go out of the hospital, enjoy his day and just be with her.
           
 Something happened when he was on his way out. Ther e were three patients in the emergency room with stab wounds and are scheduled for Stat operations. Problem is they are looking for assistants. He’s a doctor.
           
Well, not full-pledged, but still he is. He was needed mor e here. He wanted to become a good surgeon like his father that is why as much as possible he wanted to assist to as many operations as he can. So, without second thoughts, he called Leila to tell her that he could not come. He knew she was mad at him now. She had been patient for a long time. He should admit that it scares him to loose her. However, she should understand how things work knowing that she would become a doctor soon. Stop rationalizing things, X! Face it! What is happening right now is your fault. He is torn between his girlfriend and his dreams. He was not ready to give up any of them.
           
             
            ***

           
 Leila took the chart out of the stack and opened it. She released an annoying air out of her system.
           
 Yes, she did not sleep well the other night.
           
 Yes, she was pathetically waiting for his call that never came.
           
 And yes, she woke up at the wrong side of the bed.
           
 Now here she was being nagged by one of the PGI to check the skin test result of one of the patients because the former was too sleepy to examine it.
           
 And then this, no diagnosis, no hint whatsoever of why this patient is inside the hospital; not even a medical history was written on the chart. What in the world is this? Just do what you’re asked to do, Lei. Get on with it. You still have other patients to check-up on.
           
 She’s just glad there was at least a name on the chart. Raja Lizares. No age, and no gender. Geez, she was not even sure if this is a male or a female. But why does the name sounds familiar? Did she hear the name somewhere? It rings a bell, but she could not recall.
           
 Placing the chart close to her chest, she made her way to the patient’s room. When she reached the patient’s door, she knocked three times and waited for an answer. She lingered for a few more moments before decided to enter the room. It seemed that no one wanted to open the door for her.
           
 The room was dark. She whispered a soft curse. Leila tried to close her eyes for a while and open her eyes again to let her vision adjust to the darkness. She thought that the patient was sleeping since the lights were off.

But she was mistaken. When she looked at the bed, no one was there. Not even a shadow. She was trying to find the switch when she noticed something unusual with the room. Heaven’s sake! The room is filled with papers! Not just ordinary paper, but origami papers! Is he a child? Another pedia patient? What kind of child would like dark places? She moved her hands on the wall and tried to search for the switch when she felt that something was wrong. It was like there was another person in the room. Her hands moved faster on the wall, her adrenalin was almost rushing inside her body. When she found the switch at last, she almost fainted when a hand stopped hers from turning on the lights, “Who in the world are you?” the voice asked in the most arrogant and demanding voice she heard her whole life.
           
             
            ***

           
 Raja came from the hospital’s garden. He needed to get some fresh air. He used to love the hospital. He longed to smell the disinfectant in the four walls of the building. He liked to see the people in their white uniforms, doctors and nurses, or even people in the laboratory. But now, he loathed being in here. Every time he entered the hospital, it felt like prison. He could almost feel invisible hand cuffs on his wrist the moment he wore the ID bracelet. It was devastating, almost frustrating.
           
 He was trying his best to remain positive at all times. Telling himself that he is well, that nothing is wrong with him, that he is fine. But how can a person still think of the birds and the bees, and the blue sky when he cannot move in pain?
           
 When he came back in his room, he was surprised when he felt that someone was there inside. Then he finally noticed that the “someone” was wearing white. Must be one of the medical students, just when I need rest.

But he didn’t expect the big surprise right before his very eyes the moment he turned on the lights, standing in front of him is a girl with the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. And it was throwing daggers at him. Uh-oh, bad move, boy!
           
 “Are you the patient?” she asked, slightly moving herself away from him.
           
 He went to his bed and sat down, “I guess so.”
           
 “I’m JI Pabulayan, I’m here to interpret the skin test.”
           
 Purely business, how unromantic. “It’s negative” he flashed his most charming smile, “What’s your first name?”
           
 The girl raised a brow, “Where is it? Left or right?”
           
 “I told you its negative.”
           
 “I still need to see it.”
           
           
 “Is this a part of therapeutic communication?”
           
 He saw her breathed in deeply, “Perhaps. So can I please have the arm now?”
           
 “What if it’s negative just like what I told you?” he dared.
           
 “I still need to see it,” she continued on insisting.
           
 This girl just never gives up. Her arms were already folded in front of her and he noticed she was already stamping her right feet. “You owe me a dinner if it’s negative.”
           
 “Whatever!”
           
 He held out both of his arms, “See, I told you so.” She looked carefully and shook her head hearing the old cliché. She opened his chart and wrote something. “You owe me dinner.” He reminded her.
           
 The intern just smiled at him, the kind of smile that doctors give to their patients, “I would love to, but you’re sick so you need to rest.”
           
 “Can you see any diagnosis on my chart, doc?”
           
 “You did that on purpose!”
           
 He instantly denied, “Of course not. My attending physician knows me inside-out. I don’t think my history is necessary. I don’t like student nurses or medical students invading my privacy.
           
 Her brows formed a straight line, but before her mouth opened for another rebuttal, he silenced her with another reply, “I’m sure it’s for my own good. But it’s my choice, and so far my physician agrees with me.”

“Then why are you here?”
           
“I won’t die and you won’t die either if we talk it over dinner?”
           
             
            ***
  Leila was almost loosing her breath. She hadn’t touched her dinner when someone paged her that there was an emergency at his room. He looked so well yesterday, what went wrong? Did he have an arrest?

Anaphylactic shock?

She ran up the stairs because the elevator was too long. She didn’t drop by the nurse’s station, nor noticed there was no emergency cart in front of his room. When she opened the door, she observed that the room was dark again. What is this all about? She felt her adrenalin rush nearly dropped. She wanted to sit down. Leila reached for the switch of the light, when she turned it on she was surprised to see Raja standing, still alive and grinning.
           
 “What do you think you are doing?” she demanded. Leila wanted to throw anything at him.
           
 “Relax. You owe me dinner, remember?”
           
 It was then that she noticed the room was not as messy as it was yesterday. There were no papers on the floor and a table was really set up for dinner. You must admit, he made an effort! “You don’t have to page me like that!”
           
 “You haven’t replied to any of my text messages.” He simply replied.
           
 Why does he have to be so cool? So he’s the one who’s been texting me the whole day. It was not her fault she didn’t reply. Mainly because it was an unknown number, and second because she was too busy. “Where did you get my number?”
           
 “I’m just very resourceful. Anyway, aren’t you hungry?” he led her to the table and assisted her to sit down.

Suddenly, she wanted to cry. When was the last time she and X done this? She could not even remember the date; all that she could remember was that he was in a hurry to go because there was an emergency. “Are you okay?”
           
She tried to offer him a smile, but the look on his face tells her that he didn’t buy it, so she decided to change topic, “What do we have for dinner?”
           
 “Italian foods actually. Somebody mentioned you love pizza and lasagna.” Raja started to serve her the foods which amazed her. Asking herself when was the last time she and her boyfriend done this seemed to be a tune that was nagging her thoughts. “Somebody mentioned that you have a boyfriend too. It’s Dr Uy, right?”
           
 “You’ve done your research well,” she acknowledged.

 “Is it okay with him if I invite you for dinner again?”
           
 “Why would you invite me for dinner again?”
           
 “I just want to spend time knowing you.”
           
 “You told me yourself, you know I have a boyfriend.”
           
           
 He smiled again, “Where? I can’t see him right now. You ate dinner yesterday, breakfast, lunch and dinner again alone. And he’s working here also.” Leila smirked, but it seemed he wanted to go on, “If I were your boyfriend, I won’t let you eat alone. I will never take you for granted. I will spend even just 30 seconds of one hour for you.”
           
 She can’t help but laughed, she needs to or else she’s going to cry. Raja just hit bull’s eye. “That one is called hypoglycemia, Raja. Eat.”
           
           
           
 When they finished desert, she started to ask him, “How old are you?”
           
 “Wow, is this The Buzz? I’m twenty-four.”
           
 So young, “Do you still go to school or do you have work?”
           
 He shook his head and laughed softly, “I love this question and answer portion . I could feel that your interest in me grows. Work? You could say that. I was a resident-doctor abroad before I decided to stop.”
           
 “Why?” that’s why he was knowledgeable about medical stuffs, like the skin test. He is a doctor, what went wrong? Did he suddenly realize that medicine was not for him?
           
 “Psychiatry tells us that asking why is not therapeutic.” He reminded her, “Anyway, I won’t beat around the bush. Here’s the climax of my story: I’m dying.”
           
             
            ***

           
           
 Raja was diagnosed having brain cancer while he was having his residency in one of the most prestigious hospital in New York. After bouts of painful headaches, he decided to have a CT scan. The results had brought his dreams to waste. All his life works is worth nothing.
           
 He loved his course, no matter how hard it was, he finished at the top of his class. He was then invited to work abroad after the board exam which he also topped.

Raja wanted to be an oncologist. What an irony. At first, he was in total denial. He didn’t want to quit his work and go back to the Philippines. But the hospital left him no choice, they asked for his resignation letter. His father picked him up and brought him back to the country after series of test. Those painful tests proved to be idle. His cancer was on its final stage. He was waiting for his call from God. His mother died of cancer. And now, he was also dying from it. God, it was too early to die.
           
       
to be continued...

      

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