03 August 2012

My Short Stories: A Thousand Cranes for Leila [Part II]

continued from Part I

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.

 They were having dinner in a nearby restaurant; this is the first time in months that they ate on the same table. Not nearly a date, but will pass as one. Leila always settles for what is offered to her, she doesn’t complain, and he was glad. He can’t drive far because he was tired from work.     

While he was talking, he noticed that Leila wasn’t paying any attention to him. She was busy texting. She was smiling, she looks so happy. All of a sudden, he felt uneasy. He decided to shut his mouth and look at his girlfriend.

When was the last time she smiled in front of him? A smile that looks so genuine? He can’t remember. Damn. The moment he became one of the Post Graduate Intern, he realized the he lost his capability to make her happy.
“Who are you texting?” he asked.


“Do I know her?”

“I don’t think so.” She simply replied in her most impersonal tone and started to eat.

Maybe you are just overreacting. Maybe those are just her friends trying to say hi. Leila loves you remember? Stop it X! You are just tired. Your imagination is working overtime.
 He reached for her hand over the table and held it, “Have I told you how much you mean to me lately?” Leila stopped eating, looked at him with a confused mask on her face and sadly shook her head.

 Christian looked at his phone. Exactly three days, that Leila didn’t send him any SMS messages. He sent her messages already. At least 2 SMS a day but she didn’t reply. Every time he comes home, he would ask his mom if she called, but her mom would say she didn’t. Is there something wrong? He felt worried already. It was his break time, instead of offering his services again and extending his shift, he will find her. He can’t remember her rotation days or her hours in the hospital. Well if she was not here, then more or less, she will be at home, or at school.
 When he was walking down the hallway of the hospital, he felt scared. Is she tired of him? Did she want out of their relationship? He shook the negative thoughts out of his mind. No, Leila loves him. She is just busy, like he was. He didn’t have time to text her when he was busy, right?
 He was almost near one station when he bumped into one of her friends who is a nurse, “Jen, did you see Lei?”
 “Yes. You’re friend, my girlfriend?”
 “She’s out.” She simply answered. Christian suddenly noticed that Jen was getting uncomfortable with him.
“Is there something wrong?”
 He saw her sigh, “I don’t want this to come from me, X. Believe me. But a patient has been asking her out.”
 “A patient?”
 “Yes.” She gave the room number, “They don’t usually date outside, usually just in his room. But today, he was discharged and he asked if she could come with him. She did.” He could feel his heart thumping hard, “Is it even allowed?” No, maybe Leila is doing this out of good deeds. She’s kind and has really nice relationships with patients. Maybe this is just a professional relationship and there is no need for him to panic. But panic rouse before he could even stop it. For chrissake! She was not even texting him. He can’t assure himself that there is nothing wrong.
 “The patient is son of the hospital director. I think it’s an exception.”

 Leila accompanied Raja home. He pleaded. He even asked the permission from their dean and she just can’t believe how strong his persuasion power could be.

After the first dinner, she and Raja became good friends. She would drop by his room every now and then and check on him. She knew some of her schoolmates and even nurses are talking behind her back. But she doesn’t care. She was not doing anything wrong.
 Perchance she was doing this out of good deeds or just mere kindness. He was a nice guy to be with. He was funny, he showers her with compliments, he makes her smile, and it was always a glorious day if she’s with him. In all their conversations, he never mentioned anything about his disease. All he was talking about is how great life was and how he would like to live each day as if was the last. His positive thoughts were so communicable that it made her forget sometimes about the pain and the frustrations that X was causing her.
 “What are you doing with these papers?” she asked when she saw the same set of papers in the garden of his house.
 “I’m making paper cranes.”
 “Paper cranes?”
 “Yes. Origami bird. Didn’t you hear of the famous legend?”
 She shook her head and watched him fold the paper into several angles , “What legend?”
 “One will make one thousand cranes, then you will make a wish.” He simply replied.
 She could feel a bad lump in her throat, “What is your wish?”
 “I will know if I’m finished. Do you want to learn?”
 “Does the legend say someone can help you make the thousand cranes?” He stopped and thought for a while, “I have no idea.” Raja handed her a piece of paper, “Here, I will teach you to make one.”
 “How many have you made already?”
 “Nine hundred plus.”
 “When did you start making these cranes?”
 “Two months after I was diagnosed” he simply answered, and then when he noticed her sad smile, he held her hand tight, “I’m okay. I have never been okay in my entire life. You look worried, stop it. Look at me, do I look like I’m dying?”
 She shook her head, “You look fine except that day when you vomited almost all your GIT out of your system.”
 He laughed, “That was the effect of the chemo! I can’t stop it.” Then he moved closer and whispered something in her ears, “When I was diagnosed two years ago, my doctor told me I had just about six months to live. But look at me, Lei. I am still talking to you.”

He never failed to amaze her. Until now, he was the one who was offering everyone encouragement. “I’m glad.”
 “You are an angel, Leila.”
 “No, you are.”

 “What did you say?” Christian dropped his fork on the table together with his jaws. Leila was breaking up with him.
 You heard me loud and clear, X.” She was looking at him bare of any emotions. It seemed she had practiced all her dialogues well, enough to surprise him.
 He started massaging his temples. Dear God! He was having a migraine. Is this for real? “W..why?”
 She laughed softly, “X, com’on! You don’t know why?”
 “Refresh my memory.”
 Leila took a deep breath before she started, “You have been neglecting me, X. You showed up the right moment before I forget what look like. I’m your girlfriend, not a patient with no life-threatening disease whom you can cancel my appointment anytime you like it,” before he can reply to her speech, she continued, “Don’t reason me out with I’m a doctor and I should understand, what is 30 minutes of everyday or 15 minutes every two days? I am okay with 3 messages every day. Just some simple assurance that you are still there, that you still love me.” Then out of the blue, he remembered something, “Is this because of the Lizares guy?”
 “No!” She immediately protested, “What are you talking about? This is about you and me. Raja has nothing to do with this. We are just friends.”
 He wished he could believe what she said. Friends? How can she make him believe her when she is leaving him already?
Leila was right. He’s always good with his timing. Tonight, he will vow to her that beginning today he will find time for her. He will make her one of his priorities, he will fulfill all his promises and that he will take care of her again.

Am I really on time or too late to change her mind? Without any second thoughts, he stood up; throw the some bills into the table, enough for the cost of the food that they were eating. Grab her arm and drag her to his car.

“Where do you think you are taking me?” she demanded. Leila’s face was already red. He was just not sure if she was mad or embarrassed with the scene he caused.
 “Somewhere where I can make you love me again.”

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