Saturday, December 31, 2011

Murphy and Me XXXXI

Murph moved back to the fishbowl three days later. He didn't move well - or fast - and he looked much the same as he had when he was lying in a bed on the second floor of Geneva General. Pale. Borderline paper-white even days after emergency surgery. He spent a lot of his spare time sleeping, a phase I remembered well because it took almost all my energy to go to class and focus that first week back almost a year ago.

Murph had left the fishbowl unlocked so I could swing by and see him in the afternoon. The major perk of having morning classes was being done by one-thirty, except on lab days.

The room was as dark as it could be at two in the afternoon. There were some Get Well Soon cards on the desk, including one from my parents and one from Izzy and her family. El had made some scribbles on the inside in blue crayon, which had made him smile.

He lay on his back, Smokey and Edgar propped on the inside pillow and keeping a careful plastic eye on the sleeping college student. I pulled the desk chair over and curled in it.

The months peeled away.

"You're gonna be here when I wake up?"

Mama pushed my hair from my face. "I will be here when you wake up."

The nurse - a twenty-something Russian by the sound of it - wheeled me, bed and all, toward the OR. He gave me roughly half of what was gonna knock me flat and I spaced out for a minute.

One moment there was a gurney under me, the next there was a metal table and it was cold. The surgeon - maybe it was him, maybe it wasn't - leaned in. Matchbox Twenty filtered through from somewhere.


"Hi." He smiled, pushing something into my IV port.

"I like Matchbox Twenty."

Everything went dark.

Mama had been there when I woke the first time and then promptly went back to sleep. Woke up sometime a little later and tried to stay conscious.

Though knocked out completely is a little less fun than being consciously sedated - eyes open but definitely not all there.

"Thinkin' kinda loud, Ol."

I clutched at the chair, almost slipping out of it. How long had he been awake and looking?

"Sorry." Got settled again and smiled. "Hi."

"Hey. Whatcha thinkin' about?"

"Surgery." No point in beating around the proverbial bush. "Mine, that is." I'd had plenty of time to think about Murph's in the ER. Think. Freak. Repeat. "I - I missed the first El went tubing. I'd been out of surgery about a week and going up and down the stairs was about it. I sat in the kitchen and drank tea." And absolutely hated it. But it was beyond my control.

"This winter, then."

"Yeah." It just needed to snow first. "Yeah. How you holdin' up?"

"I spend a lot of time in this bed. Sleeping."

Yeah. Knew all about that, too. The only time I'd been "up" had been to be fed a pain pill and then it was Goodnight, Gracie.

Murph made an aborted move to roll over and settled back with his eyebrows drawn together. "I hate sleeping on my back."

Which made two of us. It would be another two or three days before his heels got sore enough to add to his problems.

"My heels hurt, too."

Or not. Make that sooner. "Yeah. I know about that, too." I curled in the chair and balanced well enough to rest my cheek on Murph's pillow and blinked. "You hungry or anything?"

"Not really."


"Not right now."

He reached up and tangled his fingers with mine, the digits rather cool. Gently touched my forehead to his, relieved when it wasn't overly warm.

"At least you're not feverish." Which was honestly a good thing. Fevers were usually bad.

"I'm just bored." He looked at me, blinking and breathing. "I'm not gonna break."

It took me a few seconds to figure out what he meant, and my first instinct was to panic. What if he accidentally tore something? What if I accidentally made him accidentally tear something?

"Ollie." He waited until he had my attention. "Please."

Good Lord, when did he get Anime eyes?

This was going to take some strategizing to make this as painless as possible - relatively speaking.

Ultimately what we wound up doing was Murph sitting up long enough for me to slide behind him to put my back against the wall he used as a headboard. There was a pillow shoved in the small of my back and another under my shoulders, and then I had roughly two hundred pounds of football player against my chest, lower body wedged between my thighs. Thank God for my wide hips.

Most of Murph's weight was still on the mattress, though his upper body was supported by mine. I carded my fingers through his hair, softly rubbing the tips of his ears and asking him at least fifty more times if his belly was still alright.

"Yes, Ol," he said, a big palm on my thigh, the warmth easily felt through denim. "My stitches are fine."

"Don't want you to die or anything." It was oddly reminiscent, in that moment, of the first night spent in this bed following the first ER trip.

"When are you going home for Thanksgiving?" he asked, turning his head to press his nose into my neck.

"Oh, shit, that's tomorrow, isn't it?" I'd completely spaced on that fact. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving. No wonder Mama had called to ask when the hell I was coming home. Also no wonder she'd been suitably confused when I'd said no idea.

Murph snorted. "Yeah, Ol, that's tomorrow."

"Then either tonight or tomorrow morning. I haven't started packing." Because a major holiday had totally, utterly slipped my mind. Who does that? Me, apparently. "When are you going?"

"Colby, Liam, and I are heading out tomorrow morning. We're driving separately because Liam wants me to be able to stretch out. Colby's car's gonna be the pack wagon." He snuggled closer. "And Liam likes to drive in the daylight more than the night."

Which was understandable. Most of my family - myself included - was shit at driving after dark.

I snuck my hand down the back of his shirt to rub his shoulder.

"I still have to give you your birthday present."

Took almost everything in me not to freeze. "Oh. You didn't have to."

"I know." His fingers tightened briefly on my thigh. "I wanted to, though. I even wrapped it."

I pressed a kiss to the top of his head. "Thank you." All I could say, really.

He lay there, simply breathing, and still enough to make me wonder if he'd fallen asleep.

"What are you excited to eat tomorrow?" he asked.

"Stuffing." It was a no-brainer. Stuffing was awesome. "And broccoli." Broccoli smothered in cheese. Fantastic. "You?"

"Sweet potatoes and sliced cranberry."

Hopefully not together.

"But we shouldn't talk about food right now," he said, making an abortive move to lay on his side.

"Can do." Went back to running my fingers through his hair. "I'll go home sometime tonight. I'm not overly worried."

"'Kay." His head got a little heavier.

I'd stay here until he got up - figuratively speaking - from his nap. Then maybe go pack some of my corner single into Fred and start the forty-something miles home. But for now, this was the definition of contentment to lay there and be Murphy's pillow. Not like it was a hardship.

Lugging shit down four floors of stairs sucked. Didn't care that it was dirty clothes - most of my closet - but it still sucked.

What was going to suck even worse was hauling the mini fridge down at the end of the year. But that was in the future, not now. Now was piles of dirty clothes, textbooks with homework that probably wouldn't get done anyway, and the laptop, phone charger, and cord to the mp3 player. That should have been sufficient to survive at home for three or four days.

I packed Fred and then went back to the third floor fishbowl to say one last goodbye before heading home. There were quite a few voices in the fishbowl - more than just Murph and Dev - and I almost decided to forgo knocking. Almost. But not quite.

It was quite the off-key, not totally in unison "Come in" in response, and pushing open the door revealed all my boys. With the amount of bodies - and luggage present - the room did feel a bit crowded.

Murph sat on his bed in the much same position I had earlier, still much too pale. Colby was leaning against the windowsill and Liam hovered by Murph's dresser. Dev was haphazardly throwing a multitude of things on his bed and into a duffel bag, computer already packed out of sight.

"Hey, guys." I hopped onto the foot of Murph's bed. "Gettin' ready to get outta here?"

"Dev is," Liam said, jerking his head to his left. "Where you goin' again?"

"Rockland, Maine." Dev muscled the duffel closed and leaned against the bed frame. "We decided to go to Aunt Sarah's for Thanksgiving, and Pop and Papa decided to wait until after Pop got home to leave. So we can all take turns driving through New England at two in the morning." He seemed incredibly thrilled with this idea.

"So, you and your dad and grandpa?" I ventured.

The room went oddly still. Cue wanting to shrink through the floor. How off the mark was I?

"Chill, guys," Dev said, reaching for a photo taped to the wall. "She doesn't know." He handed me the picture. Dev resembled neither of the men in it, and it had nothing to do with the fact that the one on the right was African-American. "Papa's on the left and Pop's on the right."

"Cool. And you have siblings, don't you? Sisters?"

"Yup. And we're all adopted."

I handed the picture back and the tension bled from the room. "I have one sister. I can't imagine how you deal with multiple."

Dev shrugged. "It's a gift. We're swinging by Logan in Boston to pick up Claire and Mackenzie. They're flying in from California. University of San Francisco." He re-taped it to the wall. "When are you heading out?"

"When I say goodbye to you guys. Car's packed."

"Yeah. We watched," Colby mentioned casually.

I stared. "You watched?" Didn't know whether to snark at the creepiness or the fairly ungentlemanly behavior. Settled on appropriately scandalized, instead.

"You were doin' great," he said, fighting a smile.

"Asshat." It rolled out before my brain could say otherwise. I turned to Murph. "How you doin'?"

"Ready to go home." He rubbed his eyes.

"You need another pill?" Liam asked.

"No." He reached for Edgar, wincing. "Here. Smokey's going to Lake Placid."

Moved closer to get Edgar. "He probably needs to go back to Townsend." Sat back, the stuffed animal in my lap. "I should probably get going before it gets later."

I left Murph for last, starting with Dev and doling out hugs. Murph got a little more than a hug, along with the suggestion to actually rest this time, and I picked up Edgar on my way to the door.

"Hey, Ol?"

"Yeah, Murph?"

"Text me when you get home?"

"Will do." Waved one last time, swallowed those damn three words, and managed a relatively normal, "See you in three days." I'd probably worry about him until he, Liam, and Colby got back to Lake Placid and didn't bother to fight the feeling. Not this go 'round, anyway.

Fred started first time and with both Henry and Edgar in the front seat, we pulled out of the mostly empty parking lot and started for home. The radio was one - as was the heat - and there was hardly anybody on 14 with the exception of the truck traffic. Got lucky enough to get behind one of those and we ran 70 all the way to the village limits.

It was going on eight when I backed into the family parking lot. Computer, Edgar, Henry, probably just locked the keys in the car and didn't give a damn.

Home. Sweet, sweet home. Nothing else at this point mattered.

Doors were a bit tricky with full hands, but once in they could be kicked shut easily enough. Fired off a text to Murph once inside the kitchen and had set everything down without breaking it or myself. There were giggles from the stairs. El sat on the second step, face pressed between the slats as much as possible without getting her head stuck, grinning madly. She had a few more teeth, too.

"Hey, kidlet."


I picked her up on th way up the stairs. She wrapped her arms around my neck, still giggling in between asking me how long I was home for and if I knew tomorrow was "Thanksgibbing."

Damn it was good to be home.

No comments:

"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz