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VISITOR IN THE HALLWAY
By Michelle B.

VACAVILLE, CA. SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 1987. AT APPROXIMATELY 2:30 PM, 3 TEENAGERS - TARA, WENDY AND MYSELF, MESHELL, WERE ON OUR WAY HOME FROM A TRIP TO THE MALL WHEN OUR CAR WAS SMASHED INTO BY A DRUNK DRIVER. WENDY WAS KILLED INSTANTLY.
TARA AND I WERE RUSHED TO THE HOSPITAL WITH SERIOUS INJURIES. I WAS IN A COMA FOR TWO WEEKS. I REMEMBER WAKING UP IN THE HOSPITAL, NOT REALLY KNOWING WHAT HAD HAPPENED.
MY ROOM WAS DARK, EXCEPT FOR THE LIGHTS OF THE MACHINES. IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM, BY THE BATHROOM, STOOD A GRAYISH FIGURE. I COULD SEE THE ARM, BUT THE REST OF THE BODY WAS IN SHADOW. HE SAID THAT HE HAD BEEN WAITING FOR ME, BUT THAT MY FRIEND HAD SHOWED UP INSTEAD. HE SAID THAT I WAS GOING TO BE FINE, NOT TO WORRY. THAT HE WOULD TAKE CARE OF HER, AND THAT HE LOVED ME VERY MUCH. I REALIZED THEN THAT IT WAS MY GRANDFATHER WHO HAD PASSED AWAY IN 1983 WHEN I WAS 10.
I FOUND OUT THAT I HAD BROKEN MY PELVIC BONE IN 8 PLACES, PUNCTURED MY LEFT LUNG, AND BROKE THE WHOLE RIGHT SIDE OF MY RIB CAGE. I COULD HARDLY MOVE THE LOWER PART OF MY BODY. I WAS SHIPPED TO THE BASE HOSPITAL. MY DAD TOLD ME THAT THE HOSPITAL HAD BEEN AROUND SINCE WORLD WAR II, AND THAT DURING THE WAR, THE HOSPITAL HAD SEEN A LOT OF CASUALTIES BECAUSE IT SAT NEXT TO THE FLIGHT LINE. NOW THAT A NEW ONE HAD BEEN BUILT CLOSER TO THE FRONT OF THE BASE, THE OLD ONE WAS TURNED INTO OFFICES AND STORAGE.
I FELT REALLY UNEASY DURING MY STAY IN THE OLD HOSPITAL. THE AIR SEEMED UNUSUALLY THICK -- MY DAD TRIED TO REASSURE ME BY SAYING THE VENTILATION SYSTEM WAS OLD, BUT THINGS STILL DIDN'T FEEL RIGHT. I HEARD A LOT OF NOISES -- MOANS AND FOOTSTEPS. ALTHOUGH I KNEW I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL, AND THE SOUNDS I HEARD WERE VERY LIKELY PATIENTS, ORDERLIES AND DOCTORS, SOMETIMES I JUST WASN'T SURE.
LIKE MOST HOSPITAL ROOMS, I HAD A TV. IT SAT ON TOP OF THE DOOR TO THE BATHROOM, AND ONE NIGHT I SAW WENDY. SHE WAS ON ALL FOURS, CRYING. HER MANGLED BODY TRYING TO CRAWL TO MY BED, REACHING FOR ME, CALLING OUT TO ME. I WAS FROZEN IN MY BED. I FELT GUILT - WHY HAD I CHEATED DEATH AND MY FRIEND DIDN'T? WENDY, WHOM I'D KNOWN ALL MY LIFE, LIVING ON THE SAME STREET, GOING TO THE SAME SCHOOL.
COULDN'T WALK FOR A LONG TIME. I NEEDED SOMEONE TO HELP ME, OR USED MY CRUTCHES. AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM THE HOSPITAL, I WAS HOME MOST OF THE TIME. MY FRIENDS WOULD VISIT AFTER SCHOOL. IT DIDN'T TAKE MY MIND OFF WENDY, WHOM I KEPT SEEING, BUT IT SURE WAS BETTER TO BE HOME.
ONE DAY, MY MOM HAD GONE TO WORK AND IT WAS ABOUT 3 PM ON A WEDNESDAY. I WAS WATCHING TV ON THE LIVING ROOM COUCH. I DON'T KNOW WHAT MADE ME TURN AND LOOK, BUT DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE HALLWAY WAS A MAN WEARING A BLACK ROBE. HE CARRIED A STICK - KIND OF LIKE A CANE. HE WAS STARING AT ME, ONLY I COULDN'T SEE HIS FACE THROUGH THE HOOD. HE WAVED HIS FINGER IN A MOTION TO COME. EVERYTHING WAS SILENT AND SEEMED IN SLOW MOTION. THE NEXT THING I REMEMBER, IS THAT MY MOTHER CAME HOME AROUND 5:30 PM THAT NIGHT, AND FOUND ME LYING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HALLWAY ABOUT 20 FEET AWAY FROM THE COUCH.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, I HAD A LOT OF THERAPY TO GO THROUGH -BOTH THE PHYSICAL AND THE MENTAL. MY FRIENDS WOULD GO WITH ME AND VISIT WENDY AT HER GRAVE. I SAT THERE FOR A LONG TIME, WONDERING WHAT SHE'D BEEN TRYING TO TELL ME.
MY PARENTS BROUGHT ME TO SEE A NEW THERAPIST, MS. RAYBEN. I OPENED UP TO HER AND TOLD HER EVERYTHING. SHE TOLD ME THAT I HAD TO CONFRONT WENDY, TO TELL HER TO LEAVE ME ALONE. AT FIRST, I WAS HESITANT. THIS WAS MY FRIEND. HOW COULD I ABANDON HER? BUT MY LIFE WAS CHANGING. I WASN'T THE SAME PERSON. I HAD TO DO IT - I HAD TO TELL HER TO LET ME GO.
MY DAD BROUGHT ME TO WENDY'S GRAVE. "WENDY," I SAID. "I LOVE YOU. I WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU. BUT YOU HAVE TO LEAVE ME ALONE. LEAVE ME ALONE."
I HAVEN'T SEEN NOR DREAMT ABOUT WENDY SINCE THEN. I KNOW SHE'S STILL WITH ME - I CAN FEEL HER PRESENCE. I HAVEN'T BEEN TO VISIT HER IN A LONG TIME, AND WRITING THIS, SHARING MY EXPERIENCE WITH YOU, HAS MADE ME THINK THAT IT'S TIME FOR ME TO GO BACK AND SEE MY FRIEND.
THE END...



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