I jumped from the road and reached the pavement just on time to avoid the speeding car and yelled out expletives to the driver. My clothes were torn and dirty and I was feeling a numbness creeping in my left ankle. I checked it and the twist of my foot was not natural. I realized my ankle was broken. The speeding car screeched to a stop some fifty metres away and a girl came out of it. People were gathering around me and asking whether I was ok. Some noticed the twisted ankle and said that I had to be taken to the hospital. My left foot had swollen to unnatural size. I was adrenalized and was not feeling anything. I couldn’t lift myself up and looked helplessly at the crowd around me. I felt like swooning and going in a daze. I heard a female voice ordering, “Put him in my car!” Some hands lifted me and I yelled out again due to the stabbing pain from my dangling foot. I couldn’t take it anymore and fell unconscious.
The formaldehyde smell of the hospital woke me up and I was blinded by the bright lights in my eyes. The emergency medical staff was around me. The doctor was talking to someone and saying he would have to operate and fix the bone. I heard the female voice again asking the doctor to do the needful and she gave my name and address to the nurses registering the case. I still couldn’t identify the voice. The pain was terrible. I felt someone was tearing my leg away from my body. I was trolleyed to the operating theatre.
I had the worst time of my life feeling helpless in the hands of strangers. It’s hard to realize that these people were doing things for my own good. The anesthetist gave the dose for local anesthesia and waited for its effect to take place. After 15 minutes, the surgeon started the operation but I could feel the scalpel moving through my flesh. It was a fearsome experience though there was no pain. Cutting, drilling, screwing, fixing, sewing, bandaging and plastering was done on me. I had serious doubts about my being a robot when I saw the instruments being used. In the end I was relieved and decided I would find out each of the medical staff who had taken care of me and kiss them thank you. I hoped some would be beautiful nurses. I was given painkillers and sleeping pills. My left foot was too heavy to move. I remember mumbling thank you to the faces around me before dozing off tired from the emotions I had been through.
When I woke up, it was broad daylight and there were people around me. I heard the voices of my mother and father calling the nurses and the doctors then they talked to me. My mum was stroking my hair and asking how I felt. I just kept gazing at her and mumbled that I was fine and then the pain came back. The nurses who had come at my parents call realized this and gave me a dose of painkiller again. I started thinking about what had happened to me. I asked my parents how they had been informed and they told me that my friend had come home and told them about the accident. I told them it was not an accident as I had moved out of the way and avoided the car. They seemed puzzled by my explanations and they went home asking me to rest as I was going to be on observation in the hospital for another 24 hours and the doctors would decide whether I could go back home after that. I had already been in there for more than a day and one more seemed unbearable. I wanted to be in my bed. A patient from the ward came to talk to me and instead of asking about me, he started to list his own troubles with doctors and family members who didn’t come to pay him a visit. I got tired after a while and the numbness due to the painkiller got me relaxed and I dozed off with the non-stop whimpering of the patient by my side.
I woke after 2 hours and this time I felt better. It was two in the afternoon and most of the patients of the ward had had lunch and were sleeping. I called a nurse and asked if she could help me with some late lunch. I think she felt I was not the grumpy or wailing type so she took out stuffs my parents had brought for me. There were biscuits and sweet chilled milk. I invited her to share with me. She poured herself some sweet milk only. She said she already had lunch and didn’t feel like nibbling anything. I munched the biscuits and talked to her. She was quite a good looking young woman in her early twenties. She said she had one more year to complete her nursing studies and was going through work experience before the submission of her project work in 6 months time and final exams. I felt very comfortable with her and wished she could stay but her shift was over and she had to go. I picked some newspapers my dad had brought and went through them. My parents came back during visiting hours in the evening and said I would be home as soon as the doctors signed the papers. They told me my friend had called again to enquire about me. This time I asked which friend had called. They answered it was the same who had picked me up from the streets and brought me to the hospital. I was troubled as I had no idea about any of my friends being around and helping me but I didn’t tell my parents anything. I didn’t want them to panic. My mum kept teasing me that my friend was very beautiful and I had hidden her from them. My father too had a teasing smile on his face. I had no idea who that friend could be.
The next morning the doctors came and said that I could go home. My parents came to pick me up. I was relieved when I got in my room. The neighbours had come to see me. At eleven, my mum brought me my favourite mushroom soup and some warm crunchy slices of bread. I was having a nice lunch when I heard the callers’ bell ring and my dad asking my mum to open the door. After a while there was a light knock at my door and a girl came in accompanied by my mother who happily squealed that my friend was here. She went out after giving a chair to the beautiful visitor.
A beautiful girl in my room and I had bread stuffed in my mouth, drops of soup on the chin and a huge plaster on my left leg. I would have given away anything to disappear from her view. I felt like the biggest fool on earth. Why did she have to come now? I felt even more miserable when I realized that she had seen me only in desperate situations. I must be one of those poor souls she must be helping out regularly with her community work. She must be the member of some NGOs involved in community service saving people from the streets. She seemed to be some wealthy top model.
The stupidest junior high school “Hello” came out of my mouth and I hated myself instantly. How could a second year university student stutter like this. What was happening to me? Was it the medication or was I going nuts? She replied, “Hi Chips”. Oh My God! How does she know my childhood nickname? No one had called me by that name since fifteen years after I had broken the nose of a kid from my class with my slate. That had been the biggest scandal of the school and everyone had made sure after that not to call me by that name. I simply couldn’t recall who she was. My dumb stare must have given her the clue.
“You don’t remember me! Boys will never change! How could you forget me? Come on Nick, it’s me ‘Fish’.
Everything rushed to me in a fraction of a second and I recalled a little stout girl with plaited curly hair and round spectacles always near the aquarium of the classroom pointing out to it and saying fish all the time. She seemed to be interested in fish only. My seat was next to hers and teachers called us ‘fish and chips’. That can’t be Helena. She had gone away to Australia with her parents eleven years ago. I cautiously risked, ”Helena, when did you come back?”. This was going to be a hit and miss case. She uttered a fondling cuddly ‘awwhh…’ then added,”You still remember meeeeeeeee! Wow!”. Bull’s eye! I know how to get out of difficult situations. That’s me. Yeah!
That was one great romantic scene from the stupid serials my mum watched everyday. I hated to be part of it. I was still fiddling with my bread and bowl and trying to finish off my lunch as quickly as possible. I was not going to leave it half eaten and invite condescending comments from her. I loved dipping my bread in the soup and now I couldn’t do it in front of her. I had to eat formally and that meant spoonful of soup sipped without making noise and piece of bread after that.