Open Your Eyes
By Jake Lasprogato
Copyright 2015 Jake Lasprogato
As soon as I stepped out of the elevator I saw that young student nurse sitting at the counter. I figured she must have been on her break. She was listening to U2 on her radio and thumbing through a tabloid. She didn’t even lift her head to look at me as I walked by.
I wondered to myself if she had ever been hurt by anything. She seemed so indifferent. Then I thought back to when I was her age. It hadn’t really been that long ago, but it felt like it had been a lifetime. I thought I had experienced pain then too. I thought being talked about or laughed at was hurtful. Then I had my soul crushed and the essence wrung out of it and I found out what pain really was.
Down the hall, I turned into my boyfriend’s room. He was sitting up in his bed with a small rectangular piece of wood on his lap and dozens of cut up magazines spread out all over.
“How are you doing today, Steve?” I asked.
“I actually don’t feel too bad, all things considered.” He answered without looking up from his work.
I walked around to the other side of his bed and sat in a wooden chair near the window. I looked up at the television and saw a clip of a jet flopping down onto the runway and bursting into a fireball.
“What are you watching?” I asked.
Steve glanced up at the screen for a second. “Looks like the story of my life.” He said as he looked back down at his collage.
I sat there and watched him work for a little while. As I was watching him I started to feel like I was outside of my body. I saw myself sitting with him in that hospital room and I thought there was no way it could be real. I thought back to when we met as teenagers and how brawny he had been. But in that present moment he was just barely thirty, and he was nothing more than an animated skeleton.
He stopped working and looked up at me and I snapped back into my body.
“I had the weirdest dream last night.” He said.
“Oh yeah? What about?”
“I dreamed I was living back at home with my mom.”
“Crazy right? I haven’t thought about her in years. I had even forgot what she looked like until I saw her in my dream. Man, Pete, it was just so real. I’m getting chills thinking about it.”
He looked back down at his collage and started to work again. “But you know, she didn’t seem the same as she used to be.” He continued. “I don’t remember the whole dream but when I woke up, I didn’t feel like I hated her so much anymore. I almost feel like I understand why she was the way she was.”
“Maybe she was reaching out to you.” I suggested.
“You and your hippie bullshit. If there’s any truth to it, I’ll come back and let you know.”
A few days passed by and I was still sitting at Steve’s bedside. He had been unconscious for a little while. I thought to myself that it would probably be the last time in my life that I would ever be with him and I wanted to hold onto that moment forever. Then he started to gasp and sputter and before I knew it he went quiet and I was alone in the room in absolute silence.
I wanted to cry harder than I had ever cried in my life, but the tears just weren’t there. Suddenly, I was outside of my body again. I could see myself standing there over Steve’s body. I saw a nurse come in and she started talking to me and I wondered who she thought she was talking to because I couldn’t hear a word she was saying. I couldn’t hear any sound at all.
I watched myself stagger around the room like a zombie picking up any personal items I found. I wondered how my body could go without me inside it. I wondered how I even knew what I was grabbing or why I bothered to grab it. My body started to head for the door and then I found myself inside it again. I realized I was holding a collage in my hand. The one Steve was working on a few days before. It looked much more airy than anything else he’d ever made. The background was a collage of beauty products, over that was a layer of celebrity headshots laid out in a circular, wreath-like pattern, and on top of it all were bold letters that spelled out, “You’re Beautiful Just The Way You Are.”
I stopped to sit for a while at a bench outside the hospital. After I had sat for a few moments, I felt myself begin to crack and I shattered into a million pieces. I was still aware of my surroundings though. Everyone around me continued on their way and I wondered how nobody seemed to notice this heap of human debris sitting there in the middle of everything.
Then I felt someone sit down next to me, and my pieces re-collected. I turned and saw the student nurse from upstairs. She didn’t have that look of indifference though. Her eyes were red and her mascara was running.
“I’m so sorry.” She said. “I don’t know what to say. I’ve never met you but Steve told me a lot about you.”
“Really?” I said.
“Yeah. Patty, the head nurse, actually stopped sending me to his room the last couple of weeks because every time I was there I would end up spending too much time with him instead of doing what I was supposed to.”
I didn’t know what to say to her, but I smiled to let her know I appreciated what she said.
“But I still went to see him sometimes when my shift was over.” She continued. “And I would bring him my magazines that I had finished reading to use for his art.” She paused for another moment, then added, “He was really special.”
“He had a beautiful spirit.” I said.
Then she stood up. “I really have to get back upstairs. Patty is having a fit already because I’m too emotional. She says she doesn’t think I’m really cut out for this job.”
“That’s not necessarily true. You obviously care a lot about people. But even if nursing isn’t for you, you’ll find your niche eventually.” I assured her.
She pulled a tissue out of her pocket and wiped her face. She tried to smile at me. Then I remembered the collage I had in my hands, and I held it out to her.
“This was the last one that Steve made and I think you should have it. I have a thousand more at home.”
“He made this with all the magazines I brought him!” She gasped.
“He probably made it just for you and never had a chance to give it to you.”
“You think so?”
“I’m sure of it.”
She took the collage and gave me a somber smile. “I really need to go now.” She said.
“I understand. Thank you for your sympathy.”
As I watched her walk away I reproached myself for thinking she was indifferent. Maybe sometimes feeling things deeply looks the same as indifference at the surface, when the emotions get too deep to express. Or maybe we make ourselves indifferent just to get through every day.
Months went by and I never dreamed of Steve. I actually stopped dreaming altogether. I wondered if maybe Steve had been right. Maybe my hippie bullshit really was just bullshit after all. Eventually I stopped believing in anything. I became an apparition of myself.
One day I went walking in the park near my apartment. It was fall and the leaves were changing color, but all the colors were muted and washed out. The reds, oranges and golds that I had always remembered appeared only as shades of beige and gray to me. I wondered how many more years I had left ahead of me. I thought that I might as well be dead. I woke up every day, but there was no life left inside me.
Then the wind picked up a little. It shook more leaves off the trees and as they eddied around me I saw a piece of paper falling with them. I grabbed it as it floated past me. Scrawled on it in red ink were the words, “Open your eyes!” As I stood there wondering where the little note had come from I heard a whisper in the air that told me, “I’ve been with you all along.”
About The Author:
Jake Lasprogato is an artist based in Northern California. “Open Your Eyes” is his second published story. Jake is also working on a series of handmade books that will be available on Etsy in January 2016. When he is not writing, he is either working at his vintage furniture store in Hayward California, collaging or shooting 8mm movies.
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