by Lynne Marie Mack
“I, I can’t breathe” She grabbed on to the man’s jacket sitting next to her.
“Excuse me?” The distinguished gentleman asked.
“I can’t breathe.” She said again, this time in a much lower whispery tone than before.
Why had she decided to catch the bus today she thought, as she gasped for breath. She was too young to die. She thought slowly to herself, so this is it, this is how death happens; suddenly.
Fifteen minutes earlier, Carolyn Bentley boarded the bus across from Central Park just a few blocks from her apartment. She thought that it would be great to get out in the morning and spend time around real people. People who struggled to get up everyday for work even though they hated their jobs and lived pay check to pay check. She needed true inspiration and she wasn’t going to find that in her apartment.
Although it had been her dream to own an apartment in New York City with the rest of the movers and shakers, she had spent most of her time ordering in, and sitting in front of her computer waiting for a cosmic breeze to breathe a story into her brain. Writers’ block was not new to her. After she wrote her first novel, she suffered from writers block for five years until she wrote her second novel which was on the New York Times Best Seller list for months. Her second novel was the one that brought in the money so that she could finance her dreams.
Carolyn made one of the biggest decisions of her life when her second novel became a bestseller. She decided that she was going to look for her ex-husband, the love of her life. She had divorced him years ago, because he cheated on her, and regretted it ever since. She was young then and thought that if a man cheated he was bound to continue the trend. Later in life she realized that all men cheat, regardless of what kind of woman you were. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. If she had only learned to cope with his infidelity; even considered counseling where they did some role playing or beating each other up with foam rods. She was convinced, she should have tried harder.
She met Michael Deets in Key West. She was on spring vacation from college and so was he. She was a psychology major and he was studying medicine. She knew when she laid eyes on him that she loved him. Although Carolyn loved Michael, she didn’t want to. She knew that Michael was the kind of man who would never have one woman. He was too charming for that. But when it came to Michael she was vulnerable, and she believed in the happy-ever-after dream from the stories her mother used to read to her when she was a little girl.
“In sickness and in health till death do us part”
In just one year after meeting, Michael asked Carolyn to marry him. She’d tell her mother that she had never had sex with him until their wedding night, but the truth was that they been having sex since they met. Michael’s love making was thunderous. It reminded her of the storms that she used to anxiously wait for on her porch in the projects back in Philadelphia, where she grew up. First the sky would get dark, and then there was the scent of rain, and finally the lightning and thunder would come, and engulf you, and threaten your life. In a way she felt that Michael, as much as he brought love into her world, also threatened to destroy it.
Carolyn would often become overwhelmed with feelings of grief when it came to her ex-husband. Once when she went to the supermarket not long after her divorce, she filled her entire shopping cart with Frosted Flakes cereal. It had been Michael’s favorite. When she got home that evening she ate Frosted Flakes for dinner, and then for the next week and a half she ate nothing but Frosted Flakes hoping that it would connect her with him. She had to laugh at herself one day as she sat stuffing Frosted Flakes in her mouth, she remembered that when she got to the register the cashier looked at her like she was crazy. Carolyn had twisted her mouth and blinked her eyes at the girl, so she didn’t say anything just rang up the boxes of cereal. Carolyn fell on the floor laughing that night. She laughed until she felt like throwing up. But, soon after, the laughter turned to tears and she knew she had to do something about her longing for Michael.
She decided that she would go on the internet and research all the hospitals in the country. There had to be a Michael Deets working at one of them. The sad thing about it was that they had divorced before they saw each others dreams come true. She hadn’t become a psychologist after all. After working in the field for a few years she knew that wasn’t where she belonged. She knew in her heart that she was a writer. So she started to write poems, then short stories and finally her first novel. She was sure that Michael had become a doctor because it was all he ever talked about. There were times when they used to run together in the morning and Michael would talk about his dreams with her, or simply give her some things to think about.
“Do you ever get runners high?” Michael asked.
“No, what’s that?” Carolyn asked breathing in and out heavily.
“That’s when you become so immersed in your running that you don’t even realize that you are running anymore, it’s as if you are flying.” Michael said.
“No, I’ve never had that feeling.” I responded.
“I have, it’s great.” Michael said breathing in the cool morning air. “You have to just let yourself go, feel the air flowing through your body. And soon it’s like you’re not even running anymore, you’re flying through the air.”
Even after they broke up Carolyn continued to run in the morning hours and each time it was as if it had become mantra to her, those words would ring in her mind. “Do you ever get runners high?” She would run and try to get there, to get to the point where she was just moving and not thinking about her feet hitting the pavement but she couldn’t do it. Running was just another struggle for her. It was funny to her that she remembered the small details about Michael but couldn’t remember his favorite color and that angered her. She thought she should know that. How could she say that she loved this man and couldn’t even remember his favorite color?
She became a woman on a mission. She stayed up late searching the internet, for months, until finally she hit pay dirt. There was a Michael Deets working in New York City at the state hospital. This was just a few months after her book hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Carolyn was still living in Miami, so she decided to move to New York and get an apartment. Her dreams were falling into place. She sold her house; and relocated to New York as a full-time writer.
Carolyn had a plan. She would write love stories and dedicate them to her “one true thing.” One day she was sure that Michael would see her books, she was a semi-popular writer, perhaps someone would even tell him about her books. She imagined that one day she would be at a book signing and look up and there Michael would be standing in front of her. She prayed that one day Michael would come back to her. All she wanted was to see his face again.
After moving to New York, she wrote her third novel which was also on the New York Times Best Seller list. She did book signings all around the country and was even on the Oprah show, but still Michael did not come.
That was when she decided that she needed to ignite her creative mind. She decided that she would catch the bus today instead of riding in her chauffer driven car. She wanted to be inspired. She wanted to write the novel that would bring Michael back from the depths of her dreams. It would be almost like bring him back from the dead.
“You can’t breathe” The distinguished looking gentleman sitting next to her said.
“No.” Carolyn shook her head, feeling like she was going to lose consciousness at any moment.
“Ma’am, I am a doctor. Do you want me to help you?”
Carolyn managed to shake her head yes. She looked closer at the man and realized who the man was after all this time. Sitting right next to her the whole time it was Michael. And then everything went black, Carolyn passed out. Carolyn felt as if she was leaving earth. In many ways she had hoped to. She had hoped that the angel of death would come and swoop her up in her arms and take her to the resting place. It had been a long time since Carolyn had been happy. Years of hard work that had finally came to an end. Her dream had come true. Michael was here, and he was her doctor.
Just as Carolyn felt life leaving her body, she felt oxygen coming in. She was falling from a very high place. Her body felt limp. She felt like she had been in a fight, with a really huge person. She wasn’t afraid. She could feel her body, she felt in control of it again. As she was falling she no longer felt like she was going to die, but that someone was there to catch her. She felt stronger as she lifted her arm into the air. She opened her eyes and saw an IV inserted into her arm. She was waking up.
“Welcome back.” A voice said.
“How long have I been here?” Carolyn asked.
“Ten days.” The voice said.
“Ten days.” She repeated.
“Hi Carolyn, I am Doctor Harleson.”
“Dr. Harelson.” She repeated, not quite understanding.
“Yes, I am the doctor from the bus. Ironically, we were very close to the hospital that I worked at, and even though it was my day off, I came into the ER with you on the ambulance.
“But you’re not my husband.” Carolyn said confused.
“No I’m not your husband.” Dr. Harleson laughed. “But we’ll get in touch with your husband if you like.”
“No,” Carolyn shouted, as she realized what had happened. “I don’t have a husband.”
“Ms. Bentley relax. You have just been through heart trauma. We had to do emergency open heart surgery on you. Your arteries were clogged. You need your rest,” Dr. Harleson said with a serious, almost urgent tone.
“It’s just that, I” Carolyn tried to explain.
“That’s okay, Ms. Bentley. We need you to get better. When I read your name from your identification the hospital realized who you were. I told my wife that I had a celebrity as a patient. She said she was going to kill me, if I didn’t get you back to writing soon.”
“Your wife, she reads my books.” Carolyn said.
“Sure, doesn’t everybody.” Dr. Harleson said.
“No, no they don’t she said under her breath.” Carolyn realized that she must have just thought she saw Michael because she really wanted to. It hadn’t been Michael on the bus after all. It was just her imagination. After a few minutes she processed what the doctor had said, she had a heart attack. “What am I doing having a heart attack.” Carolyn exclaimed; “I’m only their seven.”
“Women your age do have heart attacks. Unfortunately the symptoms in your age group are often overlooked.” This is something that could have been coming on for a while. Dr. Harelson said.
Carolyn recovered from the surgery and went home about a week later. She felt blessed that Dr. Harleson had repaired her heart. In many ways she felt like it needed repair from all the pain of her broken marriage. It left her heartbroken. Dr. Harelson made her feel like a star. He had asked the nurses to snap some pictures of them together and to give him an autograph for his wife. Some of the other nurses got pictures and autographs too. Carolyn felt really good when she left the hospital. She took it easy for a while and didn’t panic even when she got writers’ block again. This time it lasted two years, so she traveled and read other novels and took advantage of the time.
Then one day, a story like came to her and she began writing again. She wrote day and night endlessly until she had a manuscript of 300 pages she titled it “Philadelphia Rain.” It was a family saga about a young girl who struggles to get out of the projects and makes it out, but ends up having five children, loses her job and ends up back in the projects. She wrote the dedication page out the way she always did, “To my one true thing” and submitted it to her publisher. The book was published and she began a book tour. It felt good getting back into the writing game.
It was the beginning of autumn and she had a book signing in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was running late and almost missed her train. There was a huge turnout for the book signing. Her fans heard about her heart surgery two years ago and were eagerly awaiting her new book. She signed book after book until one book was placed in front of her. She felt a strong presence with this one.
“Will you sign it to my, one true thing.” She looked up into the face that she had longed to see for many years. It was a strong face; a face of courage that showed lines of pain and hurt. It had a mustache that slept over precious thin lips. The face was round and filled with freckles.
“You know where I got these freckles?” She remembered his asking.
“No,” she had answered.
“My aunt, I look just like her.” She had remembered him saying many years ago, a decade ago now.
“Will you?” The man said to her with a half crooked smile.
“Will I what,” Carolyn said looking deeply into his eyes.
“Will you sign it, to my one true thing?”
“Yes, yes I will,”she said feeling like she was standing on the porch in the projects again when she was a little girl waiting for the storm. First, there was the darkness and then the rain, along with a powerful thunder. Then they would all run inside, but not this time there was no where to run. She knew this was where she belonged. Love had finally come back to her.