Love Stories

Fiction On Odyssey: The Past That Change Us, Part 1

This is the truth and my truth

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This is it. I'm not going to hold anything back and I'm not going to hide any secret I have hidden for the past couple years. If you want to talk about an emotional roller coaster of feelings then this is it. There will be no sugar coating this and not making this love story better than what actually happened. There is always two part to this story, two motives, two reasons because we were two different people. This story is my motive and my reasoning on what happened in my perceptive... This is the truth and my truth

The Past That Change Us, Part 1

I still miss him. He was who I thought was the one. That was almost 5 years ago. Today I'm 500 miles away sitting in my senior year of college just turning 21, nine months before I start teaching and move back home. Why was he so important to me? He was the one I was set to marry and the one I have fell for. Today he is back home in Michigan and I'm down in Nashville Tennessee. Life has a funny way of doing things. I still got pictures of those years in the bottom of a photo album containing pictures of my family and of Him. It's almost impossible to move on from someone you have loved so dearly for so many years but, life has a funny way of fixing its self. This dimly lit room was my dorm for the past three years. I am coming home this Christmas for the first time. I have missed so much since I left home.

I look around, Ash is not back in the dorm yet. She is such a slob, clothes were strewn across the room and her bed was never made, this kills my minor OCD, however it feels like home. When I was younger I was so naive and stupid. As I grew older my stupidity levels started to decline and I started to see life like it is: Nothing will ever be as easy as before 18. Life is a shithole of choices and decisions you conjure up and pray it works out in your favor. I shut my laptop and get up. It's fall and the leaves are begging to turn red, gold and brown. Its like people in the middle of the night went around a dripped paint along the tops and it's running down coloring it completely.

It's almost noon. I need to get out of this dorm. I sigh and get packed before I leave the dorm room and head outside. The temperature is in the mid-eighties today and I'm in jeans and a tee shirt. Wafting in the air smells of pie and cinnamon rolls fill the cafeteria. luckily this place was all you can eat for how much this college cost me, and I was going to get my money out of it. I stand in the small cafe looking at the options and then grab a tray. I get a cinnamon roll and salad with ham on top along with a few other items. I spot Aron sitting at his table eating, I walk over and sit down beside him. He doesn't notice with his music blaring into his earbuds and his nose in a calculus book. He was like the Shermar Moore of college and my best friend. I nudge my hand on his thigh. He looks up and smiles taking out an earbud.

"Well hello beautiful, looking for something?" He said winking.

"No I ain't wanting anything, my bed is full with me myself and I," I said rolling my eyes before eating and He let out a small chuckle before he replied, "Well damn, I guess another lonely night with myself then."

Aron was a good friend of mine since my freshman year here and it was probably why we haven't dated. He was going to the math department in secondary teaching... I, however, thought he was as mad as the Hatter in Alice. This year he was coming to my home for Thanksgiving because his parents were visiting the Bahamas. Mom hasn't met him and so the second she sees him she will be on me for why I haven't dated him. If I had my way I'd date him.. I just never had the guts too.

The rest of the day we headed to our comp class, this class was just filled with us messaging each other back from the opposite sides of the room. I am passing this class with a 98% and I honestly don't know how in the bloody hell I am. The clocked ticked by...I don't know why I choose to do all afternoon classes... After class at least I will be able to go work out.

I run upstairs into my dorm to grab my clothes. I grab a hair tie that laid on my desk and threw my hair into a high ponytail. My hair only went past my shoulders by a few inches so It was still pretty short. My bangs fell to the side naturally. With the workout bag in my hand, I quickly flipped off the lights and ran out of the dorm heading to the gym.

The gym was empty today. It was due to a lot of people getting ready to pack and leave for Thanksgiving. I run into the bathroom at the far end of the complex. The center of the room was the rock wall with three stories filled with swimming pools, boxing equipment, and a full-size track. I change into a blue tank top and some black shorts. I look into the mirror before I head out adjusting my hair. I looked so different than from my freshman year. I lost over 50 pounds and I got the hourglass shape all girls kinda wanted. I was down to 197 and for a white girl, I got blessed. I headed out to the gym track and started to stretch out. The room was nice. I hated to run. It's something I never liked but, now it's a mental thing, how fast can I run and how many calories can I burn. I ran from my past, my thoughts, myself...

Feeling my body ache to stop I push harder. I have the world tuned out by the music of hard rock screaming in my ears. I run till my legs gave out. I sit down, My heart racing and sweat dripping down the right side of my temple. I get up and do a walking lap around the track. I could see the football field through the glass window witch went along half the track. I could see Aron out on the field... He was the quarterback of the team. I still could not believe that he and I became friends.

We met at a party... I was outside smoking a joint and drinking a beer. He was the guy across the yard playing football with the guys. He came over and was the cockiest son of a bitch that I saw. He took my cigarette took a puff.

I rolled my eyes snatched it, "Why don't you go to the store and get your own pretty boy?"

He laughed, "Pretty boy huh?"

I half smiled, "Yes, pretty boy. What are you gonna do about it?"

He simply took it back kissed me and said thank you. I sat there sobering up unsure what to actually do. I could feel my face red.

"Aron."

I looked up, "What? What did you say?"

"Aron Prescott, you are?" He held out his hand, I took it, "Mia Anderson"

"Well, Maybe I could get your number?"

"Why?"

"You are like the only white girl I have laid eyes on and thought 'Danm I wonder what she's like' So can I get your number? I'll buy you coffee."

"Fine... I expect coffee though."

I never got that coffee, but I did get a friend, and an unlimited stack of pancakes at IHop. Close enough. I change my clothes and head outside to meet him by the field. He was finishing practice and I just messed around on my phone. He seemed to take such a long time. And they said girls took long... Aron finally came out and spotted me.

"Hey beautiful," he chuckled, "Are you sure you like waiting for everyday on me?"

"Yep... your the guy who still hasn't given me coffee yet," I laughed nudging him.

"Jeez still hung up on that are ya? I think it's because you love me and enjoy seeing this body every day.. however that hard to get self of yours is gonna ease up and I am gonna marry you," he snicked in all cockiness that he could conjure up with. I smacked him to only remember he is 50 pounds of pure muscle and I pay for it in result.

I clenched my hand and kept my face as expressionless as I could... He knew I liked him but, he knew some of the past and how I don't give easy... That's why he is coming home with me instead of hanging here. He was saving me from a reunion of hell and heartbreak... Three years that I have avoided for so long.

We headed back into the dorms to get our bags packed tomorrow we leave for Michigan. The night carried on. We went to a party at Hannah's that night. He played football and I watched smoking a cig and drinking. I didn't used to smoke or drink.. crap happens and habits form. I grab another beer and open it up. Chris Brown blasted throughout the house. This house was what you expect the governor's daughter to live in. 10 bedrooms, two stories, indoor hot tub, and a pool wrapped up in a white house. This all in the middle of nowhere Tennessee.

The night passed by that I don't remember most of it, I got high with a few junkies and drank two or three beers... Bad habits don't die easy.

Later that night we headed back I could tell I was tipsy because Aron had to hold my waist to ensure I didn't wander. Oh my god, his hands felt so good around my waist. Tipsy... fun.

"You need to choose one... You continue to smoke and drink you're going to wander off before I can get you home safe," He said kissing the back of my head. I might have been slightly drunk but, I could hear the frustration in his voice. His voice went so low... He cared for me... just we never made a move.

"Okay, I'm sorry... I'll only choose one, for now, one so I don't stumble into someone else pants."

"Thank you."

"Your welcome."

He walked me to my three-story dorm, the campus was so pretty. He opened the door leading me to my door room, He stood there on the outside holding my waist looking at me, "Are you sure you're okay?" I nod my head, "Positive. I will be packed and ready before you get here at ten. " He kissed the top of my head. "I love you," he muttered, "Stop getting drunk every week." I half smiled and walked into the dorm and fell onto my bed. I loved him... I need to stop hurting him as I've done for the last three years...

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An Open Letter To The Meadville Medical Center And Its ER Staff

When did kindness become a deserved thing in the healthcare field; and only if you're not on drugs?
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Yes, that cover picture is me, coming off a ventilator...at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, a two-hour drive from my house, not at Meadville Medical Center.

This is very difficult to write. We live in a small town, and you are the only hospital for over twenty miles. In fact, I live so close to you, that I can see your rooftop from my back garden. I can walk to you in about ten minutes if it’s not overly humid out. The Life Flights pass over my house as they arrive at and leave your facility, and my young daughter and I pray for every one of them.

My daughter had to call an ambulance on May 30th, as I had a sharp and horrible pain overtake me so suddenly, that I thought my neighbor (who I threatened to report for dealing drugs) had shot me through the dining room window at first. There was no blood to be seen, but the pain was so severe, that combined with the cold sweats and dizziness, I was genuinely afraid I was about to die.

I can’t express in words how proud I was of my girl as she explained to the 911 operator what was the matter and where we lived. She was brave and helpful as they took a blood sample, handled what I later learned was a seizure, and kindly got me into the ambulance from my difficult entryway. She called her Auntie and calmly told her to meet me at the ER. And while memories of the horrible experience I had in your ER twenty years ago still haunted me, the care and attention the ambulance drivers showed me encouraged me that I would be okay.

If only.

There were so many people, and I was half delirious with pain and inexplicable symptoms. Thank God my sister in law, Sheri, was there to help me fight for my life. For the sake of our small town and six degrees of separation, I will call them Nurse A, B, C, and D, and Doctor H. Your staff literally, unapologetically bullied me within an inch of my life.

When I arrived, it was apparently Nurse A who triumphantly announced to everyone involved in my care that I was on drugs, case closed. Despite Sheri and I repeatedly telling them that I hadn’t taken any narcotics, and I won’t take anything stronger than Motrin 800, they persisted in asking what I took. At one point I heard Sheri saying, “She does everything naturally, you're wasting time.” No one cared.

When Nurse A informed me that they needed a urine test, I told her to straight cath me, as I couldn’t stand up. It was Nurse A who told Doctor H that I faked two seizures on the way from my house (I am still amazed by her mystical powers that she could surmise this), and insisted again that I was faking everything. With utter disgust Doctor H said, “She can stand, get her up.” At Sheri’s protest, Nurse A reiterated, “If she can move her legs she can stand.” My legs, which were almost involuntarily moving to find relief from the pain in my abdomen, gave out on me when she insisted I put myself on the bedside commode. I passed out again and urinated on her.

When I woke up to Sheri frantically calling my name, I was greeted by an absolutely disgusted Nurse A, who complained that she needed to go change her clothes, and rolled her eyes at my faking another seizure. She informed everyone who came in next that I was faking these symptoms, and four attempts to straight cath me failed. In that moment, I was sure I was going to die.

Everything after that came in blurry and fragmented vignettes, like an awful out of body experience. There were Nurses B through D or more, all repeatedly asking me what drugs I took. Everyone scowled and frowned, passing on the information that I was faking everything. There were four of these nurses when I woke up on the way to a scan, and all but one asking me what drugs I took, and telling me to stop faking as I hysterically screamed that I could not breathe when I lay flat. I was terrified, confused, out of my mind, and unable to breathe when I lay flat, and they reported that “she hyperventilated herself” in the scan lab.

All the while, Sheri valiantly insisted they would find no drugs in the blood work, and that I probably hadn’t been to a family doctor in years. I lay in your ER cubicle and reconciled myself to God, convinced that I was going to die and be labeled a drug addict.

At some point, something shifted, and suddenly I received the blanket I had asked for hours before. Apparently, my temperature had dropped so low, their fancy thermometers couldn’t read anything. I remember a young man trying to find a vein and saying, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not trying again.” My head was elevated, and the panic of not being able to breathe alleviated somewhat.

Suddenly Doctor H was almost kind, and I heard him telling Sheri something about “a mass” and “blood in her abdomen” and how some other hospital was better equipped to help me. She told me she okay-ed it, and I recall telling her, “I trust you. Just get me out of here.”

In fact, knowing someone else would care for me gave me such peace, that I literally lay completely still as an older man inserted an IV line into my neck with no anesthesia.

We assume the blood work came back and the scan verified what we desperately tried to tell everyone from the beginning; I wasn’t on or seeking drugs. But there was no apology from Nurse A, her fellow nurses, or Doctor H. I may be corrected, but I spent five or six hours in your ER defending myself to the same people who should have been fighting for my life.

As I lay there, talking to Yeshuale, three people in what looked like tactical suits came alongside my bed. The first was a woman who looked like she was speaking into a walkie talkie. Behind her two men. I thought to myself “Oh, state cops. I guess I’m just going to die in prison.” I was so out of it, confused and weary of being asked what drugs I took, I believed your ER staff had called the police and they had come to take me away. All I could think of was what would become of my young daughter.

Thank God, I was mistaken. The blonde woman wasn’t a police officer, but part of the helicopter team, on the phone with Magee in Pittsburgh so she could begin administering blood to me. Blood. Something your staff considered less important than accusing me of using and seeking some weird drugs. Behind her, a tall, blonde man smiled at me and explained that he was taking me in a helicopter and I would be fine. It was like hearing from an angel, and I remember saying, “Todah, Yeshuale!” repeatedly in my head and in a whisper. “Thank You, Jesus!”

Four blocks away, my daughter and the friend she was staying with waved as we flew over my house.

To my surprise, I woke up two days later, attached to a ventilator, one of my sister friends sitting beside my bed. I learned that I’d had two masses in my uterus, which tore itself open and bled into my abdomen. I’d lost four liters of blood and had a transfusion in the Life Flight. When they took the vent out, (my friend took the picture above) I made a joke about being a tough Jersey girl as I signed to the ICU nurse, but inside I was an emotional wreck. Still, as the days went on, I determined to treat everyone with kindness, and was treated the same way at every turn.

Kindness. The one thing I never received from your staff.

What was so special about me that your staff felt interrogating me about my apparent drug use was more important than helping me? My address? Because for some reason all the drug dealers in town seem to want to take over my block? So, we’re all on drugs, then? Do you realize that half my neighbors brag about going to your ER to get pain pills, and how easy it is? I never asked for anything but a Tylenol, and that was on the Life Flight. So, again I ask, what made me so unique?

And, I must say, it’s not even that your staff didn’t believe me. They were mean, hateful even. Rolling their eyes, talking about me like I wasn’t there, saying everything I did was a ruse to get drugs. When did it become okay to treat anyone like that? How was it alright for your nurse to walk in and determine that I was on drugs? How was it alright for her to set the tone of disbelief, unkindness, and abuse? How was it alright for the doctor to allow this and roll with it?

Yes, I said abuse. When someone is screaming that they can’t breathe and you tell them to stop faking, that is abuse. When you berate someone, and accuse them of something to the point where they believe they’re being taken to jail to die, that’s abuse. When you refuse to give someone a blanket, hold them down to the point where they’re bruised, that’s abuse. When you waste time to the point where an ambulance won’t get to the next hospital fast enough… that’s abuse. Your staff verbally, emotionally, and physically abused me.

Not only were they abusive, but they were comfortable with it. Your staff was comfortable with it, and didn’t care what it would cost me or my family. All but one nurse, who Sheri now tells me insisted that there was something wrong with me and took me for the scan. That nurse saved my life. People are comfortable with abuse because they get away with it. Abusers get smug, arrogant and even careless, because those they abuse say nothing. Your staff was smug, rude and uncaring to the point that they displayed a sick sort of disgust for me that was completely obvious. My sister in law later confirmed to me that it wasn’t all in my head.

At what point did this behavior become acceptable? Is it because you’re the only hospital for a 30-minute drive?

And, so what if I had been seeking drugs or high on some unknown concoction? Would that have made it okay for your staff to treat me thusly? Would Nurse A have been justified in declaring my altered state and treating me like garbage? Would Doctor H have been justified in how he treated me? When did nursing and healing give anyone that sort of power? When did people cease to be worthy of kindness, quality health care and gentleness based upon their drug use, or the address they live at?

When did you decide who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and who does not? When did your medical staff earn that right to decide also?

If we’re completely honest, most of the people I know who abuse pills go to your ER at least once bimonthly to get refills. Your ER physicians pass out opioid scripts like candy and then mistreat the people they’re supplying? Thanks to you, I must hide the pain medication I loathe to take now, because someone will surely break in to my home and steal them if they know I have them. You, and other hospitals like you, are feeding addicts and creating innocent bystander victims like me, but that’s another conversation.

This is difficult to write, because you have your hooks in all over this town. This is difficult to write, because the trauma of that night is still fresh in my mind, and I often cry when I think about it. This is difficult to write, because the reality that I have had to now teach my child to ask any ambulance we ever need to call again to take us to Erie shouldn’t be necessary. This is difficult to write, but it needs to be said, especially since I’ve been finding out that I’m not the only person this has happened to.

You need to address these issues. You need to stop handing out scripts like promotional coupons, and perhaps you won’t have nurses and doctors assuming everyone’s on drugs or seeking them. You need to discourage the abusive and toxic behavior of your staff, and hold them accountable when patients complain. Let me put this into perspective for you: I’m pretty sure Nurse A is the same age as my oldest daughter, and my child would eat mud before she treated anyone like that. Why? Because my kids were never allowed to behave that way in the first place, but to stay on topic, she grew up with consequences, and as an adult still recognizes their severity.

As the events of that night become clearer to me, and I continue my peaceful, miraculous recovery at home, I am determined not to hold on to bitterness about what happened to me at your ER. I am determined to make the most of the second chance at life I’ve been given, and leave your abusive staff in the past. I’ll probably pass some of them in the super market, or sit behind them in church, our town is so small. And while you and your toxic staff will cease to haunt my future, I will surely haunt yours. Nurse A, Doctor H, and Nurses B through whatever… will never forget the night the woman with the blue hair nearly died because they were too busy wrongly judging to actually care.

I am determined to walk out the rest of my life in kindness, the very discussion I had in a blackout with God while your nurse accused me of faking a seizure. I will pray, hoping with all hope that kindness will once again be requisite for employment in your ER and every area of your corporation. Believe me, it’s possible and good for profits. The entire time I spent in Pittsburgh at Magee I never encountered a single unkind staff member from the surgeons to the housekeepers.

I know you can do it.

Cover Image Credit: Heidi Owens

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I Am 9,170 Miles Away But I Still Choose To Stand In Solidarity With The People Of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has its own flaws and imperfections, but what I've learned is that even on our darkest days, no one can take away faith and solidarity.

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April 21, 2019. Easter Sunday.

I was devastated to wake up on Sunday morning to a series of missed calls and texts from friends asking whether my friends and family were affected by the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. I was shocked to read all of the news about the bombings in various churches and hotels that I'd visited on my trips to Sri Lanka. I remember wandering around the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in middle school hoping to get a glimpse of internationally famous cricket players like Lasith Malinga and Kumar Sangakkara.

Now, this hotel where I associated happy memories of staying up until 5 a.m. to watch the World Cup and running around with my brother is one of the 6 locations in Sri Lanka that was bombed on Easter.

Sri Lanka is a country that most of my peers have never heard of. It brings a smile to my face when I'm able to talk about the amazing experiences I've had on this island nation. I'm able to talk about how I almost got run over by an elephant during a safari in Yala National Park, how I took surfing lessons at Arugam Bay, and how I climbed all the way up Mount Sigiriya when I was 4 years old. All of these experiences have shown me the beauty of the people, the nature, the animals, and the culture of Sri Lanka. While there is so much to appreciate, there is also so much to acknowledge about its recent history.

In 2009, the 30-year civil war finally came to an end. I remember going to my parents' room when I was nine, and watching live streams of people in the streets celebrating that the war had finally ended. This was a war that caused the majority of my family to flee the country to avoid the violence and destruction. Now, almost ten years after the war ended, there was a coordinated attack on churches and hotels that led to the murder of over 300 innocent citizens and wounded around 500 people.

Sri Lanka isn't perfect, but it's roots and culture have made me who I am today. Even though I wasn't alive during the majority of the war, it has left a lasting impact on my family. My mom had to go by herself to Russia, without any prior Russian language experience, to avoid being in the middle of the war. She now speaks English, Russian, Tamil, and Sinhalese. I had other family members who fled to places like New Zealand, Nigeria, Canada, and Australia.

Because of the war, I have family all over the world who can speak Mandarin, Arabic, Dutch, Malay, French, Russian, and so many more languages. Being Sri Lankan has given me an international perspective on the world around me and has given me the insight to look past cultural differences. Instead of going to shopping malls with my cousins like my friends in the US do, I meander through bazaars in Singapore and Malaysia or go dune-bashing in the United Arab Emirates.

When people look at me, they never think that my last name could be Paul. Shouldn't it be something that is hard to pronounce or something much longer? My last name dates back to 1814 when missionaries from Williams College traveled all the way to villages in the Northern parts of Sri Lanka to share God's love. My great great great grandfather studied in one of the many Christian schools and his faith has been passed down from generation to generation. No matter how dark things got during the war, faith is what kept my family going.

Though Sri Lanka has faced adversity over the years, it continues to grow stronger. Through violence, hurricanes, government corruption, and internal conflicts, Sri Lanka continues to push through. Sri Lanka has its own flaws and imperfections, but what I've learned is that even on our darkest days, no one can take away faith and solidarity.

So today—9,170 miles away—I stand with the people of Sri Lanka.

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