Saturday, 26 September 2009 - 6:46 pm

The unseen face

Today, my heart has been pulled a hundred different ways. I have seesawed so much – despair, euphoria, pain – and now I’m wrung out and don’t know what to do next. A part of me can hardly believe that all of this is true.

It’s so muddled. I don’t know where to start. I want to skip to the end but I don’t want to forget the beginning. My heart remembers the beginning and aches.


I was up most of last night. Matt’s fever was still high. Simon had given him what drugs he could but they weren’t doing much. He said that if Matt wasn’t better by the next afternoon, we would have to look at more extreme alternatives. When I asked him what that meant, he looked grave and gestured towards the injured leg.

“Remove the source of the problem,” is how he put it. I went cold all over and suddenly couldn’t speak at all. The idea made me sick.

“What?” I said eventually.

He looked at me sadly and sighed. “If it comes to that, it’s the leg or his life.”

I told him to get out. He couldn’t have either. He just couldn’t.

I couldn’t sleep, my head full of Simon’s ultimatum. Matt drifted in and out all through the dark hours. I talked to him, even sang a bit, though he probably didn’t hear most of it. I’m not sure if it was more for him or me. I had to keep him from slipping any further away, and they say that people can hear even when they’re asleep. Even in comas, they hear the voices around them. It was a slender thread between us, trembling on the air. I can’t even remember what I said to him – stories from when we were kids mostly, as if the weight of memories might be enough to hold him down.

He was awake long enough to drink something earlier. He smiled at me and asked how I was doing. I said I was sick of looking after his lazy ass and he laughed weakly. We knew it wasn’t true but pretending seemed better for both of us.

He fell asleep again a little while later. When I was sure he was out, I left the room to get some air and have a little break down. It’s so hard, doing this again. It was like this with Dillon. I kept telling him that it would be okay, just hold on, it’ll be all right. I talked to him about nothing and tried to keep his spirits up. He smiled and squeezed my hand and thanked me. And then he went away.

I don’t know if I can face that again. I don’t have a choice, not really; I can’t hide from this. I won’t. He’s my best friend and he’s always there for me when I need him. I won’t leave him alone, and I won’t let him leave me either. He’s not allowed.

When I got back to his room, Simon was there with his grim face and regretful expression. I told him no. I didn’t care if it was time or if it was his best chance. They’re not taking any pieces of him, and the infection was most likely too entrenched in the rest of his system by now anyway. The Sharks have taken so much from him and they’re damn well not getting a limb too. He’s going to be fine, if only to spite them and because I said so.

It was the perfect time for Matt to wake up. I’m not sure how much he heard. He asked me quietly what was going on. I didn’t want to tell him, but his expression asked for the truth and I didn’t have the heart to deny it. When I told him what Simon wanted to do, the horror that crossed his face was enough for me.

“He doesn’t want it,” I told the medic. “And he doesn’t need it. He’s gonna be fine.”

Simon knows how stubborn I can be and it wasn’t a battle he wanted to fight. He told me that it was my choice, heaped the responsibility on my head, and then left us to it. I think he knew that putting it that way would make me waver, but I can’t believe that I might be wrong. I’ve lost so much lately that I’m not losing any more, not even a part of a friend.


I sat down with Matt and he tangled his hand up with mine. His hands are still bandaged – I told him that he knows how to fight, and that he needs to keep doing that for just a little while longer, until this thing it out of his system. I wanted to tell him that he’s not allowed to go but the words wouldn’t come out of my throat. He thanked me and I kissed him instead.

“I have a confession to make,” he said suddenly. I looked puzzled, so he went on, “You remember that person you saw, when we first got here?”

I nodded. Sometimes, I couldn’t get that image out of my head: the incomplete one from the day we arrived here. The face I didn’t quite see, the body I don’t quite remember, the reason I shouted out.

“I think I know who it was. There’s someone here you need to see. Should’ve told you days ago, but he made me promise not to. Wanted to tell you himself.”

I stared at him, trying to think of who it might be and failing to come up with anything. My head has been too full of Matt and the General for there to be room for anyone else.

“He was s’posed to come see you.” He squeezed my hand. “Guess he got a little held up.” He nodded towards the door and I slid off the bed.


When I turned around, everything stopped. The world tilted and I thought I was falling, but I hadn’t moved. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe.

I was five years old and my sister was telling me that Santa Claus didn’t exist. I was eighteen, watching her being lowered into the ground. I was nineteen, watching my mother back out of the driveway for the last time. I was twenty-two and my boyfriend was screwing my closest girlfriend. My heart was breaking and, every time, there was that same hand on my shoulder, the same wordless hug.