Do You Believe?
She wasn’t supposed to still be there.
The lights of the city passed her by in a blur. They no longer made Lacey happy, but then few things did anymore. Chicago used to hold such promise, but now those shimmers felt like lights on a neighbor’s Christmas tree. She could see them but she knew there were no presents for her underneath. She couldn’t even get inside to touch them.
Lacey faded, then came back, then faded again. The siren in the ambulance continued to blare. She wasn’t dead, right? They had stabilized her, she thought. She didn’t know. Half of her felt like she was floating and the other half was freezing in this uncomfortable bed on wheels. She did know that her neighbor had come into her apartment at the very worst time possible. Of course, Lacey would never tell anybody else this, but you don’t usually talk about your suicide, right? Or in this case, your attempted suicide.
“Dispatch, EMS Eighty-One to UC Trauma Center, hot response.”
Even though Lacey had an oxygen mask covering half her face, she could see the paramedic speaking into the com link. He was a good-looking guy, dark-haired and fit and maybe possibly a little over thirty. It was nice to open her eyes and see him hovering over her.
“On board is a priority-one critical Caucasian female, mid-twenties,” the man continued to report. “Experiencing acute respiratory difficulty. Airway constriction still allows for oxygen. Pushing one hundred percent at fifteen liters a minute. I’m gonna pass on the trache unless you advise me otherwise.”
“Affirmative, Eighty-One,” a female voice answered. “Let’s try not to cut her if we don’t have to.”
Cut her, a voice inside Lacey screamed in alarm. I would’ve done that myself if I wanted to go that route.
The uncomfortable stretcher she lay on shook gently as the ambulance raced down the street. She wanted to tell the paramedic that she didn’t want them to go to all this trouble. She didn’t mean to get everybody into a panic over the allergic reaction to her dinner. She thought of Pam and already felt bad. Her poor neighbor had found her nearly unconscious, unable to breathe, on the couch with four boxes of Chinese food nearby on the glass table. She had blacked out just as Pam dialed 911. Lacey wasn’t even able to swallow that last full bite of General Tso’s chicken.
The paramedic glanced down at her and smiled.
“We’re almost there, okay?” he said. “You’ll be back to your old self in no time. Just keep breathing.”
She nodded and tried to smile even though the mask probably hid it.
My old self.
Ah, the irony of his statement. It was a cliché, really. “Back to your old self in no time.” The reality was she didn’t want to go back to her old self, that she didn’t like her old self. Her old life. Her old everything.
Time was all she had, but unlike that song, it wasn’t on her side. It hadn’t been for quite a while now.
That song reminded her of her father. She pictured him now and felt the regret in her soul. This was followed by a snapshot of Donny, which replaced that regret with anger. Sometimes the pictures blurred, and sometimes the emotions blurred with them. Regret, anger, hurt, fear, isolation . . . There were too many, and none of them were good.
The ambulance turned and started to slow down and Lacey assumed they had arrived.
She couldn’t help feel a wave of disappointment.
All that energy and courage it had taken to do the unthinkable. And now this.
Now she was here and she would be starting over at square one. But it wouldn’t change the past twenty-five years. Nothing could change that.
The only person who could change things was Lacey. That’s exactly what she had tried to do tonight.
Maybe she would have to try again once she got out of there.