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All characters in the story are eighteen years of age and older. Feel free to leave comments.
The sounds of the hospital grew dim as the nurse pushed her wheelchair down the hallway toward the exit. As I walked alongside, my heart was heavy with despair. The van was waiting to take us home and to hospice care. Home but for how long? Earlier that morning, I met with her oncologist and listened to the discouraging prognosis.
“She has a month, maybe two. It’s hard to tell because she has such a positive attitude. Hospice will make her as comfortable as possible.”
As I walked, the tears flowed down my face. I tried so hard to be strong for her but now, hearing the awful finality, my resolve evaporated. A sob escaped my lips.
“Don’t cry, my love.” She reached over and I felt her hand grasp mine.
I couldn’t speak because I was crying my heart out. She brought my hand to her cheek and rubbed it. The warmth of her skin, so reassuring. It meant she was alive and breathing. Once we were home, the hospice nurse went through a checklist of meds and schedules. After the morphine pump was hooked up, I saw the stubbornness in her eyes.
“I want to stay lucid for as long as possible. I’m gonna tell my side of the story.”
She was adamant and I refused to argue with her. This was the end of her life, and I wanted her to call the shots for as long as possible. Later, as she was sleeping, I gazed at her, and my heart ached with sorrow. Without her in my life…I couldn’t bear to think about it. There would be a void, a hole I could never hope to fill. Of everyone we had known and loved, my mother was the only one left, all the others preceded us in death. There were relatives but mostly far flung and distant. It was a sobering reminder that holidays would be empty, bereft of any enjoyment without her in my life. I still had my mother, and it was consoling to think I wouldn’t be alone. Whenever I thought about those first tentative steps together, I marveled at how she made the impossible, possible. There was movement on the bed, and I saw her eyes were open. I sat next to her, taking her hands in mine.
“Do you want something to drink?”
“Just a little water…”
We gazed at each other, tears running down my face, hers, placid with a little smile.
“Try to be strong, I know you have it in you.”
She took my hand and again lightly rubbed it on her cheek, the warmth so soothing.
“We had forty-four years together. How many couples can make that claim?
“How will I live without you?
“You must find a way.”
I couldn’t control my emotions, openly sobbing. She took me in her arms and held me so gently that it just made me cry harder.
“There, there, don’t cry my love.’
She said so soothingly, patting my back.
“Sometimes when one door closes another one opens…you have so much to give.”
The hospice nurse brought in her early supper.
“It’s only 4pm. I’m not really…I know, I must keep my strength up.”
As she ate, I looked around the den, that had been converted to her makeshift bedroom. There were mementos of every type and variety but the one that always brought tears to my eyes was a framed photo of her accepting Teacher of the Year award. She looked so young, so radiant, so full of life.
“Are you in any pain?” I asked fearfully.
“Some, but it’s manageable…”
“Are you afraid?” I asked with trepidation.
“Yes, but somehow, I know my mother will be waiting for me on the other side. She’ll be smiling and happy to see me…”
A flood of tears inundated my eyes. She took me in her arms and held me with supreme tenderness, lightly kissing away tears.
“I’ve thought long and hard how I want my life to end but it isn’t the ending that’s important but the journey. I want to remember all the good times, and the bad times. You tell your part in the narrative, and I’ll tell mine.”
Her face softened but there was a set to her jaw, a resolve.
“I guess it’s overdue, so much has happened, especially the early years.” I said wistfully.
She looked at me tenderly and spoke,
“I love you; nothing can take that away. I know my love will always be in your heart, it’s unquenchable and alive.”
For the longest time, I was in her arms, then she pulled back and looked at me with the kindest expression.
“It’s time to remember, my love…”
1975 NATALIE: As I rode on the bus, I hoped that the change of venue, would bring me some solace from the torment of high school. I was attending a large university in the center of Pennsylvania. Would my fellow students be more accepting, more tolerant? Life in Nebraska had been especially difficult once the secret was out. Diane, my best friend since elementary school, betrayed a confidence. It was all over school in a matter of days, and I was an outcast, shunned like an Amish girl. We celebrated our birthday on the same day. There was a freedom to being eighteen years old and we celebrtated our eighteenth the day before. Diane meant more to me than just friendship. My demeanor that night was one of fear, trepidation, my nerves were on edge, and it showed. Diane had been talking about a boy she had istanbul travesti a crush on but asked me why I was so nervous since it was so out of character for me. I tried a few times to tell her what was in my heart but failed, finally,
“Diane, you’re my best friend and I need to tell you that…”
“What are you trying to say Nat? You’re scaring me.”
“I…I like girls, not boys…”
My best friend looked totally shocked.
“You mean…yer a…lesbian?”
I nodded. The overpowering urge to kiss her overtook me. We were sitting very close together when I did, not some friendly peck but a full-on mouth to mouth crush. At first Diane seemed to respond but pulled away angrily.
“What are you? A freak! I like boys.”
I was crushed. If anyone would understand it would be Diane but I severely miscalculated.
“I’m outta here!” Diane yelled.
My best friend left in a hurry and that was the end of our friendship. My senior year turned into a nightmare. One morning I saw the word “dyke” written in lipstick on the front of my school locker. Every time I had it removed, it would reappear, sometimes as the word “lezzie.” If I left my schoolbooks unattended, someone would inevitably write dyke or lezzie on them. The humiliation was staggering. As a contributor to the school newspaper, my news articles went unpublished with no explanation why. No one sought my opinions during yearbook meetings or any of the committees that I participated in. Girls avoided me in the locker room after PE, field hockey and track meets. I was persona non grata. I never felt so lonely, so alone in my life and I spent many nights crying myself to sleep. Having been brought up in a conservative, religious home just complicated my life immeasurably. When my mother asked why Diane didn’t come around anymore, I tried to be honest.
“Mom, I’m a lesbian.”
But it fell on deaf ears. My mother would never accept the truth when it was contradictory to what the bible preached.
“That’s impossible Natalie, you’ve been raised with the bible as the foundation of truth.”
“Pray daughter, pray long and hard to rid yourself of these falsehoods that they teach at your school.”
And whenever I tried to explain why I felt so dejected, depressed, and lonely, my mother had a ready-made answer,
“Good girls don’t have bad thoughts. Trust in the Lord Natalie and read your bible often. They will guide you to a righteous and meaningful life,” my mother spouted.
It was Church Service every Sunday, Bible study every Thursday night, Vacation Bible School for two weeks in the summer, it went on ad nauseum. This immersion in an unyielding Methodist religion was stifling to me but it dominated my life and beliefs. For as long as I could remember I felt different inside. At first my parents thought it was a lack of self-confidence. At a young age, I was pushed to participate in sports with the hope that the team atmosphere and camaraderie would ease my timidity. While it did and helped to build my character, I still had the inescapable feeling that I wasn’t like other girls. Every time I tried to understand my dilemma, the answer seemed to be just out of reach. Like a tenuous cloud with no shape or solidity. In hindsight, my parents should have sought professional help, but they believed that life’s questions were answered in the bible. And they urged me to pray and pray hard. However, my constant prayers went unanswered, and it rattled my convictions. There was something ominous and strange every time I thought about the future. I wanted desperately to be “normal”, but I had this shaky feeling that my life would be anything but normal. I felt that there were powerful forces at work that would take over my spirit, and my soul. As much as I tried to hide from my true self, this unseen force would pull me back. It wasn’t long before I discovered that I was interested in girls, and I positively loved looking at them. They were far more fascinating to me than the opposite sex. While my friends talked incessantly about boys, they had absolutely no appeal to me. My fascination became an obsession but given my strict religious upbringing, I’d never act on it. And it was those same strict Christian values that had me in denial for a long time. The scriptures were specific about same sex matters, no, not ever, never. Every day I prayed long and hard for strength and guidance from God. My prayers worked up to a point. However, another dilemma awaited…dating. Diane was a boy magnet with her good looks and so was I. Soon, Diane was dating solo, and it pleased me to no end as the pressure was off. However, I did accept invitations to important school dances, social events and lastly prom. I had to keep up the front that I was straight because I knew how severe the consequences could be. Then right after the turmoil with Diane, I received a letter of acceptance to Penn State University. My belief was that I needed to get as far away from Nebraska as possible. A great aunt had left me some money that was put into a college fund, and it would more than cover the cost. My parents were against it and thought that I should use it to attend college in Nebraska but since I was eighteen, istanbul travestileri the funds were accessible directly by me. There were many arguments, but my mind was made up. I arrived at Penn State full of hope and promise but it was short lived. When I saw Evelyn Reithofer, my heart sank. She led the campaign against me high school, making my life miserable, talking behind my back to anyone who’d listen. If she saw me, she’d point in my direction and make comments that were out of earshot but obviously not complimentary. Her friends would shake their heads and walk away. What did she have against me? We weren’t friends but we were cordial to one another. That all ended when Diane let it be known I was a lesbian. It spread like wildfire, and I expected to be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. Graduation was painful. After I accepted my diploma, there were no party invites, no social events to attend. A few of my teachers signed my yearbook but no one else. I walked home, hid in my room, and cried. Why had God played such a cruel joke on me? Evelyn was in my dorm on the same floor. Since I’d been so out of the loop those last agonizing weeks of high school, I had no idea she was Penn State bound. It wasn’t long before most everyone on the floor was avoiding me. If I saw Evelyn in the hall, she’d turn her nose up and walk briskly past me as though I wasn’t there. If I went to the girl’s room to shower or take care of business, they’d make a quick exit. No one engaged me in conversation, and it hurt me immeasurably. When my roommate found out, she went to the RA and had her room assignment changed. I was alone, no other student was assigned, and I had no one to share my experiences. Despair is a terrible emotion. Is there any hope for me? I asked myself frequently. After winter break, I had a constant feeling that life wasn’t worth living anymore. Would I ever find love? Or at the very least someone to share part of my life? Was it too much to ask? Then one afternoon, as I was preparing for my last class of the day, I spied the bottle. Sleeping pills that I was prescribed when I had difficulty falling asleep and it was more than half full.
“That should do the trick…” I said aloud in the otherwise quiet room.
I picked up the container and turned it round and round in my hand as tears streamed down my face. The crushing rejection of high school had followed me to Pennsylvania, and it created an overwhelming desire to just end it all. I honestly felt that no one would miss me. My parents would find comfort in the bible. I wanted to go to God and find solace in his arms. No matter what my mother said, I firmly believed that he would accept me because he created me. I stared at those pills for the longest time but deep in my heart I knew it was wrong. I had to live, somehow find a way forward and deal with the pain. But it wasn’t going to be easy, and my next dilemma proved it. Determined, I went to the student gym and a very vigorous workout. When I looked at the clock, I saw I had only ten minutes to go across campus to my last class and I didn’t even have time to shower. I flew out the front door, down the steps and then as if in slow motion, flying up in the air. I landed on my back and my head cracked very hard on the pavement. Initially, I saw stars and was very wonky, starting to lose consciousness.
“Jesus, Jamie. Look what you did!” I heard an unfamiliar voice say.
A beatific face with lustrous blond hair looked down at me with deep concern.
“I’m so sorry, are you ok?”
My brain felt like it was stuffed with cotton candy.
“Are you an angel?” I asked and lost consciousness.
For what seemed like a long time, I dreamt I was in heaven, surrounded by a beautiful white light. Everything was peaceful and serene. I never wanted to wake up, but something kept pulling me back from the light. When I groggily woke, I saw a beautiful girl with lustrous blond hair curled up in a chair next to me, asleep. She looked familiar, like an angel. Was I in heaven? I stared at her for the longest time, firm in my belief that she was an angel. The room was white, and a nurse dressed in white came into the room and saw that my eyes were open. They have nurses in heaven, I thought to myself. She gently shook the angel’s shoulder.
The angel stretched and smiled at me.
“I think she’s going to be ok…” the nurse angel said to her.
“Are you an angel?” I asked with all sincerity.
The angel blushed.
“No, I’m not.”
I started to panic. Was I in the other place? Maybe I was in Satan’s lair.
“Am, I in…Hell? Please tell me.” I started to cry.
The smiling angel stood next to me and took my hand.
“Of course not. You’re in Centre County General and yer gonna be ok. My name is Jamie Harmon.”
“Angels have names in heaven?”
“Natalie, you’re not in heaven but very much alive.”
“How do you know my name?”
“It was on your driver’s license in your backpack.”
Suddenly, it all came roaring back, the gym, the stairs and hitting my head. I openly sobbed. Then I saw Jamie the angel crying, and an overpowering sense of fatigue enveloped me. I shut my travesti istanbul eyes but could hear everything acutely.
“Don’t be upset, she has a bad concussion, but she’ll gradually become aware of her surroundings.”
“I can’t leave her side, I’m the reason she’s here, and I feel responsible for her welfare.” She spoke the words soaked with tears.
“You have a good heart but don’t worry, I be here all night. But if you want to stay its perfectly fine. I’ll order some food from the cafeteria for you.”
I don’t know how long I was out, but the room was brighter. Jamie the angel was in the chair, reading a book.
“Jamie? My guardian angel?”
“Yes?” Hey, how are you feeling?”
“I’m kinda hungry. Is there anything to eat in heaven?”
“I’ll ring for the nurse.”
The angel told the nurse angel I was hungry.
“That’s a good sign, I’ll see what the doctor will allow.”
Jamie, the angel stood next to my bed holding my hand.
“Please try to rest. The nurse said you’ll be here for a few days.”
“I only have a few days in heaven?” I know I sounded disappointed.
“She’s still out of it but gradually she’ll return to normal.”
“Ooh, my head hurts…”
“Ms. Collins, I’ll bring you something for the headache. Ok?”
“Thank you, nurse angel…”
“Wow, she’s really out of it.” Jamie the angel said with deep concern.
Jamie sat in the chair next to the bed and refused to let go of my hand.
“You’re very beautiful for an angel.”
I watched her blush. Hour by hour the wonkiness receded. Jamie was by my side and only left to attend classes. I gave her my class list and she visited my professors, gathering the assignments that needed to be completed. We really got to know each other. Jamie was from Texas and was on the girl’s swim team. A freshman like me, she found the campus large and intimidating. When I shared my personal information, I purposely left out any reference to being a lesbian or my troubles in senior year. We had similar taste in music, mostly hard rock and roll, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd, to name a few. Of course, we both loved pizza. Jamie refreshed part of my soul, her laughter, wit, and intelligence was just what the doctor ordered. One afternoon, I was sleeping when the nurse who was on duty the day I was brought in, came in the room and was talking to Jamie. I was in a twilight state but could hear everything perfectly.
“Thank you for being here. Ms. Collins has made an excellent recovery after a rather nasty concussion. Your presence has made a world of difference.”
I heard Jamie reply humbly. Then she said something that floored me.
“I want to be her friend…I feel like she needs a friend, I don’t know why but I just do.”
“There are truly good people out in the world, and you are one of them. You be her friend if that’s how you feel.”
Nothing more was said, and my heart soared but when she found out I was a lesbian, what would happen then? I pushed it to the side of my mind because in a short period of time I felt as close to Jamie as I had to Diane. Gradually, I was my old self again but filled with the pain and sorrow over my life. I could be very moody when Jamie was around and how she tolerated it I’ll never know. Finally, she had enough,
“Hey, why the long face all the time? You look like you lost your best friend.”
Immediately, images of Diane invaded my skull and I burst into tears.
Jamie rushed to hold me.
“Please tell me what’s wrong?”
“I, ah…I don’t know if I should…I don’t want to lose you as a friend.” I said in hiccupping sobs.
“Why, I’m your friend Natalie and nothing is going to change that unless you tell me yer a mass murderer or something…
I laughed but it was like the dam burst and for the first time, I poured my heart out to a girl I barely knew. I eventually stopped, but when I talked about the sleeping pills, she had a grave look on her face.
“Natalie Collins, you must promise me you’ll never do anything stupid to end your life. Talk to me first, no matter how bad it is! Promise me and pinky swear?”
“Yes.” I answered in a shaky voice.
I didn’t know how to pinky swear but Jamie showed me and told me it had origins in Japan or Asia.
“Feel better?” she asked
“You don’t hate me too?”
Jamie laughed. Why on god’s green earth would I hate you?”
“I mean, aren’t you afraid to be around me?”
My new friend belly laughed. The nurse brought my lunch tray in, and I sat up to eat.
“While your occupied there I’ll tell you a story. I hail from a town near San Antonio called Fredericksburg. South Texas can be hot as hell and dry most of the year. I was a standout star on my high school swim team, but I had a dark secret that I would never tell another soul. The torture of knowing that you’re different than the girls around you can be soul crushing. For the longest time, I thought something was wrong with me. During my senior year I felt so alone and depressed. My art teacher, Miss Wilson saw that I was usually down in the mouth when I was in her class. She was a kindly soul and one day she asked me what was wrong. I poured my heart out to her and she listened without any judgement. Miss Wilson was ahead of her time and explained to me that it wasn’t some disease that could be cured. She said God made us this way and we must accept what we are. I discovered that she was very religious, and it was an eye opener.”
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