“Oh my god, she’s dead.” Becky is screaming. Heat rushing, heart pounding, insanity. A paramedic pushes the stroller with Amelia’s body, lain peacefully like a fallen angel, still, limp, and lifeless. “Ma’am, please step aside.”
“Please, just let me see her, please.” Becky’s voice quivers in hysteria. A tall young paramedic moves toward her, “Hey Rebecca, right? Mind if we talk?” With guiding arms and outstretched hands, he motions for her to walk to follow him down the hall. “Steve?” A momentary visage of confusion fleets around her face, then vanishes. “Oh right, I forgot you volunteered as an emergency medical technician. Never seen you in action before…” Her voice trails off as she is reminded of the situation, so present and real that it feels imaginary, like a movie scene gone wrong. But there is no rewind, pause, or power off.
“Yeah, luckily the worst we usually get on campus are crazy drunks from frat parties.” He attempts a wry smile that manifests into a grimace, the knot between his thick brows seems permanently etched on his profile. “I just wanted to let you know that Amelia’s not dead. We’re not sure what’s wrong with her, her heartbeat’s normal, breathing unimpaired, great physical condition of course,” Steve pauses, and moves his feet to redistributes his body weight, and feels a rush of heat, “But, er, she’s unresponsive. Not making eye contact, no speech. We’ve never seen anything like it before.” Relieved, Becky runs her hands down her hair and lets out a sigh. “She’s alive. Okay. So she’ll be fine. She’s going to be fine, right?” Steve’s profile tenses as he decides on the most realistic, yet hopeful answer. “We will try our best.”
A week passes, and Becky visits Amelia every day, 7:30 a.m. before class and 7:00 p.m. after dinner. Most visits, Steve joins her, quietly entering the room, deep in thought, emanating a concerned, yet calm presence, which Becky comes to appreciate.
“Hey, anything?” Steve’s voice is low, soothing, slightly scratchy, and ever-hopeful.
“No.” It is their usual exchange, as both students shift uncomfortably in their chairs and stare at the body of Amelia, sitting upright with smooth, pale skin, vacant light blue eyes, and straight light brown hair falling to a delicate collarbone, alive and present, yet so empty.
“Hey Amelia, remember this? My god we were such idiots as freshmen,” Becky lifts a photo to Amelia’s face. Every day she has attempted a different project in their mission to “bring back Amelia.”
Monday was music: The Beetles, The Smiths, Kesha, The Wombats, Eminem, Carrie Underwood, flooded the hospital hall, stirring memories in every patient but the one for which it was intended. Tuesday was food: grapes and yogurt, soft pretzals, mint chocolate chip ice cream, which ended up chewed and swallowed by the unresponsive body, the rest of the ice cream shared amongst Becky and Steve.
“Yum, good ice cream,” Steve had said. Becky shrugged, feeling more defeated with every thick, decadent mouthful. But she did not give up; in fact, she tried even harder. Wednesday was clothing, Thursday was Amelia’s insane collection of mugs, Friday was ‘bring Amelia’s swim team’, Saturday was ‘bring every student Amelia knew’ (an exhausting endeavor), and today, Becky had a stack of photos on her lap, each intended to stimulate a specific memory.
“Oh I forgot about this one, you guys look so cute.” Becky showed Steve a photo of him and Amelia sharing a plate of pasta. “I didn’t know you kept that,” Steve said, turning his head away. “I didn’t, Amelia did,” Becky said, looking at Steve thoughtfully. “She took it pretty hard, you know.”
“Well I did too, but we just weren’t working out. It was a mutual thing though, no hard feelings.” Steve had taken the picture, and was twirling it in his hand, reminiscing about that night at the Italian restaurant when he and Amelia were still fresh under love’s strong grasp. It was her laugh, he concluded. Her laugh that did the trick. She had a tendency to snort when laughing; every snort made him crazier about her.
“Steve?” Becky touches his arm gently. “Hmm what’s up?” He suddenly awakens from his thoughts.
“What are we going to do? Her parents are coming up next weekend. The doctors don’t know what’s wrong, no physical problem, nothing. She’s not showing signs of a mental disorder per-say,” her voice gets higher and more strained with every word, “We have to do something, but the question is, what?”
Steve presses his hands against his forehead for a moment, and suddenly turns toward Becky with an intent, hardened gaze. “There has to be something that triggered this whole, er, episode. We have to find the trigger.”
With this idea in mind, their hearts welled with newfound hope.