Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prompt 2.8.1 D. Coffee this bad could only have been served in.../TBS

Coffee this bad could only have been served in a hospital, he was sure of it.   Despite that fact he found himself taking yet another sip before returning his attention to the chart that sat on the desk in front of him. How much longer was Romano going to keep this power struggle with Weaver up?  It wasn't like either of them were going to change how they did things and in the meantime it seemed the only ones suffering were the patients because of the short staffing, and him, because of having to take on her shifts in addition to his own. The thought was not one that was a welcome one,  and without thinking he downed another swallow of the coffee from the cup sitting beside the chart he was working on. He'd had worse, and what were his alternatives? Sure, he could make the trip across the street to Doc Magoos, or he could make a fresh pot, but, both would mean getting up, and the truth was he was far too tired to put that much effort into it.  It wasn't like the coffee was going to kill him. 

He took another sip, only to swipe his tongue across his teeth as he finished, it might however strip the enamel off his teeth if he drank too many cups.  The thought lingered only as long as it took for him to release a breath and force his attention back onto the chart in front of him. Funny how bad coffee and hospitals seemed to go hand in hand no matter where you were, it had to be one of the world's great conspiracies. The thought prompted a slight rumble of suppressed laughter before it was washed away with another swallow of the dark brew. He was losing it, too many shifts in too few days, it was time for Weaver and Romano to make peace before he went completely insane.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Week 7.3. If we break up, it will probably be because.../Couples Therapy

If we break up, it will probably be because...

It would be easy to say it was all my fault, or it was all her fault, but, the truth is, we both share blame in how we have reached the place we are now at. We made promises to each other before we married, promises we told ourselves we would keep, promises we've both failed at.

I know that my being gone put a strain on things. I know that I had told her  that we would raise Joe together and by going back to Croatia when I did, and leaving her alone I broke that promise. In my defense, I didn't realize how sick my father really was or I would have insisted Abby and Joe go with me, even if it meant delaying my trip until Joe's passport had arrived. I never meant to stay as long as I did, but, once I was there, I couldn't abandon my father, not with the state his health was in. I'm sorry if Abby felt I had deserted her, or that my choosing my father over her made her less important, I never meant it to be like that.

On Abby's side, I couldn't have known my being gone would cause her to start drinking again, but, worse then that, I couldn't know that she would betray our vows by sleeping with her boss. Yes, I know she was drunk and she says she doesn't remember what happened that night, I've been drunk and I know what can happen. I don't want my marriage to fail, I won't give up my son, so, I'm trying to come to terms with this betrayal, and I hope she can find a way to look past the mistakes I've made. I take my wedding vows very seriously,  I've lost one family, I don't want to lose another, no, I won't lose another.

Prompt 224 Mad/Theatrical Muse

I don't know that anyone ever wants to admit that they are capable of violence of any kind, let alone being able to take a life, but, the truth is, when pushed far enough, it can happen.  For me it happened not when I thought it would, but, at a time when I least expected it.  You see, I know I would willingly have resorted to any means necessary, regardless of my own fate, if it would have guaranteed the deaths of those who had taken my family from me. What I didn't know, was that I was capable of taking a life with my bare hands with little or no warning for far less.

It came out of no where, or should I say he did, a mugger who attacked without knowing that his act would be one of his last.  I was struck first, a lead pipe to the back of my head sent me to the ground, when I regained consciousness all I saw was him struggling with Abby and I knew I had to save her.  I guess I went mad, or maybe I thought to protect her in the way I hadn't been able to protect my own family.  I grabbed him, roughly pulling him off of her before I began repeatedly slamming his head into the pavement.  I lost track of how many times I picked him up, how many times he hit the concrete.  I don't even remember hearing Abby's cries for me to stop. All I could see was anger at what he had done, and then somehow I heard her, but too late for him.

He was barely alive when the ambulance arrived, his skull was shattered, there was nothing anyone could do, and then it was all over.  I'd killed a man, and they were worried about a gash on the back of my head, I felt sick.  The police said my actions were justified, and no charges would be filed for the man's death.  He'd gotten what he deserved others would say, but, his blood was on my hands. I had to live with my actions, I had to live with my rage, and I had to wonder when the madness might surface again.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Prompt 6.2 Young love/Couples Therapy

When Abby and I broke up the first time we were together, she said I was married to a ghost, and in some ways I suppose she was right, maybe she's still right, even after all these years.

Danijela and I met when I was 18 and she was barely 16.  For me, it was love at first sight, though I have to confess that it took me better then a week to work up the courage to even talk to her. As we discovered our shared interests, what I had known from the start, soon became clear to her as well, and we knew that marriage was the inevitable next step for us. Because of her age, we waited two years to marry, and because she was very religious, we were both virgins when we consummated our vows on our wedding night. I'm not sure what I expected married life to be like, but, I know that I will always treasure that handful of years I had with Danijela for what they gave to me.  In the five years we shared as man and wife, I felt as if I had discovered a piece of myself that I had not until that time known I was missing. We were two halves of the same coin and if we thought we were happy when it was just the two of us, we became ecstatic when we welcomed first our daughter, Jasna, and then three years later our son, Marko. 

They always say that good things never last, and I wish I could say I had proof that it wasn't true, but, the fact is, that God must have decided that we were far too happy and in a moment of spite he stole everything that gave me joy away from me.  On that winter's day in 1991, when that mortar struck our apartment, our son died instantly, only I escaped unharmed as I'd been out to the market.  Arriving home, I found my baby boy buried in the rubble of what had been our happy home. I found my wife and daughter barely clinging to life, and over the long hours that followed I watched both of them die as well. Far more died on that winter day in 1991 then just my family though, for I'd begged God it intercede, I screamed until my throat was raw for someone, anyone to come to our aid, and no one came.  I lost my family that day, but, I also lost my faith, I lost my reason for living, and for far too many years I was sure I would never find any of them again.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Prompt 15: Mun Prompt on Celibacy/Muse Erotica

If your muse had to be celibate, completely, for a year, would you still be able to write them and not have them go completely mad or silent?

Absolutely, Luka is one of those muses who has such a complex background as well as current storyline that I can pull from many places without having to focus on the sexual aspects of any of his relationships. In my mind, there was a considerable period of time between when his first wife, Danijela, died, and when he entered into his next relationship which involved any kind of sexual intimacy. While it was never openly stated, I always felt that Carol was the first woman he allowed himself to have any kind of feelings for following Danijela's death, and even then, there was never anything sexual between them. It was only when he began seeing Abby almost a year later that we saw any evidence of him giving into any kind of sexual urges and it was she who initiated the first act. To put this into better perspective and to show just how little importance this seemed to have in his life, this happened some 9 years after the death of his wife and children. This is something that was made even more dramatic when two years later Luka went through a PTSD break and fell into a downward spiral that resulted in him abusing alcohol and engaging in sex with numerous partners, including prostitutes. With the exception of this short period of "living fast" Luka actually has only had 3 relationships in the 16 since he lost his family, and one of those resulted in his second marriage and a new son.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Prompt 223: "I swear I didn't put those..."/TM

"I swear I didn't put those who came in after Curtis Ames before him because I saw them as somehow more important than he was, though to him it may have seemed that way. Part of being an Attending is being able to see past the individual, and to see only the symptoms that brought them into the ER. I would love to have the luxury of being able to give unlimited time to each patient, to be able to be at their bedside within seconds of any call they make, but, the reality is that's impossible.

On most shifts I'm responsible for overseeing the treatment of upwards to 40 or more patients, as well as the Residents, Med Students, and Nursing Staff who are looking after them. In this instance, I recommended we admit Curtis Ames for observation and treatment, he refused, as a secondary course of action he was monitored in the ER where he suffered his stroke. At that time he was advised on a course of treatment that might have reversed the damage the stroke had done, he refused that as well. Do I regret what happened to him? Of course I do, but, I don't see what we could have done to prevent what happened."

As he finished Luka turned toward the jury for the first time since he had begun speaking. It was next to impossible to know how they would interpret his testimony, but, there was nothing he could do about it now. No, now, it was the Prosecution's turn to ask their questions.

Prompt 2.8.3 I: Scar/TBS

"Luka, how did you get this scar?" The question had been an innocent one, asked as he and Abby had shared the intimacy of post coital drowsiness.  She'd been curled alongside him at the time, trailing her fingers along his skin as if she were trying to memorize every detail with her touch.  When she had reached the dimpled imperfection in his thigh she had paused, and he knew he would never forget the furrowing of her brow as she rose up on her arm so she could see with her eyes what her fingers had first discovered.

"It looks like a bullet wound." Even as she identified it she'd dared him to prove her wrong.

"It is...don't." He'd pushed her hand away then, and something in his tone had warned her against asking more about it. She hadn't heeded the warning though, and despite his words she had persisted.

"How did it happen? Luka, please, tell me." She lowered herself back to rest on his chest, thinking to make it easier for him to talk if he were not forced to face her directly.

"Did it happen during the war? The question came even more quietly, as if she somehow thought that alone might make it easier for him to explain.

"Yes." Luka's voice held a finality to it as he offered the confirmation, and she found herself wondering if he wouldn't have fled the bed if it weren't for the fact that her weight still held him there.

"Will you tell me about it?" She wasn't sure why she didn't let it go, though his sigh clearly revealed his patience was almost at it's end.

"There's nothing to tell, Abby, I was fleeing Vukovar, I was shot.  Now let it go." Sliding out from under her he made his way to the bathroom without saying anything more, as the door clicked closed behind him she realized too late that she'd pushed him too hard.  One day she would learn, one day.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

Prompt 2.7.1 B. What is the one thing you cannot forgive? Version 2

(Yes, I know I already posted on this once, but, Luka demanded he have a chance to make amends on one other situation that weighs heavy on him despite the number of years that have passed since it's occurrence.)

How do I begin to ask forgiveness for actions that ultimately resulted in the ending of three lives? It seems impossible to consider but, that's exactly what I'm doing after all these years. It's taken me over 16 years to realize that I cannot continue to hold onto the guilt over mistakes I made before I could truly understand the consequences of my actions. I look back over my life now, all that I have been through, the good and the bad, and I realize just how naive Danijela and I were.

From the moment I saw Danijela in that Zagreb coffeehouse, I knew there was something about her that made her different about every other girl I'd been around.  Once I worked up the courage to introduce myself, and actually began talking to her, I realized just how right I was. Almost two years passed between that first day and the one in which we became man and wife, and while we might have thought we knew everything we could know about each other, there are times where I wondered if we knew anything at all. Despite our differences, and the hardships we both knew would come while I was in school, within 9 months of our marriage, we welcomed our first child, a daughter.

The next few years were happy ones for us, we had our daughter, the support of our families, and friends, and of course I still had classes as well as work to keep me busy.  Life for us wasn't easy, we were never rich, and at times we struggled, but, we were always happy. When it was learned that my approaching residency would mean moving to Vukovar we found ourselves filled with mixed emotions.  For both of us, this would prove to be the first time we would find any real distance between us and our families, and almost as quickly, Danijela learned that she was once again pregnant. We both worried about being so far away from home, so far from those we loved at a time such as that, but we knew too, that we had no choice, and 9 months later, we welcomed our son into our growing family. 

It would be easy to say that life fell into a routine for us, and I suppose in a way it did, for both Danijela and I loved parenting and when I wasn't working, we wanted nothing more then to spend time with our children.  If we had any regrets during that time, it was only that we were so far away from our families, and our tight finances made visits home few and far between.

In the almost 16 years since that fateful day I've thought often about how life was for us then.  I've looked back with fondness on all of those cherished happy times, the birthdays, celebrations with our families.  I've woke drenched in sweat when during sleep I found myself trapped in the nightmare of that final day, unable to change it's outcome. I look back now on the conversations Danijela and I had over those first days and weeks on the War and I wonder how we couldn't have seen what seems so clear now.  I wonder why I didn't force her to take the children and go to our parents, and then I realize that her own stubbornness would never have allowed for it.  Even now, as I ask for forgiveness for the choices we made together, I realize I should have put Danijela and our children before my residency, and it's that above all else that I ask forgiveness for most.  Nothing seems more important now than her knowing that even while I might not have acted as if it were the case, I would have given my life to save theirs.  So are the mistakes of our youth, and as I ask now for forgiveness of those choices we made together so many years ago. I know I cannot undo them, and those memories, as with all the others I hold close, for they are all I have left of those who are with me no more.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Prompt 28.6: Bishop/Writers Muses

I don't know that I ever truly questioned my decision to turn my back on my faith until I met Bishop Stewart.  The Church had played a large part in both Danijela's and my upbringing, and it was only natural that we would carry that into our children's lives.  When I lost my family, I felt betrayed by God.  I blamed him for taking my family from me, and the day I laid them to the rest was the day I walked away from the Church.

Over the years since, both my father and brother had tried to convince me that I was wrong. Oh yes, they'd tried to coax me back, explaining how God had a reason for everything that happened, and how I couldn't possibly hold him responsible for the violence of war.  They questioned how I could blame him for deaths caused by people little different then them or I.  And of course, there was that greatest of all excuses, the one produced when all others fail, how could he possibly be everywhere at once?  It didn't matter how much they talked, how much they prayed for me to see the light, I refused to listen, my family was gone, my life was over, and nothing they could say could undo that.

When I came to the United States I tucked my abandoned faith away with all those other parts of myself that I no longer wanted to acknowledge.  No one knew me, I could be anyone I wanted to be, and when people got too close, I did what soon came to be too easy, I ran away. Why I didn't run away after my first encounter with Bishop Stewart I'll never know.  Almost from the moment I began treating him something happened to connect me to him in a way that even now can't explain.  He saw through me in a way no one else ever had, and without my realizing it, from those very first visits he began guiding me back.

I never told Abby, but, as concerned as I was about the Bishop's health, I found myself dreading the thought of once more entering a Catholic Church after so many years away.  Then, once I was in the Rectory, and seeing the state he was in, listening to his story, hearing of his own lapse of faith.  If someone like him could have doubts, I wasn't sure what to think.  Somehow, without knowing it, the Bishop had found a way to set in motion my way back, even if I still didn't quite know it. 

I honestly believe that it wasn't until that moment where he offered to hear my confession that I fully accepted what he was offering me.  I remember his words to me, and he was so right, I had carried the weight of my guilt for so long, and I didn't know how to free myself of it.  I don't even remember the last time I had fully told the story of that fateful day, or when I had allowed myself to remember it in such detail without using it as a reason for blaming myself for my failures.  I only know that he allowed me to not just relieve myself of the guilt I'd carried since the day I'd lost my family, but, he gave me hope for the future, something I didn't believe existed. How do you thank someone for a gift such as that?  How do you thank someone for giving you back your life?



Sunday, March 16, 2008

Prompt 2.7.1 B. What is the one thing you cannot forgive? /TBS

When I first learned that my father was ill, there was no question that I would need to return to Croatia.  Of course in an ideal situation, I would have had Abby and Joe go with me, but that was impossible, there wasn't time, at least not at first.  Without knowing how severe Tata's condition was, or what he would be needing as far as tests and treatment, it seemed unfair to ask Abby to put her life on hold and to potentially sit in a hospital for days on end with Joe while Niko and I sat with our father. In the end, the decision was made that I would go back to Croatia alone, and with luck, maybe I could convince my father to return to the States for his treatment.

So much for good intentions.  My initial stay in Croatia with my father lasted almost six months as we learned that his condition was far more grave than any of us initially thought.  Despite my attempts, I couldn't convince my father to leave Croatia while he was under-going treatment, and between over-seeing his care, complications that arose from the treatment, and then the arrangements for his rehabilitation, time seemed to just get away from us.

When it seemed that Tata's health had stabilized I jumped at the chance to return home to Abby and Joe, and as a surprise I brought my brother Niko with me. For far too many years we had barely spoken, but, our father's illness had offered us a way to repair the rift between and now was my chance to introduce him to my new family.  The family he had always told me I would one day have, even while I refused to believe him. I wasn't sure how long I'd be staying, and while I missed them while I was away from them, what I wanted most was to finally take my family home to meet my father. Unfortunately, that never happened, and before anything could be done, the call we had dreaded most came, Tata was gone.

How do I begin to forgive myself for all the years I wasted wallowing in my own grief?  How do I forgive myself for not realizing that his grief was just as great, if not greater for he had not only lost a daughter and two grand-children, but, surely to him, he had lost his son as well?  How now, do I begin to forgive myself of denying him the chance in his final months to know his new grandson, and daughter?  To know the family he had only dreamed would ever become a reality? How could I be so selfish?  I'm sorry Tata.



Friday, March 14, 2008

Prompt 222:Sleeping on the couch./Theatrical Muse

A movie...some old sitcom...a comedian...another sitcom...and still another movie, my evenings have fallen into a predictable routine since Sam and Alex moved out. I stop at some random take-out restaurant on the way home, or have dinner delivered by another equally forgettable. I wonder some nights why I bother, I rarely have an appetite anymore, and generally waste more then half of whatever I've decided on.

A DIY program...another on cooking...a show on house hunting...ghost hunters...a football match...I flip through the channels before I finally settle on an older western I know I've seen far too many times before. I had forgotten how lonely it could be, how comfortable I had become having a sense of family around me again.

I'm determined not to fall back into those habits that had caused me so many problems before I went to the Congo, and though Valerie's number is tempting me, I'm resisting the urge to pick up the phone and call her. No, I can't go back to that dark place, and instead I find myself reaching for cigarettes and first one beer, then another, chain smoking, and drinking as the movie plays in the background.

In the early stages of the night my mind is too active and it replays over and over all of the mistakes I've made, taunts me with all of the things I should have done to make things work between Sam and I. As the alcohol works it's way through my system though, that eventually changes, and instead of blame comes the longing for what could have been, and the sense of loss. Oh, how I hate that stage of the night, and it only prompts me to drink even more, carrying me closer to the final stage. It's then that the fatigue slowly wraps itself around me like a blanket, bringing me the comfort I can't seem to find anywhere else, and not long after comes sleep.

I awake with the morning light, stiff from having spent yet another night sleeping on the couch, and I wonder how long will it take me to find my way out this time? Even as I ask myself the question I know the answer isn't readily there, and if the chance arose I would welcome Sam and Alex back without any hesitation at all. From the moment Jasna was born I knew I was meant to be a father, and even though Alex wasn't mine, it feels like I've lost a part of myself now that he's gone. I just hope, that despite whatever differences might have existed between Sam and I that made her decide that we couldn't remain together, they don't force an end to the relationship that Alex and I have built. I'm just not sure I could handle that loss, and I know I don't want to take it away from him. I don't want to hurt him.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prompt 27.3 I Walk Alone by KISS/Writers Muses

I Walk Alone

by N/A
I look deep inside of me
there's a place but its not plain to see
I belong where no on else can be

Searching for myself again
Here I'm all alone and when
I Close my eyes -- no one else can see

I Walk Alone, can't you see
I don't belong, let me be
Everything I dreamed of being -- is me
And I got myself to lean on,
got both my feet on the ground

And you don't know me,
I don't know me
I can't see you ,
you can't see me
close my eyes and leave the world behind.

So I got no heart, got no home
Got no somewhere I belong
I don't know if everything is just fine

I Walk Alone, can't you see
I don¹t belong, let me be
Everything I dreamed of being
and I don't belong, can't you see
I Walk Alone, let me be
Everything I dreamed of being -- is me
And I got myself to lean on,
got both my feet on the ground

So I got no heart and I got no home
And I got no somewhere I belong
I don't know if -- everything is just.....

And I got myself to lean on,
got both my feet on the ground
And I got myself to lean on,
got both my feet on the ground

And I look deep inside of me
There's a place but it's not plain to see
where I belong where no one else can be

And I'm searching for myself again
And here I'm all alone and when
I close my eyes and no on else can see

Is it possible that I want too much? Carol, Abby, and now Sam...maybe it isn't possible to have again what I once had with Danijela, maybe, my hopes for again becoming a father are dreams never again to be fulfilled. How many times can I continue to put myself out there, make myself vulnerable to the pain that seems destined to come. Open myself up in the hope that maybe this time things will be different? Maybe it's time to leave again. Maybe it's time to me to pack things up and start over. I've allowed too many here to see my weaknesses and what have I gained from it? More pain? More loneliness?

I look back on the years I spent alone after Danijela's death, the emptiness I felt, and I remember wondering if I would ever find someone like her. Even as I was thinking that though, I found something holding me back and I knew that to allow someone in, I had to expose the past I had become so adept at hiding, and I don't think I was ready for that. I tried with Carol. In those early months I worked at County, she was the only one who knew the secrets of my past. Only with her did I dare share the story of my past, that carefully hidden memory of that fateful day in Vukovar when I lost Danijela and our children. I should have realized that what I thought might be possible between us could never really happen, and as much as Carol was trying to make it on her own, her heart belonged to another as mine once had. If my sight hadn't been clouded by my growing feelings for the twins, and for Carol, I'm sure I would have realized that what we were sharing wasn't love. If anything, it was more a common bond of loss, for we both were still grieving for those no longer with us and the only difference between us was that in the end she was able to go to hers where mine was gone forever.

I know it was my lingering feelings for Danijela that stood between Abby and I, and maybe too the fact that we didn't really talk. We tried, and I think that while we both would have liked for there to have been some way to make things work, the truth was, neither of us was ready for that to happen. If anything, the way we broke up showed us that better than anything else could have. I'll forever regret the words I threw at Abby that night, and I'm glad to say we have moved past them and found our way back into a friendship, I hope the same will be true for things with Sam in time. If it was difficult ending things with Carol, it was worse with Sam if only because I had come to have such strong feelings for Alex. As much as I loved Sam, I think the feelings I held for Alex ran even deeper, and they drew on that part of me that had grieved the loss of Carol's twins. As was the case with Abby though, so it was with Sam, and I found myself unable, or maybe unwilling to share the parts of my past that she seemed to think she needed to know. Worse then that though were our differences on what we wanted in a family and as much as I wanted more children, she knew she did not. In the end, all she could do was walk away.

So, here I am, back where I was so many years ago, alone, lonely, and wondering what the future has in store for me. Maybe it's time for me to move on, I have to question my decision to stay at times, especially with all that has happened, but, then I see Abby, and I wonder, maybe it's worth giving it another try...

March Prompt 3) State of confusion/Ineffable Fandom

When Abby told me that she had relapsed I excepted that a portion of the responsibility for that should rest on my shoulders. When we spoke our vows we agreed to be there for each other and yet, here had come a time when clearly, neither of us had been there for the other at a time when both should have been.

In an ideal world when I first received the news of my father's illness I should have taken both my wife and my son back with me to Croatia to be with him. I had no idea at the time how severe my father's illness was, I had no indication of what might be required of me, but, I do know it was unfair of me to just up and leave Abby and Joe alone, especially so soon in our marriage.

I wonder too if part of my guilt in having left Abby and Joe behind is in knowing that my father never had a chance to meet my wife, or his grandson. If I mourned the loss of my first wife and children openly, my father did the same privately, it was simply the kind of man he was. The rift that their death's had caused between my brother and I was one that I thought would never heal, and I think that too was something that my father agonized over.

In those first months of being alone in Croatia with my father and brother I found we were finally able to resolve many of the differences that had been built up over the years of separation. In a way, it was as if my father's illness made us realize just how important the ties between us were, and I suppose that also made me realize just how much I missed Abby and Joe.

There are never any easy choices in life it seems and when I made the decision to remain at my father's side I think I realized it could cause problems between Abby and I. I knew though that whatever difficulties might come out of my decision, Abby and I would have time to work through them. That it was not something I would have enough of with my father became clear when Niko and I returned to Chicago.

I should have realized that it was too risky for us to leave him, but, I missed Abby and Joe, I guess too that I wanted to share my new life with my brother. After all those years of my telling him I would never find anyone who made me feel like Danijela did, after all those years of being a father without a child, everything was falling into place, or so I thought, if only I had realized what was waiting for us in Chicago. If only we had known that the good-byes we had said to our father were the last we would ever say to him.

I can only hope that these things, like those before can be resolved, that all that is wrong can be made right. At the moment all I can do is reassure Abby that we will be here for her when her treatment is finished, and once we are reunited, then, our work as a family can begin.

Monday, March 10, 2008

March Prompt 006: Marx Quote/Creative Muses

"I've had a wonderful time, but this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx


Despite the stifling heat, Luka still found himself shivering uncontrollably, and in the silence of the tiny hut, the sound of his chattering teeth seemed almost deafening to his ears. Even in his present condition he recognized the danger of his untreated malaria, but, what could he do? There was no chance of getting the medicine he needed, and even if he could, anything he did get would need to go to his patients. Patients, patient, only one was left, Chance, the little girl and her mother were the only ones left. He had to remember. In those rare moments of awareness he found himself struggling to hold onto the details of those he knew he should be taking care of. The little girl was depending on him, and as brave a face as she managed to put forth, there were far too many times he was sure he heard her cries in the darkness.


Always thirsty. He wasn't going to make it, he was sure of it and as if to confirm that he found his moments of lucidity lessening. Even now, as Sakima tried to coax him to take a few sips of water, or even more importantly a swallow or two of the porridge, he was finding it hard to comply. Under other circumstances he would have recognized the symptoms he was exhibiting, the symptoms that he had seen far too often in the short time he had been in the Congo, but, it was too late for him.

"He's alive. Luka." Hearing Carter's voice, then Gillians seemed only to confirm how close to death he was, and he opened his eyes only to close them again without really seeing them. He hadn't expected to see them again, but, Danijela she had already begun calling him to her, and he wanted so badly to go to her, he didn't want to decide between them.

When he awoke again he knew immediately that something was different. He'd laid on that dirt floor for too many days not to notice the softness of the mattress that he now laid on, he'd breathed stale air too many days not to notice it's absence now. Even with noticing those changes he found it hard to accept that it might be real. With no one around yet to confirm things, he was sure the fever was distorting his reality, taunting him with things he could no longer have.

"You're awake." Gillian's voice was quiet as she caughthis movement on the cot. Dipping a washcloth in the basin of water at his bedside she squeezed the excess off before wiping the sweat from his face. As he seemed to actually focus on her for the first time since his arrival she couldn't help but smile.

"Hi." She issued the simple greeting as she reached for a cup of water on the table beside his bed.

"How about something to drink?" Supporting his head she coaxed him into taking several sips before replacing the cup on the table.

"Gillian?" His voice cracked from disuse.

"You're safe, Luka, Chance and Sakima are here too." She offered the information before he could ask, seeming to know what his first concerns might be.

"Patrique." He whispered the Congalese man's name quietly, needing to share the news of his sacrifice.

"We know, we brought him back with us." Gillian found herself rubbing his arm as she filled him in.

"I'm so sorry, Luka." She was finding it so hard to look at him, and she wondered if her own guilt at leaving them behind wasn't partly to blame.

"He saved my life, they all did. him, Sakima, they both were willing to put my life before theirs, how do I thank them for that?" The question was one he knew the nurse couldn't possibly have an answer for, but, he still found himself asking it.

"What happens now?" He pulled his eyes away from her as he spoke.

"You go home and get well, and you go on with your life." Gillian watched his face, sensing there was more to the question then what he had asked.

"How do I go back, how do I forget this?" His words held a touch of fear in them.

"You go back because you have to, we all do, but you never forget, and that's why we keep coming back, it's why you'll come back, even after this. Now, you need to rest." As she finished speaking Gillian offered Luka another sip of water before kissing him.

"You can't focus on this or you'll never come back, but, if you remember Chance, and the future she will have because of you, and all of those like her, those are the memories that will give you the strength you need to keep coming back. Those are the memories that keep us all coming back."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Prompt 221: Justice Quote/Theatrical Muse Challenge

"Never pray for justice, because you might get some."
Margaret Atwood.

Every doctor wants to believe that they are providing the best possible care to every patient they see, but, the truth is, that isn't always the case. When I first saw Curtis Ames I didn't see his condition as that serious, and I certainly never thought it would reach the state it eventually did. I did feel it warranted observation however, but, when I suggested admission to the hospital to Mr. Ames, he refused. Knowing that he still needed to undergo treatment that could not be done with him as an out-patient I was forced to keep him in the Emergency Room so his condition could be monitored. During the time of his treatment I was responsible for following the care of some 40 other patients as well as overseeing the doctors and students who were working. I don't believe that Mr. Ames care was jeopardized by how his case was handled in the ER despite the fact that he suffered a stroke while there. He of course disputed that which is what prompted his lawsuit against me.

No doctor wants someone else to second guess their decisions on a patient's treatment but, it's something we routinely face when a patient dies and we are called upon to present their case during a M and M hearing. A malpractice lawsuit is something entirely different, not just because our competency is being forced out into the public arena, but, also because we are no longer being judged by our peers. Mr. Ames lawsuit was my first, and hopefully my last, experience with a malpractice case, and even now, I can't tell you what exactly he was looking to gain from it. I do know, that when he lost the case, it set in motion a series of events that will likely haunt me for the rest of my life.

I wish I could say that my victory in the courtroom was the end of my dealings with Curtis Ames, but it wasn't. In a way, we were both looking for justice in the verdict that was issued by the jurors in the case, and where I felt I had received it, he saw quite the opposite. If you had seen his reaction to the verdict, his anger and disappointment, you couldn't help but feel for him, and on that day he must have decided he was left no option but to find his justice another way.

I don't know when Curtis Ames began stalking me or my family, I only learned later how close he'd actually came to them, going so far as to have an actual conversation with Abby, and to learn my son's name. I can't begin to describe the revulsion, then fear I felt at receiving Joe's stuffed frog in the mail, at realizing what Ames might have done to them had he wanted to cause me true pain. As it was, he chose instead to terrorize them, invading our home to hold them at gunpoint before taking me hostage so he could extract the justice he felt he had been denied.

So much of that night I want to forget, so much I never will. In the end, Curtis Ames' need for things to be the way they once were, destroyed any hope he might have to move forward with his life. For him, he saw death as his only escape from what his life had become. I was lucky, I escaped with only bruises and a crushed hand, my family was safe, over time our memories of all we had been through would fade, and maybe, just maybe I would never again have a patient who had to go through what Curtis Ames went through. Thinking back on it now, maybe that was the justice Curtis Ames was looking for, sadly for him, we'll never know.

Friday, March 7, 2008

March Prompt 006: Loving Quote/License Artistic

Loving is not just looking at each other, it's looking in the same direction. - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

How could it be that two so young could be so in tune to each other? I often wondered that about Danijela and I. How we seemed to know what the other was thinking before we had even spoke, or how we would finish each other's sentences as if we were of one consciousness. It seemed always to be like that though, and maybe that in itself is what drew us to each other from those very first days.

My Mama once said she believed Danijela and I to both be old souls. She would say that watching us together seemed only to convince her more that we must have been married many times before. In those few years she was alive after Danijela's death, she realized how lost I was without her, without our babies, and she tried to ease my grief by reassuring me that we would be together again. She was so sure of it, and even when it came time for her to say her final good-byes as she lay close to death herself, she made a point of reminding me of it. Even if I couldn't see it then, I do see it now.

Of course, I wasn't thinking of any of this in those early years we were together, we were so busy discovering who we were and planning the lifetime we were sure we would have together. We had so many plans for our lives and for those of the children we would one day have. It all seemed so perfect, we would settle close to our parents, so our children could know the joy of spending time with their grandparents as we both had. We both agreed that they would aways be surrounded by the love of not just aunts and uncles, but their cousins, and a community who might as well be family. People who knew them, and who they knew, people they could go to for anything, at anytime.

For too many years I blamed God for robbing Danijela and I of this life together, I hated him for stealing away our children before they had a chance to know the joys of this world. Looking back on what little time we had now, I realize that I had misplaced my anger, that I had short-changed all the good Danijela and I had given our children by focusing only on the bad. Far worse though was my throwing away all the time Danijela and I had shared between us and only living for those last few hours that led up to her death. If Mama was right, if this was just one in a series of times we were together and more are to come, what right do I have to decide that nothing but those last few hours have meaning? How is that fair to Danijela? How is that fair to our children?

From the moment we met it seemed that Danijela and I had begun making plans for the future we would share together, why should that change for me now? For the first time in far too long I can look toward what will one day come again, knowing in my heart that in our next life, we will once more find each other, and we will again be man and wife as we are destined to be.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Prompt 25.5 A Broken Window Photo/Writers Muses

Run...don't think about the snipers.

Run...don't think about the snipers, just think about making it to the water and home again.

Run...don't think about getting hit.  It sounded so simple as he repeated the phrases over and over in his head, if only it was.

Run...don't think about the snipers.  Shit.  He ducked his head as the glass in the windows of a nearby building shattered, sending shards raining down onto the pavement he had only just cleared.

Run...don't think about how close the sniper's bullets had come.  It wasn't like he had a choice in the matter, the water was a necessity of life and if he didn't make the trip to the pump they would be forced to do without. He couldn't do that to Danijela, he wouldn't do that to his babies, not when they had already sacrificed so much.

Run...don't think about the snipers, don't think about things you cannot change, think about now, this moment.  Think about survival.  That's what it all comes down to doesn't it? All the sacrifices, living among so much destruction, among so much risk, all you can do is struggle to survive and hope that maybe tomorrow things will be a little better. Maybe one day you'll wake up to find the risk is gone, you'll wake up and find the world has returned to what it once was. But not today, today there is only one thought you can think of...