The next day when he and Taylor were
in the living room he had a call from Mrs. Ketchum saying that Drake had come
out of his coma. They left on their bikes for the hospital.
There was a feeling of hysteria in
the room when he and Taylor arrived. For a second they stood sheepishly in the
doorway. The Ketchums, one on either side of Drake, turned in fright when they
saw them standing there staring at Drake. Reid thought he was drugged because
he was slurring his words. A nurse approached them from behind so he stepped
through the threshold into the room. It was stuffy. Mrs. Ketchum turned to
Drake, who was sitting up.
"Do you remember Reid?" He
thought it was all a bit theatrical but when he looked at Drake something in
his stomach sank.
"Drake, how're doing?" he
said, trying to keep things light. Drake looked drunk when he rolled his head
over to his father with his mouth slightly open.
"Do you remember Reid?"
Mr. Ketchum asked. Drake rolled his head again in the excitement, still with
his mouth half smiling. Mr. Ketchum pointed at Reid. "He's your good
friend." Drake was looking below his eyes so he bowed a little to meet his
"Yuh," he said and then
laughed. Again he swung his head over toward his father and then back to his mother.
He tried to lift up his arm but it was caught by Mrs. Ketchum.
"Now now, Drake," she said with
firmness. Drake laughed again, and drooled. Reid saw the saliva soaked in his
hospital gown below his chin. He kept his crooked smile on Reid as Mrs. Ketchum
wiped his chin. Drake looked at the nurse when she left and then mumbled
something unintelligible. He whipped his head around to his mother this time,
then rolled it back. Again he lifted his arm only to be caught by Mrs. Ketchum.
"You're excited dear. Try to
relax." There was the quietest momentary pause Reid had ever experienced.
The silence was broken awkwardly by Mrs. Ketchum.
"It's been a lot for Drake. All
of it has been overwhelming. He's having trouble remembering. He's a little
"Groggy," he repeated. Groggy! He's not groggy; he's got brain
damage! He wasn't breathing when he arrived. How could I not have seen it?
Reid felt an overwhelming urge to
grab him by the arm and yell "No!"
The tragedy of it all hit him first in the windpipe, then in the nose.
"Ah..." He took a step
toward by reflex. Mr. Ketchum looked at him from behind his tired eyes.
"The doctor said it will take
some time for him to regain his memory and motor skills. Dr. DiLeo also said
it's natural for there to be a slowness of co-ordination after an accident like
this. He believes the first days are the most important. Drake has what is
called `cognitive dissonance.'"
As he said this he nodded his head, which was meant to tell Reid something but
he didn't know what it was. Concealing his confusion, he gave Mr. Ketchum a nod
in return, just enough for there to be an unsaid understanding between them -
an understanding that he didn't get.
Drake lifted his head and with his
clenched hand reached towards Reid. He tried to say something but fumbled with
the words as if his lips were numb after a visit to the dentist.
"Drake is going to be moved out of
intensive care up to the second floor," said Mrs. Ketchum.
"Ah, I'll try to be by tomorrow."
"That will be fine," Mr.
Ketchum replied in a voice constricted with emotion. At that moment, just as he
wanted to leave, Drake giggled like a child. Reid thought he should stay but he
had to leave. With a million things running through his head, he and Taylor
left the hospital through the automatic doors. He felt the cold air hit his
moist face and the impact was reality.
After leaving the hospital, they
walked towards campus in silence. The truth was that he didn't understand why
Drake had a heart attack and didn't understand why he was now slurring his
words and drooling. It wasn't my fault he had a heart attack, he thought, and
it wasn't my fault he was groggy!
rush off to class and remembered a commerce test he was missing. But he was
indifferent. Learning about profit and loss statements and how to maximize
revenue through selling widgets just didn't turn his crank since this thing
with Drake. It all seemed trivial and beside the point. Since he always cared
about things and always made an effort, it was strange he couldn't muster any
sort of play. Reid couldn't find his footing.
"Wanna go in for a coffee McFetty?"
They were passing the Sidewalk Café where students read and drank coffee and
munched on banana muffins.
"Nah," he said. They were almost
home when he felt Taylor's hand on his shoulder.
"Listen man, that was a biggie this
morning. Whaddya say we merge to the pub for a pint of beer? We can play hooky
for a day and forget about things for an afternoon." Reid was pretty tired
because he damn near cried. He had this sensation hit his nose and then his
eyes started to water, so he looked away from Taylor, shrugged his shoulders
and kept walking down University Avenue straight for the off-campus bars
downtown. Sometimes words don't need to be spoken.
They ended up in a bar called AJ's
Hangar. It used to be a movie theatre so it was huge with high ceilings and the
original stage where bands play. Two airplanes hung from the ceiling. One was a
white Cessna and the other was a smaller red one, but both were real planes. It
was dark inside so you could sit in the corner all day and never know it was
daylight outside. When they found a table in the corner and Taylor went off to
get a pitcher of beer at the bar. Reid didn't see him go to the telephone but
when he came back with the beer spilling in his hand, he said he called Alex to
tell him they were here in case anyone called.
"Al said he might join us." Reid
didn't really mind as long as they didn't talk about what they saw this morning
at the hospital. Taylor kept filling up Reid's glass with beer even if there
was only half in it. He had to hand it to him; the guy knew what to do in
situations like this. Reid had to admit that as far as roommates go, Taylor was
all right. He had enough sense to realize that Reid wasn't too interested in
school today. When he noticed Reid's hands were shaking, he started in on
Daphne and how hot she was and how he thought she liked Reid. It worked for a
little while because Reid started thinking about her and what it would be like
to be with her. But he didn't really care one way or another. If it happened
then so be it, if not, then no big deal.
It ended up being almost fun after a
few glasses, sitting there without worrying about classes and getting mildly
drunk. Taylor was paying for the beer and they were both throwing them back at
a rower's pace. Reid was just starting to relax when Alex came in. He looked at
Reid nervously, which made him uncomfortable.
"You didn't miss much at the
test," he said, hesitating. "It was pretty easy. Ah, it was the stuff
you and I were studying, so I'm sure you'll have the same test when you write
it. I can write out what was on the test if you want." Reid felt like
"I don't care Alex." Alex's nervousness made him red in the face. He
was trying to be one of the boys but the guy was like one of those square pegs
trying to fit into a round hole. Reid wondered for a moment if he was a bit
like that too. If he was then his square edges were becoming more rounded.
"We don't talk shop in a bar," said
Taylor, scolding Alex for his transgression. The guy took it to heart and Reid
felt sorry for him. That's just how Taylor works - he always says it like it
is. He poured Alex a beer and after the first glass he mellowed out. His
tolerance was probably half a beer. Reid didn't mind him some times because he
always knew what he was dealing with. No deception and manipulation there to be
sure. There was something in his eyes that was so innocent that Reid couldn't
help trusting him up to a point. The guy could swipe a pencil off your desk or
use your shampoo but if you missed a test he would tell you exactly what was on
it. He realized he was lucky to have these two guys as housemates.
"I just got a part-time
job," said Alex. "I found out today. Boy, I need the extra
bread." He was in good spirits, and glowed with a shade of resigned
self-esteem. He had just started to date a Chinese girl who seldom came over to
the house because she was afraid of Taylor. He had recently picked up the habit
of smoking and had learned how to blow smoke rings, or as Taylor called them, `rolling `O's'.
"What's the job Al?"
"I got a job with the Queen's
Walk Home Service. They were looking for people so I applied."
a walk home service?" Taylor grabbed one of his smokes.
"You don't know what a walk
home service is?"
"Why do you think I asked what
it was Al?"
"I don't know."
"Well, what is it?"
"Oh sorry. It's a service the
school provides to walk girls home after dark."
"Because it's dangerous. You
know, sexual assault. And because of the union they pay well."
"Well, it's certainly a way of
"I guess so."
"Bring them by our house if
they want to warm up on the way home."
"I can get some studying done
in the office when it's slow."
"Reading any good books these
"Well, finance is
"I mean non-academic
"You mean outside school?"
"Novels?" Alex looked at
"Are you reading any
"No. I don't like
reading." Taylor's eyes opened wider. "I don't have the time Taylor." There was
condescension in Alex's voice.
"Dan Aykroyd once said: `we mock what we don't understand.'"
Alex took a puff on his cigarette and sat back looking fidgety. Reid couldn't
think of two guys less alike. He let them talk while he made himself invisible.
It's just what he wanted, but at the same time he didn't want to be alone.
"Listen Reid, we're all sporting
some inner turbulence. Try to shake it off." Taylor filled his glass with
more beer. He was staring in space because he was reliving the images of
Drake's swinging head and his clenched fist.
"Reid, snap out of it!" He was
startled out of his thoughts.
"What do you want Taylor?"
"Listen, take it easy. No one
is saying you have to justify how you feel. I know it must be hard but there's nothing you can do about it. There's
absolutely nothing any of us can do. Nothing."
"Answer me something Reid, what
can you do about it?" He was
motionless as he waited for an answer.
"There has to be
something," he said.
"O.K. then, what is it? Brood,
is that it? Pout? Sulk? Look morose like you? If there's something we can do
then tell me what it is. I'm all ears." Reid supposed he was right but he
just didn't have the energy to joust with him. Instead he looked at Alex saw
the awkwardness of how he smoked. He held his cigarette like a woman. Taylor,
seeing what he was looking at, said to Alex:
"Nice smoking technique Al.
Come on man, get some style for
"What?" With his mouth
half open, the smoke from his cigarette billowed into his eyes causing him to
squint. Just then Taylor reached over and put his hand on Reid's shoulder.
"It's O.K. brother, Drake will
be O.K." Reid's eyes began to water again. Boy, he thought, am I ever