The Altered Eye
Having taken Bakhurst's advice and taking advantage of
the inertia started in his office, Reid seized his mini zeitgeist and wrote a
rough first draft of his essay about the Golden Mean. Certainly flawed and
requiring a lot of work, it was nonetheless a start and a monkey of his
shoulders. The only procrastination he engaged in was to look up the words estuary and polemic, both of which he thought
were very well chosen words. Nietzsche did engage in a mild yet sometimes
violent dramatic hyperbole to hammer home his point, and right now he felt the
swirling currents of a swirling river meeting the grown-up world of the ocean.
Bakhurst really was a wordcarpenter.
Leaving enough time to see Drake, he was strolling out of
the library for the hospital when he bumped into Rex Clark. He was the emerging
Big-Man-On-Campus, the guy who seemed to
know everyone and the Great-Repository-of-Other-People's-Business. A master at small talk
and a guy who acted in a manner that made him think of a plastic toy, Rex Clark went to all the
parties and made it his business to be the Johnnie-Know-It-All of the first-year student body, and the last
person he wanted to see.
"Reid! How're ya doing buddy?" He put his hand
through his coiffed hair.
"Not bad Rex, you?"
"Dandy. Just dandy. Missed you at Cartwright's birthday party last
night at the pub. It was awesome."
"Listen Big Shooter, I'm sorry to hear about what happened to
the Drakemaster." Standing on the sidewalk in front of Douglas Library where
everyone who entered and exited the library walked past them, it was a location
Rex Clark savoured. "How's he do'in anyway?" He scratched his
"Good, good to hear." He noticed the cuts on
Reid's hand. "What happened?"
injury," he replied. "Listen, I'm late for something."
"Seen Daphne lately? She's looking hot."
"Yeah, I saw her today."
a pie. I'd love
to get together with her." The well-dressed Big-Man-On-Campus kept glancing over Reid's
shoulder at female students entering the library. Reid made a motion to leave.
"Too bad about Michelle's mom,
eh?" he said nonchalantly.
"Didn't you hear?"
Purposely taking his time to enjoy the fact that he was more socially
plugged-in than Reid, Rex Clark gawked at a tall girl exiting the library with
about a hundred books under her arm.
"You didn't hear about her
mom?" Too wrapped up in his one-dimensional world to even look at Reid,
his mock surprise angering him.
Rex, I didn't.
What happened?" Rex Clark reached out and felt the quality of Reid's
jacket and nodded in approval. Damn
"She passed away." His
polyester eyes said the words with a power rather than empathy. "I think
it was cancer - the Jimmy Dancer of the Tit." Reid was stunned at the
news, and how callous the Son-of-a-Bitch was.
"Where is she? Do you
know?" He thought about last night and how cold and selfish he had been.
"She flew home this morning for
the funeral and all that stuff. Sorry man, I thought you would have
known." Something dropped in Reid's stomach.
"Damn!" Walking away from Rex Clark, he tightened his scarf and
flipped his collar up and walked past the hospital to where the mouth of the
St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. It started to snow, the flakes big and
flaky that float down from the clouds like white cornflakes. Everything in his
mind jumbled and mixed up, he couldn't organize his thoughts because he didn't
know the reasons for them. Ending up at the yacht club close to the coast guard
ship in the old harbour where there was a bench beside the water, Reid watched
the snow disappear into the dark water, cold and dangerous. He let snow pile on
his shoulders, cleansing everything white until he knew he had to go see Drake.
He needed to find out why it all happened; he needed to see his best friend.
When he showed up in Drake's room
Mrs. Ketchum had just finished folding some clothes and was walking out the
door. When she bumped into him she nearly had a heart attack herself.
"Reid!" Her hand on her chest. "You scared
me. I wasn't expecting you."
"I'm skipping class," he said as if
commenting about the weather, and making sure his stitched hand stayed in his
"Actually, it's good timing."
She took him by the arm outside in the hallway. "Drake is resting right now."
"How is he doing?" Her straw
coloured hair was shorter.
"Drake can speak complete sentences
now but his enunciation is still a bit slurred."
"But that will go away won't it?"
improved more than expected," she said, eyes pleading. "There might be some
permanent brain damage but we shouldn't expect too much too soon. For the
amount of time he was without oxygen he has recovered exceptionally well."
A stinging in his solar plexus. Invisible fingers pointing at him.
"Well-" It was all too unsatisfying
and grey. "Do the doctors know what caused it?"
"The doctors are still uncertain
what triggered the heart attack."
"Still uncertain." Shook his head.
"There was some
discussion that it was caused by a rare genetic condition called Marfane's Syndrome, which is found in tall, lanky body types. Apparently it is a known
affliction common in basketball players. The doctors speculate that the heart
attack was the result of a heart murmur due to this syndrome." Personally Reid
figured it had something to do with the exhaust from the bus they both had
unavoidably inhaled at the intersection just before their way up the hill, but
he didn't mention it.
"So then is he going to be all right
now that they have some idea what it was?" Was he going to be normal again?
"His blood pressure will need to be
taken once a day, and his temperature. Drake can't drink coffee
or alcohol, and is prohibited from doing anything strenuous. He also needs
constant supervision, and he needs to swallow his pills at certain times a
"I mean for how long?"
"For an indefinite period of time
Reid." The hard truths. He studied the floor tiles, worn and
off-colour. "If he continues to recover like he is it's been decided that it
would be beneficial for him to return to school for next term." Next term! "The
dean has exempted Drake from his course load and has been awarded his marks at
the time of the accident." Six weeks from now? And he's going to be behind.
"Um, why does he need supervision?
Isn't that a little...polemic?"
"Because Reid he's a little slower than he was. A little crippled right now. He can't remember
things so he might be a danger to himself." He finally sensed her frustration
with his direct approach. He turned towards the door to deflect his
"Oh, before I forget," she said,
"I'd like you to do something for me. Could you get Drake's toiletries and
personal items from his room? We're going back to Toronto where Drake will be
cared for at home for the remainder of his recuperation." Something about Drake
leaving the hospital so soon he didn't like.
"Sure, no problem. When's he going?"
"Perhaps at the end of the week.
I'll let you know." She put her suitcase on the chair where she was sitting.
"Also, if it isn't too much to ask, could you drive Drake's station wagon back
to Toronto? There's no rush to get that done. Next time you want to go to
Toronto please drop it off and we can reimburse you for the fuel and pay for
the train to get you back to Kingston."
"I can do that for you. What about
Drake's horse and all that stuff?" he asked.
"Oh, we've made arrangements with
the farm, so you don't need to worry about that." She looked in on Drake and
then back at Reid. "I'm on my way out to talk to the hospital administration.
I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Okay, I'll be here."
"Thank you Reid. I won't be
long. By the way, you look nice
today." It's just a jacket.
When he entered the room Drake was
sitting up in the bed without any more tubes going into his arms. He really
looked different though because of the weight he's lost. His neck was all
gangly and showing veins and all those tendons and whatnot. It looked like he
had lost twenty-five pounds.
"Reid. How are you?" he
asked slowly. His hair was greasy and combed to the side.
"I'm well big guy. How are ya
feeling?" Boy, he was thin. His arms looked like toothpicks.
It sounded like he was falling backwards. "The doctors say I'm going to
recover one day."
"Oh yeah. It's just a question
of time. You'll be back at school reading your history and riding Phineas." Tried to be casual but was
taken by his eyes. Powdery and sad. Drake's had always been full of power and
purpose but when he looked deeply into Drake's eyes Reid saw an opaque glaze
that hadn't been there before. His eyes looked altered somehow, crooked. Drake
blinked. He saw that Reid was staring at him. Drake got up from the bed and went
to the chair in the corner. He had a slight limp as he walked. His left arm
rested on his lap in an unorthodox manner that shook Reid's bones. Something
wasn't working properly. His hand was bent downwards in a sharp angle.
"I'm going home soon," he
said. Reid sat down in the other chair. Never had talking to Drake been more
"It's good because you'll be
more comfortable at home. It'll be better."
"They want me to go back to classes
in January." He searched Reid's expression to understand what he thought of it.
"Your Mom was saying that." Neutral.
"It'll be lot of work."
"You know, it will be. And the
readings and stuff too." Drake stretched his hands out and looked at them. He
let out a nervous laugh.
"I have trouble remembering the
stuff recently." He looked away self-consciously.
"Why no take the whole year off and
relax. Get your footing and all that." Drake shrugged his shoulders, weak and
beaten like a dog on a chain.
"Has anyone from the farm been in to
visit?" He had forgotten the girl's name with the bad eye.
"Yuh. But I don't, I don't remember
her that well." His voice was weak.
"It will come. Just give it time. Time is a Great Healer." They sat in silence for a moment.
"Yor my best friend." It
wasn't a question; it was said undraped as the plain truth. Reid tried to read
the emotion swimming around in his heart but he couldn't read it because of the
crookedness in his eyes, his sagging carriage evident in the shirt that hung
off his thin shoulders.
"You've always been my best
friend Drake. Like a brother. Drake grinned in his old way,
looking weak. Sad. And pale. Reid searched for the right words to keep that
smile on his face and give his heart what it needed, but he couldn't find them.
Then something happened that scared the hell out of him. A tear dropped from
Drake's crooked left eye. It was like seeing a crack in the foundation that has
supported you your entire life.
"Brothers," he said. He
took a deep breath and cried. It all fell apart that moment. Everything. The stone
crumbled into the sand and the earth shook under his feet. Reid reached out and
put his hand on his shoulder, feeling only bones and shallow breaths. When he
heard a sniffle behind him Reid realized there was someone else in the room.
Standing in the doorway was Mrs. Ketchum, tears falling down her cheeks. The
sound of Drake's sobbing gradually drowned out by a baby crying down the hall.
When Reid returned to the house on
Earl Street to grab Drake's toiletries and stuff, he stood over Drake's desk
and saw his St. John's Ambulance certificate in a bowl of change. It was the
course Drake had taken last summer. He remembered when Drake told him how lucky
he had been when his partner who he had been assigned to practice CPR on, was
the girl he liked the most in his class. Standing there, Reid cringed when he
was overwhelmed by a thunder of accusing voices ringing in his ears. He
remembered when Drake had asked him to take the course with him but had said no
because he didn't see how a banker would need it. The electric pulse hit Reid's
solar plexus, jolting him with a physical shock. He stood alone looking at the
St. John's Ambulance Cross. Then he looked in the mirror and saw a stooped and
"Naive" he said. The image
of Drake's father in a photograph on the wall tore apart all illusions of
innocence that he may have built up since his exchange with the white-haired
doctor. His stomach hurt and he stood gathering with a stooped posture the rest
of Drake's toiletries. With sweaty hands he left the room, changed and went to
pick up Daphne for their dinner at Chez Piggie.