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Ten Seconds Before Sunrise
written by: Hamza Chowdhry
She tasted like a cold Heineken on a hot, boring summer day. Before my motorbike accident, life was okay. But since then I have been on life support because of a full paralysis caused by a major spinal fracture.
I do believe that there are angels on this earth disguised as humans. Her name was Navpreet. She was a nurse blessed with a heart of gold and eyes like a goddess. She would play my CD on the music player for me, which was an old electronic album by deadmau5. Friends and family had left flowers, cards and chocolates for me in my hospital room. She would take a piece of chocolate and feed it to me, and it would stay in my mouth until it melted and there was nothing left. On the weekends she would move me to my wheelchair. That’s when I could look under her blouse and see how she looked underneath. Navpreet would walk me outside in my wheelchair so I could see the sunrise and the streets of the city. Every inch of my body and mind wanted to do or say something to her. A simple thank-you is all I wanted to say, but I think she saw that gratefulness in my eyes.
There was also another nurse who was assigned to my case. Her name was Karen. Sometimes she would turn my oxygen off when nobody was around until I got dizzy, and then would turn it back on. Sometimes she would pinch me, poke me with needles, and say heartless things to me. Growing up, I used to always try to forgive and empathize with these types of people. Maybe she wasn’t raised properly, perhaps abused by her own parents, or perhaps she had experienced some very negative things with people of minorities. I was never scared of horror films because I always knew that the real monsters were masked as humans living amongst us. She was one of them. Last week my older brother walked into my room as he saw me turn blue with Karen looking over and grinning over me and squeezing my oxygen tube. He started yelling furiously until the head nurse and security guards had to drag him out. I just wished I could move my hands to press the morphine button.
My brother and I would wake up at 5 AM everyday to ride our bikes before the traffic started. We would fire up our engines when it was still dark outside, and ride into the sunrise. It was a form of therapy for both of us. Motorbike riders are aware of the danger it comes with, but it is so gratifying that it makes it seem like it is worth the risk. It almost literally feels like flying while sitting on an engine which is combusting a hundred times per second and emitting an orchestra of lions roaring from the exhaust. This was a Saturday morning. We heard a car driving recklessly behind us with blaringly loud music, clearly coming from some type of party from a Friday night. They wanted to race with us, but since we grew up from being kids, we were never interested in such type of reckless behavior. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital.
My brother and I would always have profound conversations about life and philosophy, especially after smoking a joint. During one deep discussion, we both shared ideas about what happened after death. We were able to agree that death is not the end of existence. It might be like waking up from a dream. There might be some type of reincarnation or higher dimensions, but death was surely not the end. My brother and I thought people were terrified of death because of a lack of faith and knowledge of the spiritual realm, and an over-attachment to other people and material objects. We also agreed that there are things much worse than death. Things such as living your whole life in fear, or becoming paralyzed and living in boring agony until you waste away.
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was eighteen. We just didn’t get along that well. They were more conservative and close-minded while I wanted to be a free soul. They visited me once in the hospital. They brought their lawyer. He read to me a few legal documents while I would blink twice to agree to sign those terms. “We have to go to dinner now,” my father said. I was relieved that this business meeting was over.
They were talking about me in the room as if I wasn’t there. The ICU doctor and my brother were discussing my situation and physical condition. He told my brother that I don’t have a good chance of recovering from paralyzation.
If anyone knew me, it was my brother. He knew what I wanted.
I could hear him holding back his tears. “Don’t you wish we could fly away,” he said while putting his hands over my throat. I blinked twice to say yes but I don’t think it mattered. He took my pillow and smothered it over my face. Now he put his entire weight on me. He couldn’t see me suffering like this and neither could I. I had tears of my own too, but they weren’t tears of sadness or despair. I was being liberated. I could feel my breathing stop but the music was still playing. Then I saw the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. I was flying into the horizon again.