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Monday, October 03, 2005

Summer Writing Contest Entry

By Jocelyn Pearce

Come on, Evan. Wake up. Wake up. It's been three months. The time has long passed for you to wake up. The doctors don't know why you're in a coma, but they did say that if you were going to wake up, it would be sooner rather than later. Tonight is our senior prom, and I'm sitting in a hospital room, holding your hand and wishing you'd wake up. Wishing the expression on your face would change. Wishing things could be like they were.

"Hey, Isabel," you said, jogging to catch up with me as I walked out of school to head home. "What's up? Do you need the biology homework?" We were lab partners. We hadn't really hung out outside of school. Before third period biology together, I'd only seen you at a few parties. You and I didn't run in the same social circles, exactly. You were popular, good-looking, and on the soccer team. I was something of a dork, but not a complete social outcast. I had friends. They just weren't usually the same as your friends. Or anyone you and yours would even associate with. It was kind of weird that someone like you would be seen with someone like me outside of class, even though we got along inside of it.
"No, it's not that..."
"What, then?" I prompted.
"Well...I was wondering if, if maybe you'd want to go...I don't know...Go to the movies tomorrow night? I know you said you wanted to see that new one..." You searched my face, hopefully. I looked at you, disbelieving. Was this some kind of a joke? Guys like you didn't go out with girls like me.

I miss you. There are so many things I wish I'd gotten to tell you. So many things I wish we'd been able to do before your mom came in to wake you up one morning, and you didn't react. When she called me, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to think. I shut down, Evan. I don't know how long it was before I even realized I was sobbing. Before my mom got home and told me that yours had called her, too. We went to the hospital, and I just stared down at you. I didn't know what to do. What do you do when your eighteen-year-old boyfriend who was completely healthy and normal the day before is suddenly comatose? They said you'd probably wake up soon. That something had gone wrong, but they didn't know what. They still don't.

When you came to my house to pick me up for the movie, I was even more shocked. I guess I didn't think you'd really show up. It wasn't that I didn't think you were a nice guy, because I did. I just couldn't believe that you, who could have had your pick of girls, had chosen me. It was kind of surreal. But I won't lie; I'd kind of been crushing on you. And here you were. You even came in to meet my parents. You were the perfect gentleman.
"Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Lopez," you said. "I'm Evan St. James." You charmed them. "Hey, Isabel," you said, with an uncharacteristic shy smile.
When we got outside, you opened the passenger side door to your car for me before getting in your side. I was nervous, my palms sweating. You were, too, I think. We didn't have to be.
As soon as we started talking, we couldn't stop. We had so much in common. We loved the same movies. When you turned on the radio, it was turned to my favorite station, playing a song I adored. And we both exclaimed, simultaneously, "I love this song!" I still think about you when I hear it. We both loved the same books. You, too, thought that the New York Times bestseller list was totally overrated. And, most surprising, you also loved photography and wanted to travel the world. Much too deep for the shallow jock I had feared you'd turn out to be.
London was first on your list of placed you'd love to go. Mine, too.

Later, as we fell in love, we said we'd go to London together. Now you might never even open your eyes again.
Your parents into the hospital room, bringing with them sub sandwiches from across the street. Once, your mom brought Chinese, but the smell reminded us all too strongly of how much you love it, and we couldn't eat. "Isn't homecoming tonight, Isabel?"
"Yes, Mrs. St. James.""Aren't you going with your friends? You shouldn't be cooped up in this depressing place tonight."
"I couldn't have fun there." She nods sadly, understanding in her eyes.
Can't you see what you're doing to us, Alex? My parents can hardly get me to come home or go to school. They tried to be understanding at first, but after so long they're tired of what they see as my moping. They think nothing's going to change, and I should move on. They don't think I can love you because we're seventeen. They forget what it's like to be eighteen and in love. I'm not stupid enough to think that maybe life wouldn't gotten in the way of our relationship at some point, anyway, but that doesn't mean I can leave it like this and get over you. That doesn't mean I should get over you.

A couple of months later, people had gotten used to the fact that soccer star Evan was dating a nobody like me. The whispers had mostly stopped. Everything was going perfectly. I hadn't told you, but I was falling in love with you, and I think you felt the same. I could hardly think about anything but you. When we were together, I forgot about everyone and everything else. I had dated before, but you were my first serious boyfriend. You had told me, too, that you'd never been serious about the stream of popular girls you always seemed to be with.

And look where we are now. In a hospital room, where I've spent all of my free time for the past three months, talking to you until I can't talk anymore because I read that talking to coma patients can help them wake up faster. Wake up, Evan. Please. For me. I never got to tell you I love you. As stupid as we both think it is, I think we were both secretly looking forward to prom, if only because it's one of those essential high school experiences, and I haven't really had a ton of those. I don't go to football games and I've never been to a homecoming dance. I have a dress in the back of my closet that I'll never get the chance to wear, unless by some miracle you wake up in the next four hours and feel well enough to go to prom.

"Where are you applying to college, Isabel?"
"Well, I'm not applying yet, actually. I'm taking a year off to travel."
"Really? That sounds amazing. I wish I had the guts to do that."
"Why don't you?"
"I don't do what's not expected of me. I wish I was different, but, well, I'm not. That's one of the things I love about you, Isabel. You've got the guts to do what you want no matter what people expect you to do. The only thing I've ever done that surprised anyone is dating you. And I'm glad."
"Me, too," I say softly. He used the word love. Not about me, exactly, but something about me. Why am I too scared to say it? Am I afraid it'll scare him, that I'll lose him? Evan is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

"I love you," I say. "I just wish I knew if you could hear me say it or not." I look outside the window in the door, where his parents are talking to one of the doctors. I lean over and kiss Evan. If life were a fairy tale, that would wake him up. He doesn't move.


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