Copyright ÂŠ 2016 by John Phillips All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Printed in the United States of America First Printing, 2016 ISBN: 978-1-62217-636-6
Contents Introduction.....................................................1 Saturday August 24th, 1991............................4 The Elevator Ride..........................................22 Anna Has Regrets..........................................37 Sammieâ€™s Drive to the Barbeque...................56 Anna Makes Her Call....................................72 The Aftermath............................................ 120 Dealing with Reality................................... 169 Finding Thomas.......................................... 250 Out of the Coma and Facing the Truth..... 317 No Time to Mourn...................................... 383 Recovery...................................................... 426 Going Home................................................ 499 Happier Times............................................ 531 Planning for the Future.............................. 559 The Dark No Longer Hurts!...................... 588
Introduction I really can’t remember why I went to the office that day. I remember thinking on the drive over, “Why in the hell do I do this? It’s a beautiful day and the whole weekend forecast looks great, so why am I not spending this time with my wife and the girls?” Work had been tough that year, my time very limited, and it was only the fact that my marriage was so strong that I took more liberties in that area than I would or should have done. I think back to that day often. I’ve gone through so many emotions. “Why me?” the “If I knew then what I know now,” and “If I could only turn back the clock!” Of course, I felt sorry for myself, and still do. If you had gone through what I have I am sure it would have affected you in a similar way, maybe even worse. Sorry, I don’t remember introducing myself. My name is Tom, Tom Cousins. I was born and raised in Northern California and at the ripe old age of 41 years old I’m still living here; against all odds I might add. You see, like many others I was involved in what was called “an act of mother nature” resulting in a tragic accident. The doctors said it was a miracle that I survived—that I’m lucky to be alive. Shit, how anybody intelligent enough to be a surgeon at the top of their field can be stupid enough to say that is … well, words escape me. I was travelling in an elevator, descending at approximately 60mph for what is thought to have been 11 floors before the emergency brake broke our fall. Yes, I was lucky that the only injuries I sustained were a broken right ankle, a shattered left knee, a ruptured spleen, a fractured skull, and oh yes, the broken spine that has left me completely paralyzed from the waist down, but thank you. YES, I am lucky to be alive. You try living from where I lie. Let’s see if you feel lucky.
John Phillips The only lucky part for me was that the weeks following the accident, there was no feeling in any part of my body, nothing! Being a fully admitted coward it was a great relief to feel no pain. Also, my ability to not remember what had happened immediately, before, and during the accident was comforting. If you can’t remember, you can’t relive the fear. The bad news is the memories started to return, which, brought about a great deal of fear and pain. My memory came back slowly, bit by bit. Then those little bits converged to form a piece-by-piece type of picture; not a picture, but more of a negative of a picture. Shadows came through my mind slowly at first, then built in speed and definition. The first memory I recall came completely out of the blue. A nurse in the hospital was trying to change the intravenous drip and, just for a second, I could feel myself falling. Have you ever had one of those nightmares where you were falling? I could have sworn I actually hit the bed when I landed. The poor nurse. I did feel sorry for her. I let out an ear-piecing scream. She looked so scared, worried she had hurt me. It must have been just as she pushed the needle. Boy, did I scream. “Sorry. So sorry. Did I hurt you?” she stammered. “No, no, silly bitch!” I shouted. “Remember, I can’t feel anything. Not a damn sorry thing!” I think that was the first time my emotions surfaced, and boy did they surface. It was like unclogging a drain. All that buildup of not knowing, not understanding, and not being able to remember a single thing of what happened. I think I sobbed for over an hour. It was a re-education process for me and a realization of life. What I thought I valued and needed in life would never be the same for my family and myself. This was also the point when I realized I no longer could rely on that “manly” pride or dignity, and had to express my emotions out loud, and no longer able hide my modesty dignity in the presence of a complete stranger. After that day the nurse and I had, well, I suppose you could call it a type of bonding. She forgave me for frightening the living hell out of her, and I felt less embarrassed about letting go of all those emotions. I 2
The Dark Hurts remember she just held onto me saying it does not matter, it’s all going to be okay, don’t worry, I am so sorry, over and over again. Well Nurse Jones, it did not get better, but you did go over and above in terms of personal commitment. You don’t know how much I appreciated the times we sat, (you sat, I lay) and for long periods, we talked and talked. You never again told me it would get better, but you did try to convince me that I would, over time, learn to live with it!! Sorry, I did as I promised you I would and tried to keep an open mind. I guess I must have been a rotten student. I could not learn. I only lived!! And badly. I wish I could be one of those hero types who became stronger through adversity. Whose character develops throughout the healing process, but the simple truth is, it completely screwed my family and me. Even to this day, 6 years after the accident, it still happens, and for no reason. I could be asleep, watching television, or anything else that does not require much physical movement, when a flash burns in my mind of that day—August 24th 1991, when San Francisco shook from what was one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded, 8.9. 967 people died that day, 2,411 needed hospital treatment (yes, I am in that last figure), and 171 died as a direct result of their injuries. Over the next few weeks 980 families lost their homes. Over the next six months over 700 businesses had to close permanently, causing over 4000 people to lose their jobs. I do not want to sound ungrateful. I was, no question, to some extent, lucky. I got some of the best medical attention and treatment anyone could have asked for, and yes, I understand that from the doctor’s point of view I could have been one of those 967 people, or even one of those 171 people who are no longer living. To be truthful, sorry, but I wish I could trade places with any one of them. I may not be alive then, but I wouldn’t continue to live in fear! The dark hurts. The pain of the past is still with me even after all this time. Is it ever going to get any better? Tom Cousins’ life, this existence, or should I say no existence! 3
Chapter 1 Saturday August 24th, 1991 Tom looked through the nape of Sammie’s neck as he held her in his arms from behind. He could see the clock. Oh hell! It’s already 7:10 a.m., he thought to himself. God, I do not want to go anywhere. She just feels so good in my arms. So warm soft and well Moorish in that morning glory way. Tom had a hard time not thinking about the previous night and their lovemaking. He really did not know when the passion in their lives together started to be replaced. No, actually, more like complemented with the complete devotion they had for each other. Surprisingly still, when one or the other would instinctively know what the other was thinking and feeling, but last night, was different. It was a mixture of both passion and devotion to each other, on a whole new level. There was still the excitement that they experienced when their marriage was only a few years old, but mixed with the warmth, comfort, and commitment that can only come with time. Wow that was amazing. God, life is good, thought Tom. “You can wipe that smile off your face now,” said Sammie. “I can feel you grinning without even turning over.” Tom could not help himself. He moved in even closer to Sammie and said in a low voice, “You’re just so magical and I couldn’t help thinking about last night, but not just from the love making side. It’s more from how good it feels to be with you and so in love with you and, well if I am not to be modest, how good I was last night.” Sammie sat up and turned over and turned towards Tom. “Magical, you say? Yes, we are lucky. I never would have thought it would be this
The Dark Hurts good to be this much in love. I really love you, Tom. So much more than I will ever be able to explain.” Sammie was speaking to him not only with her words, but also her eyes and hands, as they migrated below the sheets, down past his stomach, and in exactly the direction Tom wanted. Sammie let out a girlish laugh and said “My God, man! How can you go from a dragon last night breathing fire in all directions to a slug this morning? Look at him. He’s fast asleep, and if I did not know any better, I would swear he is grinning.” Tom lifted up the sheets and had to confess comically that it was a pretty bad image laying between his legs. Limp was, in fact, an understatement. It was crazy but he was not about to argue with Sammie’s description of the fire-breathing dragon, as it sounded somewhat flattering. The previous night, Tom on the other hand had always thought of the description more of a “divining stick.” You know, out there looking and ready for action, and the closer it got the more it trembled in anticipation. Sammie never liked that description. She said it made it sound like he would look anywhere to find what he wanted, instead of a dragon protecting his kingdom and maiden. Both Sammie and Tom started to laugh at the same time, almost instantly. Sammie laughed so much tears started to roll down the sides of her face. As she slid off the side of the bed, Tom admired her toned physique. Man, life is good. Sammie finished her shower and was drying herself down, and Tom could not help himself but to watch her. She was in shape for having had the two girls. She works out twice a week and watches her diet, but my god I am a lucky man, but he would love her either way. I mean, I really am a lucky man. What more could he ask for? “Daddy, can I have a mustache, please? Daddy?! Daddy, can I have a mustache, please?” Tom was suddenly aware of Carol, his eldest daughter, who was standing by his side as he was preoccupied putting shaving cream on his face and admiring his wife’s body. “Daddy, can I have a mustache, please,” pleaded Carol. 5
John Phillips “Yes, darling. Of course. Just don’t lick it otherwise Mummy will get cross with Daddy.” Tom got dressed in a more casual way than normal for going into the office. After all, it was Saturday and he hoped it would only be a half a day so he could get home in time to spend the afternoon with the girls and Sammie at her parents’ house. These were always good outings for the girls, as well as Sammie and Tom. Sammie’s farther manned an excellent grill, despite the fact that his beer intake was heavy. In fact, Tom had always wondered if he were sober, would the food be as good. Anyway, it was always entertaining to see “the in- laws” banter with each other. You would think they never agreed on anything if you heard them squabble with each other. Fact is, it was the quite contrary. They agreed on most things. They would just forget to tell each other. The only thing that was clear for all to see was that for over forty years they were and are madly in love with each other. “Bye, girls!” called Tom. “Bye, Daddy! See you later at the barbecue.” “Please try to be there early. It’s always much more fun when you are there,” said Carol. “Okay I will see what I can do. I promise!” Turning his attention to Sammie, he called out. “Bye darling. Sorry I have to go in today, but this report is urgent, and I know I will not get time on Monday to look at it.” “Don’t worry Tom, I understand. Besides, I have been keeping a record on all the family time spent working, just in case I need evidence at our divorce case. You know, mental cruelty and neglect sounds like reasonable grounds to me.” She smirked to herself. Tom looked half smiling at Sammie. Sammie must have seen the hurt and unsure expression in Tom’s eyes. “Don’t look so worried. I am only kidding. Besides, I need my fire-breathing dragon back in bed later tonight!! So save some energy, you will need it!” 6
The Dark Hurts It always amazed Tom where all the traffic came from at 8:15 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Most people are supposed to be in bed or at least still having breakfast. Where are they all going and for what? Are they going to work, shopping, or a day’s outing? “For all those going to work like me, YOU ARE ALL STUPID IDIOTS,” Tom shouted at the top of his voice. “JUST LIKE ME!” Of course, no one replied. No one could hear, except Tom. “Why the hell do we do what we do and why? There must be an answer out there somewhere,” thought Tom as he drove into the parking garage. Again he was surprised by the number of cars parked there. It looks like I am not the only fool in this office building this morning, he thought. Tom took the elevator to his office on the 18th floor, and was pleasantly surprised. When the doors slid open he could smell the distinct aroma of freshly brewed coffee filling the hallway. Thank God, thought Tom. I am not only the only fool working today and I was not the first in. Tom was a man of habit in all that he did, at home, in the office, his eating and drinking, and it was a failing as far as Tom was concerned. It showed his lack of confidence in himself. Keep it simple, keep it the same—it stops confusion and reduces the risk of making mistakes and or looking silly or a failure. It was amazing how quickly the morning passed. Tom felt pretty pleased with himself. The report he had come into the office to work on read well and only required some minor edits and adjustments. If his PC had not acted up when he tried to boot up and cost a great deal of time he would have been able to leave work much earlier. Still, it’s only 2:15 p.m., he thought, and a forty-minute drive to the in-laws. Perhaps an hour to be on the safe side. Traffic could be a bitch, even on a Saturday. In fact, sometimes worse. It’s that weekend driving brigade. You know the type. The ‘I am in no hurry what’s yours.’ Tom often thought, see these same people on a Friday night on the way home from work and shit, can they move then. Tom had his own classification for drivers on the road. “The Knights of 7
Chapter 2 The Elevator Ride A female voice from the speaker in the elevator said, “Going down.” Both Tom and Allan looked at each other and simultaneously started to laugh. “That’s it!” said Tom. “You should sue Jones and Jordan for this subliminal messaging. You could state in court it really was not your fault that your high sex drive was put in overtime each morning you arrived at work, because sometimes you would mistakenly left something in your car and when you’d go back to retrieve it you would hear this sexy female voice saying GOING DOWN. It really wasn’t my fault judge, the voices in my head/elevartor made me do it, honestly.” Both men at this stage were in uncontrollable laughter, almost leaning on each other for support, when the first tremor started. It was so slight, and with the men in such a state of laughter, they barely felt that first telltale sign of what was about to happen. “What was that?” asked Tom. “What was what?” replied Allan, trying to compose himself. “Did you feel us rock a little?” “Rock?” said Allen. “We’ve been laughing so much we were probably shaking the elevator.” “You’re probably right. It’s just, for a moment, it felt strange. That’s all.” They were just getting themselves under control from their crazy outburst with only the smallest of chuckles coming from Allan, when the elevator started to rock from side to side. Slowly at first, but becoming much more violent as it continued. The noise was deafening, like a train crossing
The Dark Hurts rickety tracks, but louder. Much louder. To the point it was beginning to hurt their ears. “What the frick is that!” shouted Tom. Allan screamed back, “I don’t know, but I am dammed if I like it!” Both men’s voices were filled with fear and uncertainty. The elevator came to a very sudden halt and each looked at the other with a sense of relief. They tried to hide the fear that they both shared. “Thank the Christ for that,” said Tom. “I did not like that for one moment.” “You and me both,” replied Allan. “It felt like we were hitting the side of the elevator chute, just bouncing around from one side to the other. I wonder what made it do that?” “How the hell should I know?” replied Tom. “The only thing I do know is we should try and get out of this death trap, while we still can.” Tom did not have to ask Allan to press the alarm button. His finger was already on it, pressing like he could shove it right through the elevator wall. The sound of the alarm bell was reassuring at first, but soon that feeling drifted away, when there was no response from anyone. It seemed like ages had passed. They just sat there waiting, for who, they did not know. Then Allan said, “What a couple of dumb asses we are? We both have cell phones. Why the hell are we still sitting here waiting?” Tom couldn’t get his phone out quick enough. He flipped the lid open. “Shit! I don’t have a signal.” Allan already had his phone to his ear and said, “I do, but I’m getting the busy signal.” “A busy signal?” asked Tom. “Who did you call?” “9-1-1.” “Don’t be stupid. You can’t get a busy signal from 9-1-1. Give me the damn phone.” Tom snatched the phone from Allan’s hands and dialed 9-11. His face dropped when he too got the busy signal. “I don’t understand. I’ve never heard of anyone getting a busy signal when calling 9-1-1.” It didn’t matter how many times and who dialed 9-1-1, they continually received a busy signal. “There must be something else going on,” 23
John Phillips said Tom. “There is no other reasonable explanation for this shit. It has to be a terrorist attack or an earthquake, I can’t think of another reason we wouldn’t be able to reach 9-1-1.” Allan climbed to his feet as if he knew something. Tom followed not knowing why, but inside he felt more comfortable doing so. “We need to try and either open these doors or get through the emergency hatch, and my money is on this,” he said motioning toward the hatch. “If we get up to the hatch we can see how far we are from one of the floors. If we are aligned with a floor we can use the doors, if we are not, maybe we can climb up the elevator shaft to one of them.” They both simultaneously looked up. “There is no hatch!” shouted Tom. “Yes, there must be! Perhaps it’s behind the lights.” Allan’s answer and tone of voice sounded irritated by Tom’s panic and lack of what he saw as “back bone.” It was incredible. With all the rocking from side to side and apart from a great deal of flickering while this was happening the lights were still on. There was one moment that only lasted a few seconds, when the elevator came to a sudden halt, that the lights went completely out. They were back on in what appeared to be seconds, so quick that neither man noticed, or if they did they made no reference to it. The one thing that was unmistakably obvious was the smell of burning oil, but both men explained to themselves that was from all the rocking of the elevator and the friction of metal to metal. “How long have we been here? “asked Tom. Allan looked at his watch. “God I can’t believe it’s only been about fifteen minutes? It seems like so much longer.” “Well, let’s go for it. Allan, you get on your hands and knees and I will try to reach the hatch.” Without hesitation, Allan quickly did what was asked. He was pleasantly surprised with Tom’s initiative finally kicking in. Allan felt 24
The Dark Hurts the weight of Tom digging getting into his back and was surprised that he wasn’t heavier. “How is it going?” he asked. “I can’t see how these lights are supposed to move, Allan. They don’t appear to want to go in any direction.” Tom was struggling, not because of lack of strength, but because it was very difficult to try and maintain his balance and try to reach just slightly beyond his limitations. “Wait a minute. I think I have something. If I can just get this motherfucker to shift over this lip… YES!” At that moment Tom lost his balance as the light fixture gave way to his strength. The movement was sudden and complete. The light fitting and Tom hit the floor almost together. In the darkness Allan was not sure who was where and if they had been successful at all. “Tom?! Are you all right, Tom?” called Allan. “Yes, yes I’m fine. Apart from the fact I can’t see a damn thing now and damaged pride. Yes, I’m fine. I think I cut on my hand though.” Allan felt around in the darkness to try and find one of the elevator walls, and in doing so also cut his hand on the broken fluorescent tube that lay on the floor. Both men sat there in silence. The only sounds that could be heard from them were the deepest breaths from the adrenaline still pumping through their entire bodies. It was almost as fast as the elevator speed when it dropped through the shaft. It was as if every vein in their bodies were stretched to the maximum, pumping their blood at unusual speed, distributing it to every part of their bodies. If they had not been young and fit God knows if both of their hearts could have they coped with the pressures they were under. There were still the mechanical sounds coming through the elevator shaft every now and then through the dark. Sounds strange enough, but nonetheless, they had both almost become familiar with in such a short period of time. The sound of metal on metal straining against each other, almost screaming in pain caused by the pressure they were putting each other under, and the smell. Such a strong, strange smell. 25
John Phillips Again, almost like burning oil. Old oil mixed with years of dirt and dust. The heat also was building but neither man had noticed, or if they had, hadn’t commented on it. Maybe again it was because subconsciously they had expected it. No electricity, no air-conditioning. Besides, the noise of their deep breathing would have masked a simple air-conditioning fan of any size elevator. Both men sat with their eyes fully dilated trying to see anything in the darkness, and hoping that their eyes would adjust quickly. The one thing that Allan had not realized was Tom’s hidden fear of the dark. It was not like most people’s fear from childhood that carry through to adult life. In fact, it did not materialize until he was in college. It was not a fear that gradually built over a period of time, but happened literally overnight. Tom remembered that night far too often, and with such detail it still made him shiver and sweat in fear. To this day, he didn’t understand the fear. The fear of what? What was in the darkness that he could not see, could not touch, or explain? All Tom knew was it was a fear. A fear, or realization maybe, that when something really bad, and not just bad, potentially final, were to happen to him it would be in the DARK! Sammie had been unbelievably good at understanding his problem, and even dismissed it with, “It’s just a phobia, just like my phobia for heights. No one understands why we have them, and it doesn’t necessarily have any link to our childhood. It’s simple. It’s just something we really dislike, that’s all.” For Tom it was much harder to accept, as he just did not understand it. Why? Why was always the question he asked himself. He went to therapy to try and get some answers, but it didn’t help. His therapist even put Tom under deep hypnosis in an attempt to get some answers, but it only confirmed is that it wasn’t traceable from his childhood. He had no terrible mother or father lock him into small dark closets as a method of punishment. No nightmares waking him in the middle of the night. No childhood illness that left him unconscious or temporarily unable to see. Eventually Tom stopped seeing his therapist, his third therapist, about his 26
How can just one day change so much in so many lives in the city of San Francisco? An 8.9 earthquake does not pick and choose its victims or...
Published on Jul 21, 2016
How can just one day change so much in so many lives in the city of San Francisco? An 8.9 earthquake does not pick and choose its victims or...