I was slowly beginning to surface through the heavy clouds of anesthesia when my eyelids were wrenched open and a bright light penetrated through the haze moving rapidly from eye to eye.
"Steven... Steeeeven... Hellloooo... Yoohoo, Steven wake up. Can you hear me Stephen?" The voice couldn't have been anyone besides my cardiologist, an annoying middle aged man that probably still lived with his mother. I found it hard to believe that he passed medical school and it was even harder for me to believe that he was the best in the country.
I attempted blinking and was successful after Dr. Nahill realized I was awake and also perfectly capable of performing that task by myself.
"Oh good, you're awake. It would have been a shame if you died and that ol' ticker you've got didn't get a chance to work. Well, it's a new ticker but you get the point. Your irreversible, end-stage biventricular failure has been reversed." Dr. Nahill barked out an awkward laugh that stopped once he realized I wasn't amused.
I attempted to sit up as I rolled my eyes but a pair of manicured hands gently yet forcefully held me in my horizontal position. I followed the hands up to a cherub face that held a set of brown eyes bisected by blonde bangs.
"I wouldn't try that just yet," she said in flirtatious, childlike voice. Had my head been together, I would have said something to invoke more of such behavior but being as I was - previously incapacitated, recently brought back to the land of the conscious - I had neither the capacity nor the energy to make such a comment.
Nahill chimed in. "She's right; you have too many stitches and staples for that." Dr. Nahill and the intern - Rachael, from her decorated name badge - shared a brief glance that I wouldn't have noticed had a guilty blush not crept along her porcelain face.
After that they spent too much time educating me about my artificial heart; How it worked, how to charge the external battery, how long the charge of the internal battery would last for me to shower do other things that required me to take off the external battery pack , technicalities. I was all too happy when they pumped me full of morphine and left in a hurry, presumably for a session of knocking boots. I was even happier when I checked out of the hospital a week later with my heart and its irreversible, end-stage biventricular failure in a jar filled with formalin in hand.
My first stop was at a FedEx. I walked in, my heart in a battered navy backpack, told the guy behind the desk I needed a box and held up my hands to indicate the relative size. He was being difficult so I decided that if he didn't want to cooperate then I wouldn't play nice.
"Sir, yea big is not a size," He said holding his hands up as I had done, mocking me. "Please measure the object and come back with the correct dimensions."
"You know, silly me," I said, unzipping the bag slowly, "I've got it right here. You can measure it."
A collective gasp came from everyone in the building as I slammed the jar on the plastic counter top. The heart, being rattled swirled around in the liquid. I heard a couple of people gag behind me and the FedEx worker looked queasy.
Mission accomplished. "Go ahead, give me a box that this will fit in."
"Right away, sir," he called over his shoulder. He came back quicker than I expected but I assume it was only because there was a human heart on his desk.
I paid for the box, dodged a patch of vomit on the floor, made my exit by kicking the door open with more force than necessary and flipped him the bird with a nice "Fuck you!" when he bid me a good day.
My second stop was a hallmark. There I bought a roll of shiny, colorfully striped wrapping paper and a birthday card. This time when I went to the counter I got better service. The older woman actually made an attempt to have a conversation with me. She asked who the girl I bought the card for was and even offered to wrap the package for me after I admitted that I had no idea how to. Ecstatic couldn't even begin to describe my excitement because everything would be perfect when Violet got the package.
My final stop was at Violets house. Cars of various shapes, colors and sizes were parked in front of the red brick house for her birthday gathering seeing as she was "too old" for a birthday party.
Sitting in my car, I scribbled a note on the left side of the card in my less that adequate penmanship: Happy Birthday Vi! You're another year closer to death! In honor of the day you came into existence, wrote a poem just for you.
Is this the part where I cackle with glee
Because I'm older than you and always will be
Okay, I lied. I didn't write it. I typed in birthday poems on google and there was a squirrel with a martini so naturally I was obligated to click on it because nothing is better than squirrels with booze. The moral of this story is happy birthday and thanks for being born.
PS) This gift came from the heart. You'll laugh when you open it.
With that I grabbed the package and headed up the short yet winding path to her front door. I rang the doorbell expecting Violet yet to my relief her mother, Mrs. Sangrey, opened the door looking somewhat shocked and surprised to see me.
"Steven, what a pleasant surprise. I haven't seen you in a while," She tried to give me a hug but I stopped her.
She looked hurt so I explained. "I had surgery. Stiches and things are still a little sore."
She smiled a bright smile that made the edges of her hazel eyes crinkle. Violet looked so much like her with the same charcoal hair, bright smile."Would you like to come in for some cake and I'm sure Violet would love to see you?"
The cake was tempting but I turned it down, making like I was going to leave but instead of going to my car I hopped their fence. I did good only to have slightly sprained my ankle with it being the first time I'd ever jumped a fence. I crept behind the shrubs that lined their backyard, waiting for Violet to open the patio door.
Through the open blinds, I watched her mother pass on the package then watched as Violet exited the house. She took a seat on the outdoor couch, set the package down and opened the card. She read it, bright green eyes scanning the page rapidly then placed it next to her. The artificial heart beat was the bass line to my nervousness as questions began to pop up. What would she do? Would she like it? Would she panic?
Violet slid a delicate finger under a corner of the paper and pulled. She had always been one to peel wrapping paper with care, never ripping it off. The heart beat even louder and I hoped Violet couldn't hear it as she pulled a small pocket knife from the back of her jeans to slice open the box. The knife,having not being used for a while, was more than enough to go through the thin pieces of tape. Moments later she lifted the jar out of the box. She looked taken aback for a split second then quizzically raised an eyebrow. She turned the container around to get a better look at it. I let out a breath I didn't realize I was holding.
Violets emerald gaze shifted over to my hiding place. When our eyes made contact through the shrubbery, a smile played across her lips.
"Steve, get over here."
I crawled out, stood shakily, went over to her, half limping, and finally flopped down on the sofa, all six feet, 153 pounds of me.
Violet held up the jar. "And this is your heart?" I nodded and began unbuttoning my flannel to show her the scars. Lightly, she traced over the stitches with the tips of her tiny fingers. She trailed up the side of my neck where she expected the pulse to be. She felt the quickening thrum of the artificial heart and her smile grew even bigger.
"How do I know you didn't just take a knife to yourself and get it stitched up?" She scoffed so I showed her the battery pack which she laughed at calling it a glorified pager.
"What do you have against my mechanic heart?" I asked her. I could feel a silly grin beginning to make its way across my face.
"Nothing," Violet drew back ever so slightly, the smile still settled on her lips. "Just thanks, that's all."
I scratched the back of my neck nervously. "If you say-" The lips that I had so carefully been watching swept in and planted themselves on my cheek catching me speechless.
"Thanks," Said Violet letting her short hair form a strawberry scented curtain around her heart shaped face.
Dr. Nahill took over my body for a second, having spent so much time with him, and I barked out an awkward laugh but it slowed to a chuckle when she cocked an inquisitively eyebrow. "I'd say anytime but that's the only heart I have."
Violet shook her head, laughing her laugh that sounded like the wind blowing through chimes. "Oh Stevie,"
She reached to hug me; I didn't stop her. Stitches, staples and all she hugged me but I didn't mind. I hugged back even after blood began seeping through my shirt.
"I have one question though. Why?"
I rolled my eyes. "Because I knew you would take care of it."
She punched me playfully. "Let's go get some ice-cream."
My stomach growled making a decision for me. I couldn't object to that so I followed her inside all the while she carried the heart. I can't count the number of funny stares we got weaving between the crowd of people but it was worth it.