“There will never be any clear path for misery, so all we can do is to keep loving those who are hurt.”
Dev was relaxing in his bed at home watching his favorite movie, The Dukes Of Hazzard, for the umpteenth time when he heard his phone ring. The words he was about to hear would never leave him, for that moment was the first time that he experienced true worry. Fear, grief, heartbreak, surprise, and anger all rolled up into one gigantic ball that seemed to fall on his heart and remain there for a long time. He paused the movie and answered his phone, immediately sensing the anxiety on the other end of the phone.
“Dev, it’s Mrs. Kimthro. Valeria is in the hospital. We found her passed out on the floor in the bathroom. She’s very unstable. Valeria has been suffering from extreme bulimia, ever since…there are things she didn’t want you to know, but she needs you here now, regardless. We almost lost her. You should hurry.”
Those were the first words to throw his life upside down. He didn’t even have time to fully process what Valeria’s mother had said before he was already pulling on his shoes. His beloved girlfriend was in danger, and he needed to be there for her. A million questions were zooming through his brain, threatening to overflow. He raced downstairs, grabbed his coat hanging on a chair, snatched up his car keys, and was about to race out the door when he heard his mother call out to him.
“Dev, honey, where are you going? It’s late. You have school tomorrow,” his mom questioned.
“Mom, I don’t have time to explain, but Val is in the hospital and I need to be there,” Dev yelled as he slammed the door shut behind him.
Dev drove the 25 minutes to the hospital in a sweat, parked his car sloppily, and ran inside the huge, ominous brick building displaying faded welcome signs for visitors. On the inside, the hospital was completely different. What the outside lacked in beauty, the inside made up for in cheeriness and warmth. Potted plants, freshly cleaned floors, a faint smell of pie, and deep red and brown colors made the place feel strangely joyful. To the left of the entrance, was a tiny waiting room filled with melancholy patients and their loved ones. An elderly man sat alone, quietly wiping away tears dripping down his face. An obviously stressed middle-aged woman sat with a young girl — presumably her daughter, based on their similar facial features — who was vomiting into a plastic tub. The mother tenderly stroked her daughter’s hair as the girl’s body shook from weariness. Dev ran up to the sleek, wooden intake desk, then stopped for a minute to catch his breath.
“How can I help you today?” asked a friendly man behind the reception desk.
“Hi, I’m here to see Valeria Kimthro,” gasped an out of breath Dev.
“Ok. And who are you?” chirped the man.
“I’m her boyfriend,” Dev responded.
“I’m afraid that I can’t let you back there alone unless you’re a family member, or with one.”
Starting to panic, Dev pulled out his cell phone to call Mrs. Kimthro when suddenly he felt a shaky hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, Dev. Glad you’re here,” said Mr. Kimthro as he embraced Dev. Then, turning to the receptionist, he said, “I’m Bo Kimthro, Valerie Kimthro’s father. This is Dev Rull, he’s with me.”
“Great, you can both head on back,” declared the man as he pushed a tiny button. Suddenly, two giant doors swung open, and Bo led Dev through them. The pair of men walked through the shiny, sterile hall together in silence. Dev couldn’t get to his girlfriend fast enough, yet at the same time wasn’t ready to face her in pain. Eventually, Bo came to a stop and opened a simple door the color of eggshell that held behind it a complex web of suffering. As he entered the room, Dev’s heart rate sped up, and his eyes immediately fell on the face of Valerie. A face that always lit up at his stupid jokes, and kissed him with love as powerful as a mountain. Valerie, had dreamt day and night of her future career as Vermont’s number one author. Her wild dream was to find an old, abandoned cabin in an isolated part of the woods that she would fix up herself and while away the years. She would go on lengthy, daily hikes where she would listen to the croaks of the frogs, foxes eerily screeching, and the rustle of the wind twirling through the sharp pine branches. Valerie: the most selfless, loving young woman ever to set foot on this Earth. Or, that’s how she’d been up until about a month ago; lately, she didn’t talk about her Vermont dream. She’d become reclusive, depressed, and quiet recently.
Now, he was looking at the ghost of that gorgeous girl. Her skin was terrifyingly pale, and her body looked fragile as a baby bird’s. Her electric blue eyes had lost their million-dollar twinkle. He’d been noticing a decline in her health, but now it seemed shockingly present. Dev went to Valerie’s bedside and leaned over her frail body.
“Hey, Val,” Dev croaked out.
“Hey,” Valerie whispered as a gust of a smile breezed across her face. Mr. and Mrs. Kimthro silently left the room, leaving the two teenagers alone. Dev gently pushed Valerie’s legs over and sat down on the tiny hospital bed. There was a loud squeak as his body eased onto the cot. As Dev sat next to her with an anxious look on his face, Valerie closed her eyes, wishing things could go back to normal, before the accident. What had she done? Had a group of deities sat down for lunch one day, and as a group decided to ruin Valeria Kimthro’s life? Had they laughed maniacally, and then talked about the newest episode of The Walking Dead? Valerie believed in the core of her being that she was stupid, ugly, fat, annoying and worthless. That’s what she told herself every time she forced herself to vomit. Her days revolved around sliding her fingers down her throat, feeling her muscles tense, and then the sensation of the vomit fighting upwards through her body to see the world at last. After a particularly large retch, maybe she’d be pretty again when she looked in the mirror. Possibly, the fat would’ve also slid off her body and into the toilet. However, when she gazed at her body, all she saw was a disgusting human who didn’t deserve anything. She could almost see him standing behind her; feel his calloused hands running up and down her body. A month ago, a tall, hairy, fat, bald and angry man had pulled her into his car – a huge white van – and kept her there for the majority of the day. She had screamed, cried, and fought all she could, but he beat the fight response out of her while screaming incredibly hurtful words into her ears such as “Ugly, stupid bitch” and “You’ll never be good enough.” Afterwards, he made her do things, sexual things, that she had never even heard of. For eight hours on a Friday, he explored every sexual option her body had to offer. “Work, Bitch, work. You don’t belong in this world. Go back to hell. You stupid bitch. You ugly bitch.” He repeated that line every time she started to sob again. She believed him.
Realizing she’d fallen into another one of her dream states of intense thought, Valerie opened her eyes to find tears sliding down Dev’s face. She slid her hand across the sheets and grasped his smooth hand. Startled by her sudden activity, he quickly wiped away his tears and leaned down towards her face. While gripping her hand, he leaned down and planted a peck onto her silky cheek. She closed her eyes, but the face of her rapist appeared, screaming at her. She blinked, and looked into the sweet, cocoa-brown eyes of Dev. People were constantly saying, “Oh, it’s only young love,” about their relationship, but Val knew that they were wrong. She knew that she and Dev’s love for each other was as strong as the gargantuan waves covered in salty foam that come crashing down on the Atlantic Ocean during a summer storm. Too weak to speak anymore, she closed her eyes and drifted off, knowing that she was now safe with Dev there by her side. He was here in this hospital for her and only her. As she fell asleep, she let that thought drill deep into her head, never to be uprooted by any abusive man ever again.
Noticing Valeria’s even breath and closed eyes, Dev leaned down and attempted to doze off next to her, but it felt like his thoughts were hosting a rave inside his head. Even after thousands of years of evolution, discovery and exploration, humans are still struggling with basic emotions. There will never be any clear path for misery, so all we can do is to keep loving those who are hurt.