Archive for February 28th, 2007


He looked so small. Was he really that thin? With all the bruises on his face he looked entirely different. For Doris, that hit home with her unique and uncanny ability with faces. Even though John had only visited her twice, he had left an indelible impression.

A police officer entered John’s room and Doris stood to greet him.

“So you say he was mugged?” she asked.

“Yes Ma’am,” the investigating officer said.

“I see.”

“So you’re his next of kin?”

“No!” Doris said, a little more forcefully than intended.

“So who are you then?”

Doris just shook her head.

***

She sat with him every day, every night. Every spare moment she had, she spent it by his bedside. He was now breathing on his own but he still hadn’t regained consciousness. She had told Dr. Matheson about Stevie or what she knew of him, at least. He told her that they would deal with that later. “Let’s just see if he can open his eyes first,” he had said. “But it does explain the fact that there weren’t any defensive wounds found on him. That’s very strange for a case like this. He was either completely taken by surprise with no time to react or he didn’t even attempt to defend himself at all. My guess would be the latter based on the extent and type of his injuries.” Doris wept quietly when Dr. Matheson left the room.

Oh what to do with Johnny, she fretted. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t tell her his story. Surely he had family somewhere, people who might be missing him? Strangely enough no one had filed a missing person report. She took to reading to him, anything to pass the time, any way to stimulate him into consciousness.

Fourteen days later, John woke up. Doris was at the hospital but had just left his room to get herself a fresh coffee and some air. When she returned, she was shocked to see him, wide awake and staring out the window. He tried to get up to greet her but was temporarily snared by his IV. Then he was gripped by his own weakness and flopped heavily back onto the hospitals pristine pillows.

“Hey Doris,” John spoke rather casually, “what are you doing here?” It seemed odd, she thought, that his first question would be regarding her presence in the hospital and not his own.

“Well kid, you gave us all a pretty good scare. Do you remember anything that happened to you right after you left the diner? You know, that time after you told me about Stevie?”

“You know about Stevie?” John asked incredulously? Obviously his memory was a little bit murky at best.

“I just said that you told me about him!”

“Oh, sorry…” John seemed to shrink backwards within himself.

“Hey, hey. Don’t do that. I’m not mad at ya. Just worried is all. Hang on, let me go get everybody; they’ll be so excited!” Perhaps almost as excited as Doris was.

Over the next few days, contact was made with John’s only living relative, Keith, who flew in from London as soon as he heard. He thanked Doris profusely for all she had done and the vigil she had kept at his bedside.

John ended up being let go from his job. Not for his failure to show up during his days in the hospital but for his entire career of tardiness in general. The mugging and John’s subsequent rehabilitation just gave the company a perfect opportunity to bid him adieu. Doris and John’s relationship was now cemented, however. She still visited him whenever she could, first in the clinic where he sent after release from the hospital and then in assisted housing where he was placed to live, as he could no longer fully support himself. Doris continued to read to him, only this time John actively participated and sometimes did some of the reading himself. With Doris’ help John managed to attain a suitable level of literacy and even picked up a part time volunteer job at a local community centre.

Doris continued working for the rest of her days at the diner. No one ever came in like that one customer, on another otherwise nondescript rainy fall day and that was just fine. In her eyes, no one could have ever replace her Johnny anyway.

And as for Stevie, he disappeared. John had several new doctors now and one of them had given him some medication to, as he said, “let Stevie be free.” It wasn’t that Stevie was bad and being punished, John was told, it was just time for him to go on his own. After all, John was now a man and Stevie was still a boy. It was just better that way. John was relieved but on some days he still missed Stevie. On those days, he would get out his watercolours and paint for hours…to remember all the things they liked to do and all they places they had visited during their time together.


Whoosh…shuk…whoosh…shuk…

“I think we can take him off the ventilator now.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. He’s breathing on his own…or at least he wants to.”

“Wants to?”

“Are you kidding me? This guy’s a fighter!”

“Well, he certainly came in looking like one.”

“Yeah, I know. How on earth he thought he could take on six guys, I have no idea! His tox screen was clear so I have no clue what was going through his mind.”

“The police questioned the other parties and they just kept saying something about him yelling for someone named Stevie?”

“Well, he’s got no ID. I don’t know but maybe ‘Stevie’s’ a relative?”

“Alright. Call that number, that place…it should be open by now.”

***

“Hello? Yeah, this is Doris… Who? I think you’ve got the wrong number…or at least the wrong Doris. Yeah? Uh-huh… Okay, okay let me see what I can do. I’ll be over as soon as I can.” Doris had no idea what was going on or why the hospital had called her. And a mugging? All they told her was that some John Doe had been found, barely alive, with her name and the name of the diner scrawled across a piece of paper in his pocket. She had no idea who it could have been but the nurse had been so insistent she felt she had to go. During all her years of service she rarely took time off so Lou was sure to oblige her on such short notice.

“Call Anne. I think she’s at home today,” Doris yelled as she flew out the diner’s front door, the cheerful clatter of its tiny bells lost in the sound of the city.

When she arrived at the ICU desk she asked for the nurse that had called her.

“I’m sorry Miss…Miss…I’m sorry, what is your last name?”

“Beckstein.”

“Yes, Miss Beckstein. We really had no other recourse. His wallet and ID were missing. If nothing more we thought you could at least provide us with identification.” Doris inhaled deeply, “Okay, if you say so.”

They walked down the hall and peered into the window of a private room that looked more like a laboratory than a hospital room. So much equipment! Doris had never seen anything like it?

“Well, here he is, Mr. John Doe.” Doris stiffened at the task proposed to her. Okay, I’m ready, she thought, half consumed with fear, half battling an intensely morbid curiosity. She entered the door and approached the man on the bed.

“Oh my god…Johnny..”

“So you know him.”

“Well, yeah but…”

“Alright, come with me.” They returned to the desk.

“I’ll need you to just fill out these forms…”

“What? Whoa, wait a minute…You said I just had to ID the guy.”

“Well, yes…and now we need you to fill out these forms.”

“Hey, I don’t know this guy. He just showed up at the diner a couple of times.”

“Oh. Okay, just a second. Let me speak with my supervisor.” As the nurse turned away,

Doris called, “Hey, does this guy have a doctor?” This was the real beginning of

Doris and John’s relationship.