I wake up to a small amount of warmth on my arm in a room as cold as the Arctic. I look up to find the stark white sheet still scrunched up in my hand and my face instantly gives in to its former spot on the bed. The spot is damp and sticky with my salty tears and warm mucus. The warm spot on my arm becomes warmer as the nurse gently tightens her grip on me.
‘’I’m sorry sir but you’re going to have to leave unless you’re family or a friend, and you have already stated that you are neither.’’
I don’t budge and she sighs.
‘’I can give you five more minutes with him, nothing more, and then you’re going to have to leave. Okay? Forensics wants an autopsy done on the body’’
She loosens her grip and then lands a light pat of sympathy on my back before I hear her footsteps growing fainter as she moves on to the next patient.
How do people do that? Continue living as if nothing happened? Knowing a young boy’s light has just been put out? An autopsy? They’re going to cut him up? That’s gruesome. And then I think back to how I had found him. Sprawled and unmoving on the window-washing boom fifteen floors below. Gruesome.
Even more gruesome was the moment when I finally managed to roll him back up to roof level with the boom, and I regrettably was the first to see the dark red blood pooling around the crack in his temple.
Five minutes later we were being whirred away in an ambulance with its sirens blaring at other traffic to get out of the way. The paramedics were on him, he was crashing. I stood there trying to breathe, with a boy’s blood on my shoulder.
That was all just an hour ago. Now they want to cut him up.
The air outside the hospital is cool and calming. The sun is blazing as it should be at the height of summer. Skies are clear and charmingly blue. A perfect day to not die.
It all still feels so surreal. The dead boy’s bike in my hand. This walk to the so-called shelter that he stayed at.
‘’Hey!’ a young voice shouts my way. Is it him? Is he back?
I snap out of my trance to see a young boy limping towards me, more like dragging his leg along with the rest of him.
‘’Thief! Where’s Trent? Why do you have his bike?’’ he yells angrily.
‘’I found it.’’
‘’Liar! What did you do to him?’’ He gets so angry that his voice breaks.
‘’I took him to hospital’’ I reply emotionlessly.
The boy is taken aback. ‘’The hospital? Why?’’
I sniff back tears. ‘’Who are you?’’
‘’ Sadie?’’ he asks more than answers.
‘’Also from the shelter?’’
‘’Was he your friend?’’
‘’ He is my best friend. Who are you?’’ His angry demeanour returns and he balls up his fists.
Before I even realise what’s going on I walk over and embrace the boy in one arm while the other still holds onto the bicycle.
‘’Trent isn’t coming back.’’
His eyes widen. ‘’You’re crazy! Who are you? What did you do to Trent? What did you do to Trent?’’ His accusations and anger turn to sobs as he violently wrenches himself from my embrace and pounds on my chest for answers.
‘’What did you do to Trent?’’
I pick up the sobbing boy, as light as a feather, skin and bones to the touch and place him on the bicycle seat.
After facing a stubborn receptionist, whose stubbornness doesn’t last long because of Sadie’s aggression, Sadie is in the exact spot I was in under half an hour ago, tears streaming down his face, in visible agony after witnessing his friend’s demise.
‘’How could you do this? Trent? What were you thinking, man? We said we would stick it out together!’’
‘’Stick it out together? What happened?’’
Sadie sniffles and then goes silent.
‘’I’m sorry, it’s none of my business’’ I say, feeling the heat of embarrassment engulf my face
‘’You don’t have to te...’’
‘’Our foster parents’’ he interrupts me.
‘’His father was hurting him while his mother was away on business trips. I just didn’t like mine. It’s like they took me in for the sake of their reputation. They didn’t love me. ‘’
I nod in understanding.
‘’He loved his mother, she was going to adopt him but she had no idea how two-faced her husband was. Trent didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t say no to being adopted, especially since he was so old. He was lucky enough to even have a family that wanted him.’’
‘’How old is... uhm... was he?’’ I ask.
‘’Fifteen, same age as me. He ran away about two months ago, even though he knew his mother would be devastated. Two weeks ago though he hurt his arm real bad. I hurt my leg. Didn’t want to come to hospital because he knew they’d call his parents and he’d have to go right back to that man. He was depending on us at the shelter to help him do stuff because his arm was hurt so badly. He hated being so dependent on us. He thought he was being a burden to us. But I promised to stick by him. He knew the cops were looking for him so that they could take him back home. I guess he felt...’’
‘’...that there was no good solution’’ I finish.
Sadie buries his face in the sheet again and his starved body shudders as he sobs uncontrollably.
He manages to gather himself after a while and stands up, revealing a more resolved look on his face.
‘I want to keep him alive. He loved sport. I want to do it for him. But... ‘’
‘’Your leg?’’ I say
He nods sadly.
A light bulb goes off in my head.
‘’Have you ever thought of becoming a cyclist?’’
He sighs deeply as if there’s something I’m not understanding.
‘’ I was never taught how to ride a bike. Even Trent didn’t teach me. I guess that’s how depressed he was’’
I ponder on that for a moment.
‘’I can teach you’’
Moments later we are back outside the hospital, on the pavement with the sun’s UV rays beating down on us.
Sadie is in position on the bike and he pushes on the pedal, through the pain in his leg.
‘’For Trent’’ He says.
‘’For Trent’’ I confirm.
As I’m supporting him on the bike I think back to how I got on that rooftop in the first place.
It would have been me if it hadn't been Trent. Cystic Fibrosis has been rough on me since birth. But jumping off that rooftop can't be the only solution. For neither you nor me, Trent.
I glance at Sadie as he continues to push on the pedals after I let go of the bike.
This has to be the solution.