From all of the places Lana had been to, the one she really died to visit again and never had the chance to was New York. Her first time there was when she was seven, her memories weren’t the strongest, but she could almost see herself the day that plane landed, after almost twenty hours of traveling, running quickly out of the airport and begging to go sight-seeing right at that moment. Neither her parents’ exhaustion nor their repetitive refusals managed to make her stop nagging. And, she finally got what she had wanted. She could remember herself spinning around in the streets, admired by passer-bys for her flexible body and her spontaneity in dancing. Now she was back, better yet, she was back to dance; nothing could top that.
As for Mark, she soon started to forget him being around her. To her relief, he didn’t utter a word about his love to her. Maybe he doesn’t love me anymore. At first, the thought gave her comfort, then she began to feel that she had lost something she had owned before; she didn’t like that thought. So she came to believe that he still loved her. In fact, he loved her so much that he decided not to show those feelings to her lest she felt uncomfortable. That made her feel better.
IT WAS THE GLASS. Lana finally made it out. The entire theater looked alluring; the thick brick-red drapes, the two-level stage and the ropes coming out of everywhere. But she had seen it all before, except for the glass. She had never seen so much glass making up a theater The upper stage was made of glass, surrounded by glass and even the stairs she had to climb to get to that upper stage were made of glass. Even the table that she was going to use in the dance was made of glass. With the lights and the special effects, the stage looked like a huge diamond; dancing on this stage would be like being the sparkle of a rock on a solitaire.
Impatiently and joyously, Lana immediately jumped on stage and started spinning around. Mark followed, slower and steadier but not less eagerly. He looked at her; as she spun, her hair flew around in the air, and when she stopped, it landed in her mouth. She looked at him and laughed so childishly as she pushed her hair behind her ears, almost blushing with shame for her immature behavior. He met her with a very loving look. Her smile was gone, and she became indifferent again.
“Turn on the music, will you?” she said with a voice void of any level of compassion.
He obeyed. Then he got some papers out of his backpack. It was the lyrics of the song. He had memorized it back in the day, but it had been a while since he last practiced. He started reciting the words, realizing that Lana was doing her part of the rehearsal; dancing. He couldn’t bring himself to look at her again, not after the thoughts she had already triggered in his head. He heard her pulling the glass table through the stage, but he didn’t look. He heard her footsteps hurriedly making their way to the glass stairs; still he didn’t look. He was almost certain she was holding her right foot as her leg was stranded in the air while she stretched her other arm; all of that and he still managed to NOT look. He just kept reciting the song. He got really nervous when he realized that he had forgotten it. He got even more nervous when he couldn’t concentrate on the song because he was too busy trying to make out the meaning of every sound Lana made. Focus Mark. He said to himself almost audibly. And just when he was beginning to focus, Lana made a sound he wished he couldn’t have made out.
IT WAS THE GLASS. All that Mark could see; it was the glass … and Lana, lying in the middle of it all. Shrapnel-like pieces of glass were all over her body, some protruding from her arms, some scattered around her slightly bent legs, slashing them into open flesh. One was the size of a fist; it was planted in her abdomen. The other, which looked more like a knife than glass, was embedded in her chest. The only thing that was more than the glass was the blood. As Mark rushed towards her, he was able to picture all that had happened a few seconds ago. She was dancing passionately on the upper stage, probably leaping when she lost control over her body and flew down landing on the glass table. If only he had kept an eye on her, if only he had dropped that stupid paper and looked up, he could’ve been able to warn her, stop her, catch her, save her. But he didn’t, and she wasn’t spared.
“Lana! Oh my God, Lana!” He said as he knelt down beside her and reached out for her. He tried holding her in his arms, yet he got scared of moving some glass that might tear something up inside. “Lana, answer me. Are you ok?”
She didn’t speak. All he heard was her very heavy breathing penetrated by some fits of whimpering. Her eyes were wide open; he took that as a good sign.
“Help.” He screamed as loud as he could. “Please, someone call an ambulance. My friend is …” he couldn’t finish the sentence; he began choking on his tears. He didn’t remember crying like that since the day his father died.
People started showing up. Curious as they were, they kept a distance. Nobody asked what had happened, they could all see for themselves. Someone spoke to Mark in Arabic, told him that the ambulance was on its way. It was Amgad, the university employee who had come with them to New York to arrange for their trip; help them prepare for their performance and keep an eye on them. In short, he was responsible for them. He was a short, young man with a small figure and a low voice. Mark, who wasn’t seeing anything but Lana’s cuts and wounds, couldn’t recognize him.
Two paramedics arrived. They carefully carried Lana, laid her on the stretcher and rushed towards the ambulance. They exchanged some words that Mark could hear but not decipher. It was like they were speaking a language foreign to him, not the same English he could speak fluently ever since he was twelve. When they reached the ambulance, he was going to jump right in. Then he stopped realizing she probably didn’t want him there.
“You’ll be ok, Lana. I’ll call your parents and I’ll take a cab right this moment to hospital. I’ll stay with you until your parents arrive.” He was still crying, but he was now trying to straighten his words up, act like a man. Just as she was being pushed through the ambulance, he felt her grabbing his wrist. It was a very weak grab, yet it was strong enough to show that she did want him with her in the ambulance. And he jumped in right away.
WAS IT FIVE HOURS? Did he spend five hours alone in hospital waiting to hear from Lana’s doctor? Mark couldn’t exactly tell. The last time he looked at his watch was when they arrived at the theater It was five thirteen. That was the last time he saw those arms ticking. There was a watch in his hand, a clock hanging on the wall and even his cell phone could tell him the time. Yet he didn’t dare look. The longer they stayed in there, the more complications they faced. He thought to himself. So he kept convincing himself that he had only been here for a little time. The enormity of what he had to wait out was what made it seem like such a long time. But then again it was light when the accident happened; now it was dark. It had been dark for a very long time now. No, it’s just the enormity of the situation, that’s what’s making it seem like forever.
The O.R door was opened; Mark didn’t exactly hold his breath. It had been swinging back and forth for dozens of times now; all were nurses who refused to even look at him. But this time it was different. The scrubs looked different, the cap looked different, even the air about him was different. Mark knew this time it was the doctor; he was done.
“How is she?” he asked, not as urgently as he had expected. Perhaps it was the fear of getting bad news.
“She’s ok. Luckily the glass didn’t shatter lots of things inside. There was very few internal bleeding, given the way she looked on the outside. The most dangerous was the one in her abdomen, which almost ripped her stomach, and the one in her chest. But they’re all out now, and we’ve managed to stop the bleeding. She’s very fortunate; didn’t break any bones except her right arm. Probably the table absorbed the fall. She might as well start walking again in three weeks.”
“Three weeks?” Mark had been listening with relief, all until those words came up. “What’s wrong with her walking? Why can’t she walk right away?”
“The glass had damaged many muscles and ligaments. It’s gonna be a while before she starts using her limbs properly.”
“What about dancing? She’s a dancer. She won’t be able to survive without …”
Mark was cut adrift, “Wow, dancing! I’m afraid that’s very unlikely.”
“Can I see her?”
“Sure, she’s in the intensive care so you can’t stay long. But I can let the nurse take you there.”
The place looked very uncomfortable. The sound of machines beeping increased as he approached Lana’s bed. She lay down, eyes closed with tubes coming out of her mouth and nose. She wasn’t wearing anything; a sole white sheet was all that covered her up. Her exposed arms were full of plastered cuts; one was right at her wrist.
“Was her wrist cut?” Mark asked the nurse.
“Yes. But don’t worry, it’s all fixed.”
He reached out his hand to touch hers; her index finger was connected to yet another device. He looked at her face; miraculously, it had been spared any cuts. Her eyes slowly opened, she looked at his direction.
“Are you ok?” he asked her with watery eyes.
“Yes.” Her voice was a lot lower and weaker than he had expected it to be. “What happened?”
“You had an accident you …”
“No, I remember that. I meant what happened here in hospital? What did the doctor say?”
“He said you were very fortunate.” Mark was trying so difficultly to smile, “He fixed you all up inside.”
“I can’t feel my body, I can’t feel anything.” She moaned slightly moving her head.
“You’ve just been through surgery. It’s probably the anesthetic.” Interrupted the nurse. “Don’t worry. The effect is fading away as we speak.” She then turned to Mark, “I’m afraid you have to leave. I promised the doctor you won’t be long.”
He sighed, then held out Lana’s hand. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She nodded with tears in her eyes. “In the time being, if you need me, just ask one of the nurses to call for me and I’ll be right there.” She nodded again.
He turned around, but his hand was still wrapped around hers, just as he was about to cut it off the hook, he felt her fingers clinging and she feebly uttered his name. “Mark, I won’t be able to dance again, will I?”
“DID YOU SEE HER?” asked someone in Arabic. Mark turned around. But before he saw his face he was able to tell it was Amgad. Mark had barely noticed his presence all through the day. He couldn’t recall him calling 911, or sitting right next to him in the hospital’s waiting room, or even walking back and forth beside him in front of the O.R. Amgad had been like a shadow, a ghost; Mark knew he had to be there, yet he was never certain about his presence. “Is she ok?”
“Her parents are on their way. I told them that the doctor said she was no longer in danger. But you know how parents are like. They never believe it until they see for themselves. Besides, I heard her parents are untouchable. I think they’re coming here in a private jet or something.”
Mark eyed him with disrespect. He could feel the hostility in the air. “Anyway,” he said tapping Mark on the shoulder, “they wouldn’t have to worry about the hospital fees. We – referring to the college – have it all covered.” Mark still didn’t talk to him. “I’m going back to the hotel to get some sleep. Why don’t you come with me?”
“Thank you. But I’d rather stay here. I promised her I wouldn’t leave the hospital.”
“Suit yourself. I’ll be back first thing in the morning.” He began moving, then he turned around and said, “And if you need anything before then, just give me a call.”
When he was finally gone, Mark sat on one of the waiting chairs in the corridor. Soon he fell asleep. He was later on awoken by a soft, feminine voice. It was the same nurse that took him to see Lana.
“They have moved your friend out of the I.C.U. She’s in a regular room now.”
Mark quickly got up and followed the nurse. He could see that it was morning again. He had been sleeping for almost six hours. They walked through a long corridor, then they took the elevator. Mark always hated the smell of hospitals. Even their neon lights gave him stomach cramps. It all reminded him of his father’s death; all those times he used to play hide and seek with his brother on the hospital stairs. That one time they broke the small glass box in which the fire extinguisher is put. They fearfully rushed to the hospital cafeteria and tried to hide there. However, they were caught by one of the janitors and the hospital’s manager told their parents all about their mischief. Mark passed by one of those fire extinguishers now, he looked the other way. Finally, they reached Lana’s room. It was a very small room with a single bed, a single nightstand and just one chair. Lana was in bed, now she was wearing a hospital gown. The nurse gave him a few instructions then left. Mark slowly and quietly pulled the chair to her bedside, then he stayed there. He hesitated about holding her hand. He knew she wouldn’t like it now that she was out of the danger zone. He tried keeping his hands in his pockets so that they won’t reach out for hers, yet they were restless. To his relief, she finally opened her eyes.
“Hey.” He said.
“Hey.” She opened one hand; he put his in it.
“How are you feeling?”
“Better. I had a dream, about you.”
“About me?” his face lightened up.
“I was falling again. But this time you caught me. You carried me all the way to hospital and the doctor told us I was ok, that I could still dance.”
“Lana, I …”
“No, no, no.” she interrupted him saying, “I didn’t mean to blame you. It’s just that I feel like … like you kind of saved me yesterday. I don’t know how long I could have lain there before someone came to look for me. I wasn’t even able to scream. I’m very lucky I had you there with me.”
He didn’t smile, at least his lips didn’t, but his eyes were jumping up and down with joy. Was she giving him mixed signals? He thought it was very likely; she was weak and alone and had nobody else to take care of her. He didn’t take her for a manipulator, but he expected anything from her. To him, she was full of surprises.
“Where have you gone?” she asked interrupting his thoughts. Her voice was still low, but it was a lot stronger than before.
“I’m right here.”
“Good, because I’m bored to death. I need company.” She cunningly smiled.
“Your parents will be here anytime soon.” Said Mark casually. “Amgad told them about what happened. He said they’re already on a plane to New York.”
“God, my parents. They’re just so over-protective.” She turned her head and blew at the ceiling.
“I don’t blame them. I mean, my mother isn’t that over-protective and she could’ve worn wings and flown here if she had been in their place.” Lana gave out a silent laugh. “Hell, even Baher’s father would have flown right away if it had been him.” Her face changed at this remark. It seemed she didn’t want to remember Mohammad, not now, not like this.
“Speaking of whom, did he call?” she asked referring to Mohammad.
“I don’t think he even knows.”
“Please! If my parents know, then my sister knows. And if my sister knows, then everybody knows. She must’ve told Tonya and Tonya must’ve told him.” Now it was Mark’s face that changed.
He cleared his throat. “She couldn’t have known.” He then said, “If she had known, she would’ve called me right away to check on you.”
“Where’s your cell?”
Mark paused and started looking for it in his pocket. Not finding it, he stood up and started looking harder. Lana giggled carefully in fear of hurting her chest.
“You’re right.” He said after a while. “I must have forgotten it at the hotel.”
He stayed with her all day long, trying to make her feel better; something which proved to be not very difficult after all. At night her parents arrived. Her sister didn’t come with them. Mrs. Masry said that she had a summer camp in London. Her mother looked a lot different from the way she had looked all the other times Mark had seen her. She didn’t have even a brush of make up on. And her hair – which turned out to be not straight, but very curly – was combed backwards and tied. She looked ten years older that way. As for her father, he didn’t seem quite different, except for the worry-lines that appeared on his forehead. Mark stayed with them for five minutes then he excused himself.
“I’ll come again tomorrow.” He told Lana before leaving the room.
On his way to the elevator, he heard someone call his name. He turned around to come face to face with Mr. El Masry, Lana’s dad.
“I just want to thank you for taking care of my daughter until our arrival. They told me you didn’t leave her even for one second.”
“It had been my pleasure, sir.”
They shook hands, then Mark got on the elevator.
WHEN HE FINALLY reached his hotel room, he found his cell phone lying on the bed. The battery was dying. He got the charger out of the nightstand drawer and plugged it in. He then opened it to see if there were any missed calls. He found two from his mother, half a dozen from Tonya and one from Mohammad. He called his mother to tell her he was ok. Later, he called Mohammad to tell him that Lana was ok. He didn’t call Tonya.