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Changed for Life
I was beginning to fall asleep on the bench, when I heard the clink of some coins falling into my bucket.
I sprang up, looking for the source of the money. In doing so, however, I dropped some of the change on the ground and frantically began picking it up. I was hoping that this would be enough for a coffee or maybe even a mini muffin – anything to warm and fill me up. The man, whom I am assuming put the money in my bucket, squatted and helped me put the change back in there. He was carrying a briefcase and wore a suit; he was clearly wealthy. He smiled at me, throwing in an extra fifty dollars –
“Fifty dollars!” I exclaimed, and then I clamped my mouth shut. That could buy me meals for two or three weeks, if I saved it right! “Thank you, but why are you helping me, you don’t even-”
“My name’s Mel. What’s yours? Do you want to go out for some coffee, on me?”
“I – I’m Edward. Yes, please, that would be great, thank you! But-” He cut me off, put the bucket on the ground, and began leading me to the nearest Starbucks.
While there, he ordered me a Venti coffee, though I only asked for a Tall. He also got me a muffin that I didn’t ask for at all. He was so kind, and so interesting to learn about. I found out that he was a business man on Wall Street, and that he was living in an apartment alone, ever since his girlfriend left him. Mel and I hit it off so well, that he asked me if I wanted to spend the night at his apartment. He offered for me to sleep on the couch, and said that he thought I deserved it for being so kind to him. I told him that it felt funny for me to sleep at his house, especially since I’d barely done anything for him and didn’t know him well, but he insisted.
We got there in a private car, and made our way up to his apartment on the 35th and top floor by elevator – two things I can’t even remember the last time I’ve used. As he made the
couch into my bed, he began explaining how he felt a connection between us.
“I don’t know, I just feel like there’s something familiar about you,” he said, walking into his furnace room to get warm clothing for me. He called to me “maybe you might have heard of the adoption center, Rosemary’s? That’s where I-” and then I heard the explosion, saw the flame go up, and grabbed the nearest landline, dialing 911 as I ran in to help him.
“How is he?” I asked as soon as I saw the doctor walk out of the CCU.
He stared at me, with a sad look in his eyes. One of the nurses must have passed on the story I had told her – how we met on the street, went out for coffee, and both felt the same instant connection.
The burns that covered Mel’s body must have given away the fire. He sat down next to me, put his hand on my knee and said simply, “he’s not doing well.”
I got up and started pacing around the room, wondering if there was anything I could do for him. As if reading my thoughts, the doctor told me that that Mel needed a blood transfusion to live, due to the fact that his arm had severe and possibly life-threatening damage.
“What do you need to give a blood transfusion? I mean, is it possible if – would I be able to – can I –”
“Edward,” the doctor began gently, but I cut him off.
“No! I have to help Mel! He needs me, and if there’s anything I can do for him, then I am willing to do it at all costs. I don’t care what it takes; I need to help my f-friend.”
“Edward, if you want to help, we could see if your blood is an exact match to his, and do the blood transfusion using your blood. However, the odds of that are slim to –”
I cut the doctor off, beaming, to ask him if I could go see Mel, and he reluctantly agreed to let me see him briefly.
I walked into the room, just to say four words to him, “I’m returning the favor.” With that, I walked out of the room and told the doctor that I was ready for the blood tests.
After two agonizing hours of almost passing out, drinking orange juice, eating cookies, and worrying about Mel, I was finally done with the blood tests – and I was miraculously an exact match! I had given the appropriate amount of blood necessary and was sitting anxiously in the Waiting Room when the doctor came out and gave me news that I never expected to hear.
“Edward, I don’t know how to tell you this gently but…Mel’s arm got infected and…and we weren’t able to do the blood transfusion quick enough…and…well…he’s gone.”
“Will work for food,” I shouted at a random stranger for about the fiftieth time that hour, preparing to face rejection once again. I hopped up, unable to control myself, and started chasing after him. “Get back here!” I screamed, before slipping and falling on some melting snow. I started crawling on the ground, trying to grab him; when I failed I collapsed into sobs on the ground.
After sobbing for a time, I looked up abruptly, seeing something – or someone - familiar. No, it couldn’t be, but-
“Mel? Mel?! MEL!” I shouted, thinking I saw him. I reached out for him, and began to stand, unsteadily. I almost got a hold of him, and tried to hug him, but once he was within my reach he disappeared without a trace.
I ran in circles, screaming his name at the top of my lungs, knowing he had to be there. But then I remembered that he had died. I sat on the ground and sobbed some more, unable to control my emotions. Then I started to shiver, uncontrollably, and I decided that I needed to lie down. And before I could stop anything, I saw two policemen escorting the man that I chased down the street. Suddenly, they threw my weak body into the back of a police car, and stuffed two large pills and some water down my throat before I passed out and woke up to the bright lights of an unfamiliar room.
“W-where am I?” I asked a woman when I eventually got the energy to speak.
“Oh, thank GOODNESS you’re awake,” she said, and then made a call through a walkie-talkie, telling them to come down to the Infectious Disease Unit.
“Where am -” I began to repeat, but before I could finish, I had a mob of men and women on top of me, taking my temperature, checking my blood pressure, and sticking needles into me. I shouted out protests, to which they ignored, and once I had given up shouting at them, they were done, the dust had cleared, and only one man remained – one that I was certain had not been part of the mob, but wore a white coat, carried a clipboard, and looked too familiar for me to ignore.
“Are you – did you – do I – were you –” I could barely speak, but I had a million questions to ask him.
“I’ll do the talking, you need more rest. You’re currently in the Infectious Disease Unit in a hospital near your hometown. You have pneumonia, and a bad case of it. I’m going to be your doctor through most of this. I’m hoping that you remember that your name is Edward and that you were living on the streets of New York City for years. You’re back in your hometown in New Jersey. Your adoptive parents are in the waiting area right now, if you’d like to see them. We were able to locate your birth parents through the blood work you did to help out your brother when he was in the hospital. They contacted your adoptive parents. They’ve been so worried about you. They want -”
“What do you mean by ‘the blood work I did to help out my brother?’ I did that to help out a friend, but I failed.” Then, I had to epiphany. “No. I didn’t fail. YOU failed! YOU killed him! This is entirely YOUR fault! If it wasn’t for you, I’d still have my best friend.” I broke into sobs, thinking about what could have been. “I miss him so much,” I said once I calmed down a little bit.
“Edward, I know how hard it is to lose a sibling. You and Mel had just found each other, and I know that-”
“Why do you keep calling Edward my brother?”
“Because he is your brother, Mel. Didn’t you know? He was your twin; you were separated when you were just a few days old, when you were taken by your adoptive parents.”
And in that moment, everything became clear: the connection we had; the blood type we shared; the reason we felt so comfortable around each other; the fact that we came from the same adoption center. It all made sense. We were destined to meet each other, even for the shortest amount of time, just to know what it’s like to have a sibling, another half. And because of that realization, through my tears and depression and anger and sadness, I realized something else: we were not supposed to know each other, not too well, at least, and that’s why Mel was taken from me, to know him for just the shortest amount of time, just long enough so that I could be changed for life.
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