I love saving people’s lives; it’s what I do best; well, I am a doctor! I’ve just finished work for the day, I’m on the late shift. I shouldn’t have been on it but someone asked me to swap with them so they could watch their child’s school play and I’m not unkind. I don’t live too far from the hospital, so I rarely take my car to work, only when I’m feeling particularly lazy. Besides, walking in the cool night air helps me to think. I think about my son; how though he’s only one I’m already immensely proud of him. I was afraid when I found out my wife was pregnant. My dad was a horribly bad-tempered man and was worried I would be the same with my child. I could never do that to my son though.
I’ve just gone through the tunnel that’s about ten minutes from my house so I should be home soon but as I think more and more about my childhood, my footsteps become slower. I start to think back to when I was a boy. My mum was an alcoholic. I blame my dad for that; he used to beat her all over the place and me too when I spoke out of turn or said something he didn’t agree with. The drink turned my mum into someone I barely recognized; she was a monster when she hit the bottle, a screaming depressive monster with no consideration for anyone else let alone her son. I know it’s not nice to refer to your mother that way but that’s how I saw her.
I have this particularly vivid memory that sums up my traumatic relationship with my parents and it was when I was fifteen; the day that I told them I wanted to become a doctor.
I was sat on a stool by the breakfast bar in the kitchen. My mum was sat on the stairs crying again, with a half-drunk vodka bottle in her hand. My dad was upstairs looking for his favorite tie and I was trying to work up the courage to tell them about my future ambitions. I heard the sound of my dad coming down the stairs and took a deep breath.
“GET OUT OF MY WAY YOU LAZY EXCUSE FOR A WOMAN,” I heard him shout. “YOU’RE NOT EVEN OUT OF YOUR PYJAMAS FOR GOODNESS SAKE!”
Uh-Oh this is not going to be easy I thought. My dad came into the kitchen wearing his smart grey suit; to anyone else he may have looked like a smart businessman; a family man even, but not to me, I knew what he was really like.
“Erm dad,” I began. He turned around to glare at me.
“What?” He said clearly annoyed. My mother made her way back into the kitchen and sat down on the stool opposite me. I swallowed loudly and decided it was time to speak up.
“Dad,” I said again, “Mum…” They both looked at me as if I were nothing more than a bug on their window screen.
“I know what I want to do with my life,” I said. My mum looked mildly curious, but my dad just continued to glare at me as if he wanted nothing more than to crush my life right out of me.
“I want to be a doctor,” I said, “I want to save people’s lives.” My mum and dad looked at each other and then burst into sudden fits of laughter.
“Yeah right,” said the man who called himself my father. “You’ve not got the brains for it.”
“All my teachers say I’m smart enough,” I said.
“They bloody well would an’ all,” said my dad. “They want you to waste your life in education, but I tell you something you can forget this doctor dream…Once you’re old enough…you’re getting out there and earning your keep.” I was annoyed at that; he couldn’t just brush my dreams aside like they didn’t matter; I really wanted to be a doctor.
“No dad,” I said. It was as if someone had slapped him in the face; he moved quicker than lightning and before I had chance to move, he had one hand wrapped round my throat.
“DON’T YOU DARE SAY NO TO ME,” he roared.
“But I….I….I,” I stuttered, “doctors earn loads…”
His grip tightened around my throat so I could barely breathe.
“ONLY BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS PAY FOR THEM WHILE THEY DO THEIR FRIGGIN’ STUDIES,” he shouted.
I couldn’t speak at that point as his hand was too tight around my throat; I thought I was going to pass out.
I tried to struggle free. Finally, when I felt like I couldn’t bare the pain any longer, he threw me to the floor.
“YOU WANNA BE A DOCTOR?” he roared, “FIND SOMEWHERE ELSE TO LIVE!”
I quickly ran out the room. Two weeks later I left home. I ran away to my Auntie Jo’s; she was the only member of my dad’s family that had ever showed me any compassion.
My Auntie Jo supported me in my dreams to be a doctor and she stood there looking so proud of me when I finally graduated wearing my black gown on graduation day. Bless her life; Auntie Jo was a godsend; everything my mother was not. It broke my heart when I lost her to a heart attack a few years ago but still; you carry on don’t you, because you have to?
I’m just turning the corner near my house when I spot him; he’s standing there looking lost. He’s only a kid; he can’t be much older than eighteen. “Are you alright?” I say and then I spot the gun in his hand.
Someone is walking down the street towards us; a woman I think; I can’t tell because my eyes refuse to leave the gun. I hear a scream then out of the corner of my eye I see the woman running off down the street; please let her be phoning the police, I think.
Me and the kid; we just stand there eyeing each other for about ten minutes. I daren’t move in case he shoots me. Then the police arrive; I feel a sudden sense of relief but even they can’t seem to talk the kid down.
As the police start screaming at the kid to put the gun down; the horror of the situation threatens to overwhelm me. I can barely think. I’m paralyzed with fear. He’s pointing a gun straight at me. I don’t know why he wants me dead, he’s only a kid. He looks too young to be holding a gun.
I want to be brave. I want to tell him not to be stupid; to just drop the gun and that we can both go home but I can’t. My courage has let me down. I’m going to die in fear, not a hero. I feel like a lost little boy; like my dad has come back again.
Being a doctor, I know that if he shoots me in the chest, I’m as good as dead; hardly anyone recovers from a gunshot wound to the chest. “Please don’t kill me,” I shout but my pleas seem to fall on deaf ears. It’s as if he can’t even hear me, like he’s in his own little world.
What will my wife do without me? I don’t want her to have to go through that kind of grief. She lost her mother only a year ago to cancer. How can I leave her now? What will she tell our son? He’s only one, he won’t understand. He’ll think I’ve abandoned him.
But wait, there’s a flicker of hope; he’s slowly lowering the gun! Thank God, I’m going to be okay.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
The policeman is whispering something in his radio.
All of a sudden, without warning, the kid raises the gun again and before I have time to register what’s happening; I hear a loud bang.
I think he’s missed at first but then I look down to the wet red patch on my shirt and then the pain kicks in. I collapse to the ground.
I can’t breathe, I think he’s shot me in the chest; I take a few deep breathes but it’s no use; nothing can help me now.
I’m going to die. I’m in such indescribable agony, I can barely think straight. All I can see is the kid looking at me; at first, he looks like he’s waiting for something. Then he drops the gun and looks at me in horror. Even though I am in so much pain; I can tell he feels so much remorse for what he’s done.
That won’t save me now though; his remorse won’t prevent me from dying.
Why now? Why here? There is so much more I want to do with my life.
I can hardly feel anything now; all I know is that my shirt is wet and sticky; I’m covered in my own blood.
I suddenly feel really happy as if I could jump up and start dancing at any minute.
Then out of nowhere, my dad appears. That can’t right; he’s been dead for years. He kneels down beside me and smiles. I’m scared; I don’t know what he’s going to do to me.
“It’s okay Adam, you’re going to be fine,” says my dad. He strokes my hair tenderly and I smile.
“I knew you cared Dad,” I say. He nods.
“Off course I care son” my dad says, “I just couldn’t show it; I love you and your mother.” I can’t see; the tears are now streaming from my eyes. My dad came back. At the end, when I needed him, he came back.
Suddenly, I hear a police siren and I turn my head to look but it is difficult because I feel really light-headed. I hear someone tell me to stay still so I look back to my dad, but he’s gone. I try to sit up and look around, but I can’t; where’s he gone? I need him.
“Don’t leave me now dad,” I try to say but I can’t speak. It takes too much breath and I don’t have any.
Then all of a sudden, I become more aware of what’s going around me; I look in front of me and spot the kid who shot me. That’s right he shot me and because of him I going to die.
One rotten kid and it’s all over. I hope he gets locked up for life I hope that he but wait; I don’t want to die filled with anger or in hatred. I want to go knowing I was a good person right till the end. Even if my courage deserts me; my humanity will not.
I don’t believe people are naturally bad; there must be a reason why he’s shot me, but I’ll never get to find out now. I can feel the life slowly draining out of me and I feel as if my eyes are rolling back into my head.
The kid is still stood in the same place, staring at me as the police are rushing forward to arrest him. Paramedics are surrounding me now but, in my heart, I know it’s too late. I know I only have seconds left to live.
I want to speak to the kid. I want to know why he did it but that’s not important now. Nothing seems important anymore.
As I take my last breath and depart this world forever, I have but one single thought left: I forgive him.