With Your Last Heartbeat
The small on-call office was the place where some doctors worked while they were covering the night shift at the hospital. It had a large desk that covered the room almost 360 degrees, except for the door. It had a fairly modern computer, surrounded by several shelves with various medical papers inside. There was also a landline telephone, a vacuum flask with a mate and many patient records, most neatly arranged. There was also a small shelf with cups and some things to eat. From the outside, it looked more like a high school preceptorship room than an on-call office.
There were only two seats: a desk chair for working and a stool, which I had sat on, just as Dr. Talos had told me to.
The doctor approached me and offered me a cup of tea, from which a lot of steam was coming out. The heat coming from inside clashed with my face.
"Thank you very much, although I already snacked a while ago," I said as I accepted his cup.
"It's okay, but I can see you need it," he said seriously as he spun around, turning his back to me.
I understood he meant that I needed something to calm me down, to which he was right.
"Here, dry yourself off with this"
"Thank you," I said as I took the small towel he had given me.
I dried my face, head and shoulders with his towel, already without my helmet on. I then folded it and laid it on the desk, and took a big sip of tea. It was very good.
"It's very good. Thank you."
"You're welcome," he replied, already sitting in the other chair, looking at me.
From those times I had visited Clara in the hospital I knew who this doctor I was talking to was. Doctor Eduardo Talos, clinical doctor and head of hospitalization at the General Hospital. I had seen his name on the medical charts in Clara's room several times.
For a doctor of the hierarchy he was, Talos was quite young. With his short straight brown hair, a good height and an admirable physique, to say he was over forty was madness. The only thing that added to his age were his round glasses, which were set before his coffee-colored eyes.
"So this is where you work, right?" I asked him as I scanned the room around me.
"I actually have a personal consulting room on another side of the building. This is where I work when I have to keep an eye on the ward at night."
"I see. Then I was lucky to find you," I smiled at him.
The climate was starting to get a little better, but chatting wasn't why I was going to see him.
"Well, Leo, right? Clara's told me a lot about you," he said to me still in a straight face.
"Oh? Yeah" I replied while amazed at the fact she spoke to him about me.
"Good. I imagine this visit has to do with her, doesn't it?"
The doctor was straight to the point. He seemed to be a no-nonsense person.
"Did something happen to her?"
Despite his calm tone, I noticed he was asking cautiously.
"Not now, but... she was here recently, wasn't she?"
Each response from the doctor seemed to take a few moments. Perhaps because he was tired from being on call for so many hours, perhaps because he carefully wanted to say the right thing.
"Yes. She came in here on Friday with severe hypoxemia. She was hospitalized until Monday."
I wasn't really much into medical terms, and each of the ones I didn't know caused me to fear the unknown.
"It occurs when the blood doesn't get enough oxygen. It causes problems for breathing and being conscious."
I had never seen her suffering from that, so it took me by complete surprise. I was looking at the doctor with a shocked face as he explained everything to me.
"I see" I said as I looked down, lost in thought.
"Was that what you wanted to know?"
I took a few seconds to psych myself up, knowing that whatever I heard could be shocking, and looked up again.
"What's wrong with Clara?"
Talos looked at me for a few seconds, eyes intent, then sighed.
"Honestly, Clara is a mystery."
The answer made me shudder. I would never have imagined that a doctor could say something like that to me.
"Let me show you"
The doctor stood up from his chair and extended his arm toward a shelf that had "medical records" written on it. There, he opened a drawer that had a tape that said "recurrent" stuck to it, and picked up a folder from the inside.
"I don't know how much she's told you, but... You want to help her, don't you? You don't seem like someone willing to do her any harm."
I had no idea why he was asking me that at the time, but it was clear that this doctor wanted to take care of her. I didn't hesitate in what I had to answer.
"Yes. Tell me, please."
Dr. Talos sat down, and quickly opened the chart. On the cover it said, "Clara Preciado."
"Clara has suffered from these heart problems since she was very young. As you may know, there are many cardiac pathologies that come from genetics or occur during pregnancy."
"Yes, I read something about it once."
While Talos didn't look up from the folder, I kept glancing at him and listening intently. And with every bit of information he gave, I became more concerned, even though things like her lifelong problem was to be expected.
"Clara was first admitted to this hospital about thirteen years ago, when she was only four. She entered here with an emergency hypoxemia condition."
In his mind, Talos seemed to be reliving that whole sequence as if it were yesterday. For my part, I could visualize it, too.
"We did a lot of cardiac and respiratory studies, but all of us doctors were confused because we had no idea what she was suffering from. The images showed small differences from an average heart, but nothing that appeared to be serious. We thought it might be some congenital pathology like Tetralogy of Fallot, so we tried to perform surgery to modify those variations."
The doctor's face was getting more and more apologetic, and I could feel him clenching his hands against the folder.
"We thought that, despite her parents' concern and the natural risk involved, we could improve that girl's quality of life. So, one very rainy night, we started operating."
I was struck by the fact that Talos had brought that detail of the rain. He seemed to vividly remember all the details of that night.
"After two hours and an enormous effort, the ten of us doctors were able to conclude that the operation was successful, and her heart was in a normal, healthy shape. All was joy among the doctors who cared for her and her parents seemed like the happiest people in the world. That night was simply magical. However, some days later, just after leaving the hospital, she suffered again from hypoxemia. And this time very severe. Her blood oxygen concentration was below 50 millimeters of mercury, and she was breathing very hard. We gave her oxygen immediately, but she still fainted. And though we didn't know it, the worst was about to begin."
In my mind's eye I imagined the horror of what he was talking about. Clara was just a little girl, so small and defenseless, and she had suffered so much. I needed to keep listening, but it was a frightening situation.
"In the days that followed, new complications began to appear. Her heart, in addition to pumping blood without oxygenation, began pumping less blood. The blood flow in her body began to slow down. Before we knew it, Clara's clinical situation had worsened to a very delicate level."
"All that in such a short time?" I asked, dumbfounded.
"Yes. And, less than a month after her surgery, she suffered a cardiac arrest. She was in the hospital and we were able to take care of her quickly, but it was really sudden and complicated. And from that day on, the cardiac arrests and the low circulation of oxygenated blood did not stop. That little girl who was among us day by day was simply a mystery that we could not solve. In addition, we doctors had a lot of problems after all this. And as if all that wasn't enough, her heart seemed to slowly revert back to the wrong shape every so often. It's definitely unprecedented and something that has us on our toes all the time."
I could tell Talos was saying all this with a certain sadness. His tone was steady, in line with the expressionless person he might have seemed from the outside, but his eyes seemed brighter now, and deep down I sensed that he was distressed. He took a few deep breaths and continued speaking.
"But we didn't give up. We continued to perform operations when something was wrong, and we tried things to exhaustion to get her stable. And so we continue to this day. Many like me are still here, and being chief internist now, I'm even more responsible for her than before."
"I see. I'm very sorry."
That's all I could say. I looked down at the floor with my elbows on my knees, clasping my hands tightly together. All that she, her parents, and her doctors must have gone through must have been very sad. Especially considering how he said everyone had grown attached to her. As I thought this, Talos stood up again and began pacing the room as he looked down the desolate hallway of the inpatient wing.
"That's just the way things are. But since it was reported that what she was suffering from was something unknown, there are some laboratories that started researching her disease, so that a cure could be created. What has been discovered so far is far from the absolute truth, but it's... interesting."
A glimmer of hope lit inside me as I heard those words.
"Was it discovered what affects her heart?" I asked.
"Something like that. It's known so far that her heart is much weaker than a normal person's. There is still no certainty as to why, but it could be due to degradation from prolonged hypoxemia and low blood circulation. This causes her to be more prone to other types of diseases as well, so she has to be even more careful."
"But here comes the weirdest thing of all."
His words began to generate expectation in me, as it was very difficult for me to imagine anything worse than what he had been saying.
"One of the latest studies suggests that, apparently, the heart sometimes reacts to certain impulses coming directly from the brain. Like it's Takotsubo or Broken Heart Syndrome, but suggesting that not just from strong or bad stimuli."
"Which means..." in my head I was already starting to put the puzzle together.
"Which means, in a nutshell, that any stimulus affects her heart no matter how small. That would also explain her instability."
"So meeting her is only causing problems to her, right? So, the crash thing..."
It all came together perfectly, and in my own heart a void opened up. Not even out of wanting to be with her, but out of guilt. I didn't want to hurt her, and I would do anything to make that happen. Even if it meant never seeing her again.
My eyes lit up as I heard what Talos was saying, standing against the desk on the wall opposite where I was.
"That part is just conjecture. There's nothing proven that says it is. And even if it was, I don't think a good stimulus, no matter how huge, would do the heart any harm."
"Besides, if it were nevertheless true that her heart suffers from it, it's because her heart is already deteriorated. Simply that, so don't worry."
As he said that to me, Talos gave a small but confident smile. It was the first time I saw him smile that night.
"Alright then. Thanks for telling me that. At least I'm a little more at ease."
"Of course. I told you when we met, you're not to blame for anything that's going on. And yet you want to help her. That's very honorable" he said, still smiling.
"Thank you, Dr. Talos" I thanked him with a smile.
Despite his reassuring words and his attempt to make me feel good, which he had succeeded in doing, I had yet to understand what was going on. Why was he talking about it being "simply" because of her heart? What was on his mind? And more importantly, the real reason I had come for... I was about to have all of that answered.
"In short, we strongly believe that all of these symptoms have to do with the same pathology. Not as if they were separate conditions. So, for a while now, we've been calling this...
... the Crystal Heart Syndrome."
So that's what it was called. A too nice name for something so terrible and unfortunate.
"So Clara told me they wanted to use a new treatment on her, but they couldn't get it. Is that right?"
I remembered how, earlier that afternoon, she had told me all that in tears. Again, a feeling of distress came over me; a tremendous bitterness that returned every time I remembered Clara's frailty.
"That's true, too. Since she was very young, Clara receives various medications on a daily or weekly basis to help her alleviate the different symptoms. This allows the hypoxemia to be less frequent and severe and the circulation to improve somewhat, and Clara can have a normal life most of the time. Or so we hoped."
"But it wasn't like that, was it?"
Talos shook his head.
"Sometimes the drug had a greater effect, and sometimes it wasn't enough. Unfortunately, we couldn't eradicate any of the symptoms, much less the deterioration of her heart. It was many years in which she lost a lot of things because we could not curb her disorders. However, several of the laboratories I mentioned are developing new drugs to treat several symptoms at the same time, and according to the clinical trials that were done on patients suffering from a certain one of them, they are showing results."
Hope was something ephemeral in that conversation. It suddenly appeared, and so it could vanish like nothing happened.
"So, Clara could be fine?"
"She could. It's an unknown. But that's not going to happen for now."
"Huh? Why's that?" I said in moderate surprise, knowing there was some catch but equally confused.
"Her social security won't approve the purchase of a treatment that was approved so recently."
"Huh!? But you said a bunch of clinical studies were done," I said startled to hear that excuse.
"I know, and that's true. That is just a poor excuse not to pay for such expensive treatment. It sucks, but that's the way it is."
"But couldn't they just get the drug now and have the social security reimburse them when they approve it?"
"The problem is that the lab needs the money on a pay-per-application basis. Money that unfortunately Clara's family doesn't have, and the public hospital cannot afford to give away. And she, be that as it may, needs it now."
"I understand. God..."
I felt like punching something. Hearing that a company could be so petty filled me with rage, especially when a person was involved. I imagined, sadly, that this wasn't the only similarly unfair case.
"How much is it?" I asked as I looked down.
The doctor took a few seconds of silence and continued.
No sooner had he finished saying it than I cross-examined him as quickly as a cat leaping at its prey. I knew he was going to tell me something like that, but I planned to go all the way.
"About $700 a month."
I closed my eyes in frustration and looked up at the sky as I threw my back out backwards. Seven hundred dollars a month, in an adverse economic context for the country, was a lot. Trying to set aside that money while having to meet living expenses was a colossal, if not impossible, task. At that moment something crossed my mind. I didn't know if it was crazy or not, but I would decide later.
"Yes. And as long as that medicine doesn't arrive, her heart is going to suffer more and more wear and tear. And if that happens, we'll have to make the decision more quickly as long as it's possible"
I understood again that from that thing Talos had just said, another branch of important information would come out.
Talos prepared to explain further, and continued after setting the medical record aside on the desk.
"The reality is... the heart Clara now has is unviable."
It was what I was afraid of.
"Huh?! Are you kidding?" I said even more elated.
He shook his head at me again.
"Not at all. Even if we can get the medication, even if we can reduce the wear, she will never be able to have a normal life like this. Her heart valves and tissues are injured by the hypoxemia, and if that doesn't change, she will continue to be prone to diseases that can be terminal added to her condition. And because her heart regains its abnormal shape after any operation, it will never be fully repaired."
I knew what was coming, unfortunately.
"Clara needs a heart transplant?"
I was surprised to notice that Dr. Talos himself reacted badly to the reality. He clenched his fists tightly and was lost in thought for a few seconds. After a few moments, he calmed down.
"Yes. With a transplant, possibly all the problems will be over. But there is another problem, and that is that Clara doesn't need just any transplant."
"Is it because of her blood circulation?"
Talos stared at me for a few seconds, not out of tune with his expression so far.
"I see you're catching on. That's exactly why. Her system is wrongly accustomed to circulating blood at a very low level, so a normally pumping heart could overload it. So that her arteries and veins don't rupture from the pressure, we have to take a small healthy heart and gradually get it used to a normal level, as the channels expand."
"It sounds like a very difficult job" I said, hopelessly.
"It is. Not only because of the treatment itself, but also because of how hard it is to find it. For many years now we have been searching for a viable heart for Clara. All the organs that enter the health system are carefully studied by the transplant institute, but so far none meet the specifications. And even if it did, we don't know if the emotional impulses would cease to have an effect."
"In short, does Clara need a heart that is very specific and rare to find, and once it is put in you have to hope for her body to accept it?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
"I see. It's very complicated, isn't it? I can imagine how you must feel after all these years."
"It's a painful thing. But neither she nor we are giving up, let that be clear to you. She's a spectacular girl and she has a lot of will to live, so we're going to exhaust all options before we lose"
Saying this I smiled, but inside I felt empty. I stroked my intertwined fingers to try to ease the bitter feeling I had. What Talos was saying was not hopeful at all, although I was a little relieved to hear that someone so capable was looking out for her.
"I know what you are feeling, and I understand. In spite of everything, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for wanting to help her and be with her. I'm convinced that it helps Clara a lot" Talos said while he smiled at me again.
The words reached into my soul like a much-needed caress, but I didn't move a muscle.
"So... that's it then? Not that I mind having you here, but I still have some work to do," he questioned me.
I still didn't move, as I was lost in thought. When I finished listening to this, however, I frowned even more, fixed my gaze on the floor tiles, and replied.
"Thank you, but that wasn't all."
"Huh? What is it?" he asked me, quizzical, with a confused grimace.
"She mentioned one last thing when she was talking about her treatment... 'the other one.' She screamed and cried inconsolably as she told me."
I looked up at the doctor, and shot at him:
"What is 'the other'?"
Talos looked at me a little more surprised than usual. Then, he sighed heavily.
"I think I understand what you meant. Come here a minute," he said as he motioned for me to come over to him.
As I walked in the direction of Talos, he turned his chair to the opposite side and turned on the computer in the room. After entering his login and password into the hospital system, he began to explain to me.
"I think I heard you tell Clara that you were studying systems engineering, right? When you came to visit her that time."
"Well yes... wait, were you listening?" I got quietly surprised.
"I was just passing by, you could say," he said hesitantly.
"Heh, I understand."
That little conversation managed to make me smile again, though not for long.
"So you must know what 3D printing is all about, right?"
"3D printing? Well, I'm not too deep into that area, but I understand what it is," I said as my smile faded again, giving way to my concentration on what Talos was saying.
As we talked, he continued typing on his computer, opening folders and exploring windows in the browser.
"3D printing is a very new branch, but it is known for being able to recreate almost anything. In recent times, there have been so many technological advances that it has already been possible to create clothes, shoes, tools, weapons and even entire houses with this method. Many ductile, malleable and tough materials have been developed to be able to meet almost any printing need."
Again, I could see where this was going, and when I put the threads together, I couldn't help but be surprised.
"Most of the labs and scientists researching this disease are only interested in developing drugs or chemical cures, focusing on curing her worn-out heart. But one of them, Corskie-Braun Laboratories, thought...
As he said this, Talos opened a shiny browser tab on the computer. I pinned my startled eyes on it for quite a while.
... 'How about, instead of waiting for the heart to be fixed, we don't make one ourselves?'"
In front of me was a three-dimensional model of a heart, slowly rotating to show all its angles. It was perfectly detailed to the point of looking like a real heart, except that its texture was visibly artificial.
"Does that heart work?" I asked, amused.
"I couldn't say for sure. From the lab they approached us with that proposal, attaching a lot of mathematical calculations and simulations done by mathematicians and physicists with master's degrees. Its operation is based on being able to pump blood at specific programmed levels, which will progressively increase until reaching a normal level months later. It is made of materials that will not only prevent the heart from wearing out again, but would also reject any nerve signals that could affect it. If everything works as planned, hypoxemia would disappear and cardiac arrests and fainting would go away for good, at the same time as blood pumping is regulated. It's a very impressive piece of engineering work, if you let me tell you."
My eyes couldn't believe what they were seeing. It was definitely something impressive. I knew of examples of complex things that had been 3D printed, but a living organ was something on another level entirely. And that it was also capable of solving this complex disease, with so many different symptoms and about which very little was yet known, was something I couldn't even have imagined.
"Its functioning consists of two components: organic and inorganic" he continued.
"Organic?" I said even more surprised, as I turned to look at him.
"Yes. Despite the perfectly thought-out system, it apparently wouldn't work if it were one hundred percent artificial, according to the lab's own tests on other prototypes. So this heart is composed in minor part of natural tissue taken from a porcine heart. For many years, it has been believed that pigs could be the future of human heart transplants because of their similarities and mimicry to humans, so they tested a mixed prototype."
It was too much information and at too shocking a time for me to say anything about it. After a few moments, Talos brought me back to reality.
"What do you think?" he asked looking at me.
I took a few seconds to answer, coming back from my abstraction.
"It's kind of impressive, really. So, does this heart already exist?"
"Not definitely. It's in the development phase still, and it's estimated that it would be ready in a few months. By that time, they could bring it directly to this hospital, and between some doctors from the lab and some from this hospital, we could perform the operation that same day. If we can get the drugs for Clara to hold out until then, we would have a high chance of everything going well. Do you understand?"
"Yes, and at the same time no. Assuming all this works, wouldn't it be even more expensive than the drugs?"
"You're right. On paper it would. It's something very novel and involves a lot more technology. But, since Clara would be the first patient in the whole world to receive this heart, the lab offered to take care of all the expenses, both for the heart and the operation."
"Are you serious, Clara could have that heart for free?"
"Exactly. Think of it as the lab itself: if they can prove that the prototype works properly in one person, they will get their worldwide approval and would be at the vanguard of a new technology. The profits they would receive are incalculable. It is business for them to offer a heart for free in exchange for getting a subject to receive it as soon as they manage to make it work."
"A subject... wait."
I widened my eyes at my discovery. Talos turned to look at me, while I was still lost in the screen.
"So Clara is afraid because she would be the first patient, right?"
Now I understood everything. Now I understood why Clara was so scared, to the point of being terrified just thinking about it. This whole plan devised by brilliant minds seemed like a miraculous salvation, but what was actually happening was that Clara did not want this artificial heart, also known that same day as 'the other one', because of a very obvious reason.
Dr. Talos made a few seconds of silence before continuing. But this time he was not so open in answering.
"She has her reasons, so if you want to know you'll have to ask her someday. But I think you could imagine why. After all, she would be a test subject, with all the risks that entails to her life. A guinea pig, so to speak."
My first thought was the obvious: the heart was experimental, it had no clinical rationale beyond mathematical calculations, and there was plenty of history of transplants with new technologies that didn't go as expected. If there was some more particular reason, I could not think of it at the time. As I thought all this over, having already seen the 3D model, I sat back down on the stool.
"And what do you think? What's best for her?" I now asked the doctor.
Talos turned his chair toward me, his back to the computer, and thanks to the monitor's backlight I could see his eyes light up behind his round glasses. Still, without moving a muscle, he answered me.
"I believe that, after holding on for so long, waiting for a transplant is not an option we can depend on. If Clara's wish is to wait for the miracle, I will respect it as far as possible. But she and we all know that wish has an expiration date. Despite her fears and uncertainty, in the face of an urgent need, wouldn't that be a good option? Because I think it would be."
The way Talos spoke seemed to bring reassurance in the midst of such a storm. Getting her medications and taking care of her until she decides to receive the heart was not an easy task at all, and my worry was still huge, but deep down I felt that whatever happened, Talos was not going to let anything bad happen to her. Even more so when he said that Clara had a great will to live and wasn't going to give up, something I could easily believe knowing what she was like.
As I finished thinking all of this, I nodded my head reflexively. Then I sank into my thoughts for a few more seconds, confused, until I looked back at Talos with a warm smile.
"I understand. So this is how it is. Thank you very much for lending me your time, and I'm sorry for priving you away from work."
"No worries. I'm glad I could help you out."
"Well, I'll see you then."
I stood up from my stool and, before walking through the door, I stood in front of him and performed a small bow.
"Please count on me for anything Clara needs. If possible, I want to help her get better."
Talos looked a little confused and surprised when I made this proposal. He moved back a few inches when he heard it.
"Okay, I promise," he told me as he smiled.
"Okay, then, good night-"
No sooner had I said goodbye and started walking down the hallway than I felt Talos call out to me. I stopped dead in my tracks and faced him again.
"Before you go, let me ask you a question."
I definitely didn't expect Talos to reverse the roles of the conversation. I didn't know what he might get me to answer.
The doctor's question, outside of the strictly clinical, was concise and to the point.
"What is the reason you want to help her so much?"
My surprise at hearing that question was enormous. Not so much because of the question itself, which was not at all strange considering the influence of Clara's mood on her health, but because I didn't know what to answer. I was sure it wasn't because of the accident, even if I could convince myself of that. I was glad to meet her, indeed, but that wasn't enough. I wondered…
What am I feeling?
"So... it happens that..."
"You like her?"
Again, I felt Talos spear me with that question. Surprise made me look him straight in the eye, totally astonished and nervous. As the seconds passed, which felt like an eternity to me, I felt my cheeks begin to heat up.
I looked around wildly. My feet were twitching and doing little hops, and my hands were clenching and intertwining anxiously. By this point, I felt like my cheeks were on fire. And while the words wouldn't come out, as I looked back at Talos I realized that he could understand my body language.
"I get it, don't worry. I just wanted to make sure it wasn't simply because you bumped into her that time. For the last time I'm telling you, that wasn't your fault, so if you want to take care of her because you feel guilt, I'm serious, you don't have to."
"Of course that's not why. I understand."
To have answered so firmly after hesitating so much in the previous question was undoubtedly a sign for Talos. If you think about it, it even reaffirmed what my body was involuntarily showing earlier.
"Well, then I'm counting on you. And you know what?"
Talos stood up from his chair and walked towards me. In the midst of my previous nervousness I hadn't noticed him, but he was quite tall in comparison to me, standing more than a head above me. As he stood so imposingly in front of me, he held out his hand to me.
"I trust you can make her very happy. Just don't do anything to break her heart, okay?" he smiled at me as he spoke.
As he finished speaking, Talos smiled openly, closing his eyes. His cheeks even seemed to take on a bit of color. Now he didn't seem like the same serious, analytical person, but someone more open and warmer, as if he had been softening throughout the conversation. As if... he had wanted to be protecting something.
"It's okay, I promise," I said as I smiled and shook his hand.
Minutes later, after saying goodbye to Talos, I was already walking through the streets of the neighborhood. I had my bike rolling on my right side, as I didn't feel like riding it. I felt that walking could relax me a bit after a hellish day. However, with every step I took on that mild early autumn night, some scene from all the ones I had experienced in just a couple of hours replayed in my head. Clara's heart-rending cry, her reasons for being sad, my concern about the matter, and Talos' fateful announcement.
"On Friday... I had an incident again" Clara said in a distressed voice.
"It seems they want to use another treatment, but we can't get it. And I don't want the other thing. I just don't want it!" she said as she cried inconsolably.
"... Before we knew it, Clara's clinical situation had worsened to a very delicate level" Talos said seriously.
"... After all, she would be a test subject, with all the risks that entailed for her life. A guinea pig, so to speak" he continued to explain.
On and on and on and on. On and on and on and on, they kept repeating themselves in my head in a loop. And as if that wasn't enough...
"Do you like her?"
That phrase would also get into my head, making me both flushed and sad. I still didn't know what was happening to me. I felt a pile of stagnant emotions in my chest that I didn't want to have anymore. I felt like just throwing it all up, but I just couldn't. And with all those thoughts in mind, I continued on my way. As if I was on autopilot, I wasn't thinking about anything but this situation. I looked down at the ground, only looking up to cross the street every now and then. I was truly confused. And it wasn't until after a while that I decided to look up to see where I was.
The first thing I saw was the brown sign with white lettering of a business. It was illuminated by several lights shining from behind it. 'Café Alba' was what it said.
"I went back to the cafe? I must have unconsciously followed the route I took today," I said as I admired the sign.
I turned the bike to the opposite side, put it back under my right arm and started walking. For some reason, it occurred to me to look toward the window of the cafe one last time, and my eyes were caught on something. I looked at it for a few moments before I felt an absolute fullness. At the same time that it caught my attention, I felt as if, inside my head, a light bulb had been turned on. Maybe it was crazy, but in my head I could only think about it. And so, my life was turned upside down again.