Excerpt of Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann
(Page 2 of 5)
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They stop in front of a closed door. Leo knows she is on the other side. The
doctor pushes it open. Eleni lies on a trolley bed. There is blood on her blue
shirt; her shoulder is out of joint. There is a graze on her cheek.Now the bomb
hits. Something inside him yields and the full implication of events explodes
inside him. His blood thunders out of control, coursing through him like a river
that has burst its banks; legs shudder and give way at the knees; breath
shortens and rasps in his throat. His heart rejects the returning blood and
empties itself; stomach locks, sending undigested waste crashing into the colon;
anus pulls tight to prevent evacuation. His nose charges with fluid mucus, eyes
blink obsessively, vision blurs with tears. He collapses to the floor and
screams a high guttural scrape. Nurses three rooms away stop in their tracks
like mothers responding to a baby's cry. People come running from all
directions. The doctor closes the door. A murmuring crowd gathers outside. Some
of the people know what has happened. They are witnesses who are being treated
in the clinic themselves. They have been wondering what would happen when the
gringo came round and was told his girlfriend had died. 'My God,' they have been
saying, 'when that boy wakes up... it is too terrible to contemplate.' And they
cross themselves and thank Jesus that they will see their loved ones again.
Leo is sobbing in a crumpled heap. He has never been so alone. Lost in some
nameless South American town with his mind half gone. He stands up and goes to
Eleni. He caresses her face tenderly.Her skin is still warm. Perhaps she is not
dead,maybe she can be brought back to life. He looks at the doctor with a wild
stray optimism in his eye. The kiss of life, maybe he can bring her back with
the kiss of life. He pinches her nose and opens her mouth and breathes his
desperate hope into her. Again and again he pours his life into her. Then he
beats on her heart to make it beat. Harder he pummels. He knows that he is
hurting her, that she will be bruised, but it is the only way. The doctor puts
his hand on Leo's shoulder. But a pathetic tenacious hope has gripped Leo.
'Electric shock. Have you got shock treatment? Er . . . choc electrico.
'No hay, señor. Esta muerta.'
She can't be dead, he will not believe it.He continues to breathe into her.He
begs for a miracle and a miracle happens. A low raspy breath comes up from deep
within her. It is a sound he will remember for the rest of his life.
'She's alive. She's breathing. Did you hear it?'
The doctor is motionless. Leo is suddenly animated, he doesn't need this stupid,
lazy doctor, he can resuscitate Eleni on his own. He fills her up feverishly and
each time she responds with a breath.
'Señor, señor!' The doctor places his hand again on Leo's shoulder. He ignores
it, his heart is flying, he almost wants to laugh.
'Señor, she is not breathing. It is your breath coming back from her lungs.'
Leo feels for Eleni's pulse. There is nothing. Once more he plummets into
despair. He kisses her forehead and whispers words learned from her native
Greek: 'Matyamou, karthiamou, psychemou.'My eyes, my heart, my soul.
He strokes her hair as he used to sometimes when she was sleeping. Slowly the
heat leaves her body. A minute later he is howling like a dog. How long this
lasts he has no idea.
The old doctor looks on from a corner. He battles back his own tears, he does
not want to let his feelings conquer his professional dispassion. Later he will
return home and weep in his wife's arms and hug her hard for many minutes,
savouring her breath, her perfume and her love.
The story has spread through the hospital and the crowd outside the door have
been overcome by that unsavoury curiosity that grips people in the face of
tragedy. Someone pushes open the door. They see a man ravaged in grief, his face
raw and twisted, and next to him a small woman lying gnarled and lifeless on a
bed. As one they draw in a sharp breath, and for a moment their faces mirror
From Random Acts of Heroic Love. Copyright Danny Scheinmann 2008. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the pubilsher, St Martins.