Chapter Seven: Dead Ball

“The ball becomes dead when:

  • Any field goal or free throw is made.
  • Any official blows his whistle while the ball is alive.
  • It is apparent that the ball will not enter the basket on a free throw which is to be followed by:
    • Another free throw(s).
    • A further penalty (free throw(s) and/or throw-in).
  • The game clock signal sounds for the end of the period.
  • The twenty-four second device signal sounds while a team is in control of the ball.
  • The ball which is in flight or a shot for a field goal is touched by a player from either team after:
    • An official blows his whistle.
    • The game clock signal sounds for the end of the period.
    • The twenty-four second device signal sounds.”

–          Article 10, Section 3

FIBA Official Rule Book 2008

I had just turned on my cell phone from as soon as the pilot told us that we can, and messages came in, one after the other. My trusty phone listed the messages as coming from one person: Darren. I frowned. He knew what time my plane was landing—he and Itos. Itos is supposed to pick me up, and Darren, well, is Darren. No changing that.

Call me up ASAP. As soon as your plane lands. Whichever comes first.

I nearly smiled. As Soon As your Plane lands. If it was a normal day, I would have smiled, but I knew something’s off.

I pressed speed dial 3—he had always been 3—and he picked up on the first ring. “Be at the St. Luke’s. I’ll meet you at the lobby,” was his greeting. His voice was so hollow that I could drown in it if it was a swimming pool or a dark lake.

“Darren? What’s so frigging wrong?” I asked, and he was silent for a few seconds.

“It’s Itos,” he said, and that was all he needed to say. I was hailing for a taxi ten seconds later, luggage forgotten.

 

“What happened? Where’s Itos?” I asked as soon as Darren rushed to me. He was sweaty and his face was all… wrong. Like something hellish had happened. That face reminded me of what his face was when I told him our baby died.

And that wasn’t good.

“He’s in the operating room,” Darren said, and he quickly hugged me. I felt like he was afraid that I was going to break down from whatever he has to tell me. I didn’t move. “What happened?” I asked again, my voice hard.

“He was on his way to pick you up, but he stopped by a shop to buy you flowers,” Darren began to explain, his voice calm. “He was about to enter the car when a freak accident happened. A truck that lost its brakes rammed into another car that was approaching, and that car careened into Itos’ car.”

“His car?” I choked. I felt Darren swallow. “Into Itos,” he said sullenly.

My world stopped at that statement. “No,” I said, my voice weak. Darren was right in holding me, because at that moment my knees buckled and gave in. He lifted me and placed me on the couch near us, and placed an arm over my shoulder.

“He’ll be fine, Bree,” he whispered, and I shook my head.

“Tell me the truth. How is he?”

Darren sighed heavily. I couldn’t cry. I was just numb. “He’s…” Darren’s voice trailed. He couldn’t say it.

“He’s dying?” I braved, and he shook his head. “He’s in a critical condition,” he allowed. I closed my eyes, feeling a bit frustrated. “Is he going to make it?” I asked, and the look on Darren’s face gave it away.

I removed myself from his arms. “What O.R. is he in?” I asked, and he gave me the number. I walked to the O.R., feeling dazed and numb, and much like a zombie.

 

This is not the Itos I had envisioned myself coming home to: stuck to a heart monitor, a breathing machine, a dialysis machine, and some other tens of machines I don’t know the names of. The light drip, drip of the IV and the blood that I had donated for him wasn’t helping, and the constant toot, toot of the heart machine gives me creeps. His face was heavily bandaged, his body bruised all over, and a cast was around his right leg and right arm. I would have imagined coming home and being wrapped in his arms—not watching him, lifeless, inside the intensive care unit, in a coma. The doctor told me that the impact had crushed his rib cage, and almost the entire right side of his body, and had severely affected his kidneys and his lungs.

And he was ever so blunt when he told me that Itos only has 30% chance of surviving this.

Darren watched me as I stared at Itos—my Itos—my face and eyes dry. I hadn’t shed a tear ever since he had told me the news, and after the doctor gave me the percentage of my boyfriend’s—now fiancé’s— life. I closed my eyes. This should be a very horrid nightmare. I need to wake up from this.

“You have to rest, Bree,” Darren said, breaking the silence. I shook my head. “No, I’m staying here until Itos wakes up,” I replied, my voice final. He didn’t reply, but the look on his face told me that he thinks Itos won’t ever wake up—just like what the doctor said.

“He’s not going to die,” I blurted out, angry. “He isn’t, you hear me?”

Darren pocketed both his hands and nodded. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked, and I nodded. “My bags. Still in the airport. Bring any identification of mine that you can. I’ll call ahead,” I said, and he nodded. He gave me a peck on the cheek after he grabbed my trusty planner from my shoulder bag, which contained my passport and every other identification papers that I have. “I’m here, okay?” he whispered, and I nodded. He kissed me on the forehead.

“Darren?” I called out just as he was about to exit the room. He turned to me. “How come you knew about Itos?” I asked, and his face changed.

It was a look of… sheer pain.

“Before you left, at Cirque’s anniversary party, he asked me if… if he asks your hand in marriage, if I would allow it,” Darren began slowly. “And I… I said it was okay. We were planning a grand… marriage proposal… he wanted to know my opinion because he knew I know you best.”

I stayed silent.

“He called me up when he was at the flower shop. We were talking when… it happened. I heard the entire thing,” he said sullenly.

As soon as Darren left and the door closed, I broke down.

 

It was my twelfth day of waiting. Itos isn’t making any headway, or showing any signs of springing back to life.

He isn’t showing any signs that he’ll squeeze back on my hand whenever I hold it, or he’ll give me the tiniest of smiles when I tell him how much I love him.

The parents of Itos had called on different occasions, checking on Itos through me. His mom was the one who was dead worried—she had wanted to fly here but every other single flight has been booked.

She’s coming in a week.

Itos’ dad, however, was another case. He called up to tell me he’d pay for the hospital bill, and that’s it. Zilch. He’s footing the hospital bill. That doesn’t really tell me he has affections for his son.

I hated his dad for that.

Darren was here in the hospital again with me, and he brought me my favorite pasta to sort of make me feel happy. He narrated what has been going on in Cirque while I nodded, pretending I was really listening. And then he fell silent. He walked towards me, sat on the chair to my right, and placed my hand in his.

My little comfort.

“Itos proposed to me, did you know that? Despite the grand proposal that you guys were planning,” I said after a while, gazing into Itos’ closed eyes, the only ones peeking through the bandage. A sad crooked smile was on my face. “He asked me before I left. At the airport. He asked me if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. And I said yes. I said yes, I’d be happy to be his wife and spend my living days with him. He told me he loves me forever, and I said I love him.” Tears started to flow from my eyes—tears that I had stopped in the past twelve days after breaking down.

I didn’t wipe them away.

“And then he called me just before the pilot told us to shut off our phones. He said he loves me, and I’m the only one he’ll ever love.” My voice broke, remembering how Itos sounded so happy in that phone call.

“If I knew that… that was the last conversation I’ll be having with him, then maybe I should have told him that I love him more than I had ever showed him. That I love him more than he thinks I do. That I wanted to marry him and have his kids and grow old with him in that porch in that house that he had built for me. That…” Darren gave my hand a squeeze.

I leaned in on Itos’ bed and held his hand, held onto that tiny little portion that wasn’t bruised or bandaged. “You still owe me the ring, Itos. You promised me a diamond and amethyst ring, remember? Now wake your gorgeous butt now, because I’m planning a huge and grand wedding for us. Please, wake up…”

Darren hugged me from behind, and I twisted and turned until I was able to sob in his arms. “It’s not right. He has to wake up,” I said absently into Darren’s chest. “He has to wake up, Darren. Make him wake up. Please…. I don’t care if I have to take care of him, if he’s invalid or something, he just has to wake up. I want to hear his voice, feel his hug, have him kiss me…. Itos has to wake up. He has to live. For me.”

There was a light knock on the door, and I divested myself from Darren’s arms, wiping my tears from the tissue he had handed me. The nurse entered, and she was carrying a small packet. She handed it to me.

“These were Mr. Hizon’s belongings, the day we admitted him,” she explained. I nodded, numb. I tried to ignore her usage of the past tense—“were”—and blocked it out of my mind. As she went to check on some of the machines stuck into Itos, noting something in his medical charts, I heard Darren ask her something along the lines of “it took you twelve days to give us his belongings?” I didn’t hear the nurse’s answer, and she did an exit. “I can’t believe it. Red tape crap,” I heard Darren mumble. I sat on the chair next to the bed again, breathing a bit heavily. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see what Itos has in his pockets the day he was wrecked.

Darren sat beside me, silent. He watched me as I zipped open the packet, and I let the things inside it fall into my lap: Itos’ black leather wallet, his mobile phone, his car keys and house keys (his, mine, and our house keys), and a small black trinket. I couldn’t breathe. I knew what the trinket contains.

I turned my attention to less… life-shattering things (or so I think). I opened his wallet, and a snapshot of me and him was smiling at me from the inside. We looked so happy, and so perfect. So alive. I took out the pictures from behind that one and saw other pictures of me and him, taken at various times. He always loved taking our pictures together, and he abuses the four megapixel camera of his phone whenever he feels like it. Other pictures included his parents and siblings, another family picture, and his picture with my own family.

I wiped my tears. The calling card that I gave him the day we first met was still there, along with a bunch of his credit cards that he rarely uses. I counted the bills in the slots—always, always totaling to five thousand. I had always forgotten to ask him why it’s always five thousand in different denominations.

I closed the wallet and pocketed it. I looked at the keys, and sorted them out: one key was for his condo, the other was mine’s, and the others were for our new house. I remember laughing when he gave me my key duplicates to our new house—the house he had built even before he proposed. We had been living in it for the past couple of months and having fun. Itos had broached the idea of marriage for quite some time now. I asked him if he’s foreseeing I’m saying yes to his proposal if he does it any time soon, and he said, “Well, I know you love me enough to say yes and spare me the misery.” I kissed him, told him that I love him more than anything.

I smiled sadly. He and I have been together for a year but it all seems like we’ve been together longer than Darren and I have ever been friends. Itos told me in confidence that he had the building of the house start the moment he saw me. He knew I was the one: that one woman who’ll be his wife, the mother of his kids, and his better half. He knew.

I saved his mobile phone for later, and swallowed that now present lump in my throat as I picked up the trinket. I exhaled loudly. “God,” I breathed, and I popped the trinket open. Inside was a stunning diamond and amethyst ring—a diamond flanked by a couple of tiny amethyst stones on either side. Amethyst because I was born in February, and he was straddling February and March for his birthday (He was born February 29th). It was his promise, right here, and he had it in his pocket the day he was supposed to pick me up from the airport. My ring.

My engagement ring.

I sobbed harder. Darren knew that going anywhere near me now will just cause my sobbing to escalate so he stayed put, his arms crossed, watching me, pity and pain on his face. I shook the packet some more and a silver bracelet fell into my palm. The bracelet that I gave him in our first month together, the one I had engraved with his name. For someone who had gone through tens of relationships, I was (unbelievably) shy when I gave him the bracelet. I even joked about it. I said, “Well, here’s me, marking you. You’re mine.” He gave me a mysterious smile, and he whispered, “I don’t mind being owned. That is, if it’s you who owns me and my heart.”

Yeah. Itos could be cheesy at times.

I leaned back and breathed deeply, closing my eyes, letting the last of my tears fall. I have to be strong. I have to be.

I wore the bracelet on my right wrist and slid the ring on my finger. I marveled at how it was a perfect fit, and I smiled when I remembered Itos telling me that he had my finger sized. When I asked how, he just said, “Maybe when you were asleep.”

Maybe I should stop feeling miserable.

When I opened my eyes, Darren was frowning. “Why?” I asked, and he shrugged. “I felt like I was flipping through the pages of a book or something. You were crying, and then a smile will brighten up your face, and then you’ll cry again,” he explained, his voice light.

“I’m just trying to think of the nice memories Itos gave me. He loved me to bits, you know?” I said, a small smile on my face. I placed the other things in the packet and slid it into my bag. He opened his arms, enveloping me in another warm embrace. “He’ll be okay, Bree,” he whispered.

I clung onto his words like my life depended on it.

Itos had to be okay.

Click here to read Chapter Eight: End of Period.

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