The Lyft was late. Dan Howell, a 27 year old man with curly brown hair and sugar brown eyes leaned with his side to he wall, his left hand holding his phone. Phil Lester, a 31 year old man with striking black hair and blue-green eyes, paced nervously up and down the small entranceway to their apartment.
Every few laps, Phil pulled out his phone and activated the Lyft app, noticing that the car that was marked for them had not moved a pixel.
“Phil, calm down. The restaurant isn’t going anywhere,” Dan said.
“But our reservation is! We need to be there in 10 minute!” Phil exclaimed, his voice tense and high-pitched.
“So, we’ll be there a few minutes late. Just call ahead and tell them to hold our table,” Dan suggested.
“You just want me to do that so you know where we’re going!” Phil said.
“So run upstairs and do it,” Dan replied.
Phil jogged the stairs back to their apartment, unlocked the door and let himself in, then dialed the restaurant.
“Yes, hello, this is uh, this is Phil Lester and I have a reservation for a table for two for 9. Our ride is running late, will that be a problem?”
“We can hold your table for 15 minutes past your arrival time, Sir, that will be no problem,” the hostess said cheerfully.
“Okay, thank you,” Phil said, now more worried than he was before. He hung up and then dialed the Lyft driver.
“Hi, this is Phil Lester and um I was wondering, um, well, we have reservations in 8 minutes and I was wondering if you thought that you’d be able to make it here soon?”
“Hello, mate, yeah, traffic is at a standstill. I’ll get there as soon as I can, but nothing is moving and there is no way to turn off or around. If you watch the app, you’ll see where I am.”
“Okay, thank you,” Phil said and hung up.
He locked the door, and walked sullenly down the stairs to Dan.
“So, what’s the story?” Dan asked, noticing the worried look on Phil’s face.
“They can only hold the reservation for 15 minutes and the Lyft driver is stuck in traffic!”
Dan tilted his head slightly to the left in sympathy. He hated to see Phil upset. “It’s alright, Phil. We’ll get there. Don’t stress, alright?”
“Yeah,” Phil said, obviously still stressing as he began to pace once again.
Ten minutes later, the Lyft Driver was about a block away. “Okay, at least he’s moving now!” Phil said, looking out the window. “He should be here any second. I’m going outside. Let’s wait outside.”
It was hot and humid, but Dan acquiesced and stepped down the front steps of their building to the pavement.
Five minutes later, the Lyft driver finally arrived.
“Sorry, mates,” he said as he hopped out and opened the door for them. “But we’re all set now.”
“Thanks,” said Phil as he slid into the backseat with Dan following closely.
The car sped off quickly towards the restaurant and Phil started to relax. Dan pulled out his phone and then noticed it was rapidly flying away from his hand.
The crash had come from behind, with no sound of breaks as a warning. Dan’s phone hit the front windshield, and both Dan and Phil were thrown against the seat-backs in front of them. The driver swore. A horn sounded from somewhere. Then breaks squealed, and the two young men were thrown back into their seats. Then everything got very quiet.
Dan looked up and saw the driver getting out of the car. He looked over at Phil who was rubbing a small bump on his head. He noticed that he was holding his neck and wondered why. It had all happened so fast. He still wasn’t sure what was going on.
Phil looked over at him. “What happened?” He asked.
“I don’t know,” Dan said, hesitant to move his neck.
Phil looked back and saw that the windshield had shattered behind them, and the night air was blowing in.
“I think we were in an accident” Phil suddenly exclaimed. “Oh my God! Are you alright?”
“I can’t seem to move my neck properly. Or I don’t think I should,” Dan said.
Phil looked frightened and protective at the same time. “Don’t try to move it. I’m calling an ambulance.”
“Alright” Dan said calmly. He felt like he was floating a bit. Everything was numb and tingly from his neck down to his hands. He heard Phil talking urgently on the phone. He made out the words, “neck” “auto accident” and then heard their address.
“Dan,” Phil was saying, and Dan realized he had closed his eyes. With some effort, he opened them.
“What?” He managed to ask.
“They said you should stay awake. And that I should, too. Where did the driver go?” He asked as he suddenly realized they were the only two in the car.
Looking around back through the cracked window, he saw the driver in a heated discussion with the driver of the other car, pointing emphatically at the damage. Phil started to get out to look for himself, but then remembered Dan and turned to see that he had, in fact, closed his eyes again.
He scooted in closer and forced himself to take some calming breaths. Then he said, softly, “Dan, open your eyes.”
Dan opened his eyes. “I’m just resting my eyes, Phil. Calm down.”
“Keep them open, Dan, the lady at 999 said it was important.”
“Alright,” Dan agreed, though all he wanted to do was take a nap. “Your head,” he said, “looks pretty bad. Are you alright?”
Phil rubbed the growing knot on his forehead, “Yeah, it doesn’t even hurt unless I touch it,” he said.
“Adrenaline,” Dan said. “You’ll feel it tomorrow, I’ll bet.”
They sat and stared at each other for several moments that felt like full minutes.
“Don’t cry, Dan, it’s alright,” Phil said, reaching out, then stopping himself from touching Dan for fear of injuring him.
“I’m fine, it’s just stress,” Dan said, a single tear spilling down his left cheek.
Phil leaned in and brushed away.
“Emergency is coming, Dan. Don’t worry. They’ll fix you right up.”
“I know,” said Dan, trying to convince himself as the tingling worsened in his arms, “I know.”
The sirens wailed in the distances and Phil let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.
Suddenly, a man with a kind but intense face was prying Dan’s door open.
“Hello there, son, and what are you called?”
“Dan Howell,” Dan replied without turning. “I’ve hurt my neck and arms I think.”
“Have you now?” The man asked in a comforting voice, “Let’s take a look at you then.”
Phil felt a tap on his shoulder, “Son, what is your name?” Came the sound of a man from behind him.
Phil turned and saw the EMS professional sitting next to him.
“Phil,” he said, then hurriedly he added, “Lester. Phil Lester.”
“You’ve got quite the knot on your temple, son,” the EMT said, putting on gloves. “Let’s have a look here,” he said, “Now, l’m going to shine this light in your eyes and look at your pupils.”
Meanwhile, Dan felt a hard collar being snapped around his neck. It was a relief to finally put his arms down, though the collar was uncomfortable and rigid. The EMT guided him out of the car and onto the stretcher, which was in a sitting position, and belted him in. Before he realized what was happening, he was whisked away into the bay of the awaiting ambulance and the doors closed in front of him.
“My friend, Phil..” He began.
“Let’s worry about you for right now,” the EMT responded quickly but kindly. “He’s being well cared for, I promise you that.”
Phil heard the sirens as the ambulance took Dan away. The EMT said, “I think you have a mild concussion, son. Let’s get you to hospital so they can do a scan to be sure there’s no bleed in your head, okay?”
“Okay,” Phil heard himself say. He was getting a bit sleepy.
“Is this your phone, son?” Phil heard a voice from far away ask him. “It’s Dan’s,” he replied before falling into a deep sleep.
Dan sat beside Phil’s bed and held his hand. Phil was on oxygen via a nasal cannula. Dan itched under his soft collar, grateful that his arms had regained their feeling so quickly. It had been a severe whiplash, but as the medicines were administered to decrease the swelling, his sensation and slowly returned. He’d have neck pain for quite a while and need to limit his neck movement, but nothing permanent was wrong.
Dan had been discharged from Emergency with the soft collar and some pain medications, and had immediately gone to the front desk to inquire about Phil. The elevator was too slow, so he raced up five flights and made it to room 522 in less than three minutes.
Phil, though, was still asleep. Dan had explained it all to Mr. and Mrs. Lester over the phone after the doctor had been in. The Cat-scan had shown no bleeding on the brain, which was good, but it was troubling to the physician that Phil had lost consciousness. His pupils were reactive and it was probably just a stress reaction, but they were definitely going to keep him until he was awake and further tests could be run.
The knot on Phil’s head was bigger and starting to look discolored. That was going to hurt when he woke up, Dan thought.
“Phil?” He said softly. “It’s Dan. Open your eyes for me.”
Phil breathed slowly in and out and did not respond.
“Phil,” Dan said a bit louder, “Can you hear me?” He squeezed Phil’s hand in his a bit tighter. “Wake up now, Phily. No need for napping when it’s time to eat!” He joked.
Dan sat and watched Phil for two hours, constantly talking to him and occasionally reaching up to push his hair back from his forehead.
The nurse came in and told him that visiting hours were over.
“I’m family and I’m staying,” Dan said.
The nurse looked at him for a moment, then shrugged. She started an IV of saline to keep Phil hydrated. Then she had Dan step out as she inserted a foley catheter.
“You can go back in now,” she said, and Dan raced back to Phil’s side.
An hour later, the orderly brought in a dinner tray for Phil, which gave Dan and idea.
He pressed the buttons on Phil’s bed until he figured out how they worked, then slowly raised the head of the bed so that Phil was slightly inclined. He put the food out on the tray in front of him. Then he scooted up his chair and took Phil’s hand again.
“Happy anniversary, Phily,” he said loudly. “I’ve got your favorite meal here for us!” Then he took his finger, and dipped it in the jello, and gently painted Phil’s top lip with just a drop of it.
Phil reflexively licked his lips and swallowed.
“There you go!” Dan enthused. “Do you want some more? Here you are.”
Dan spent the next thirty minutes staring at Phil and placing small drops of jello on his lips. He never stopped talking.
“That’s good, Phily! You’re doing so good! Now, here’s some more. That’s a good lad. Cherry is your favorite, isn’t it?”
He heard Phil murmur from deep in his throat.
“What was that?” Dan asked, trying to keep his voice calm.
Phil moaned a bit, then started to move his lips.
“That’s right. Open those eyes and talk to me. Talk to me!”
Phil slowly opened his eyes. The room was blurry, his mouth tasted like cherries, his head was throbbing, and he could hear Dan from very far away.
“Phil?” He heard. He tried to respond, but heard only garble coming from his mouth. So he closed his eyes, then opened them again and tried harder. “What is it?” He asked, so softly that Dan had to lean in to hear him.
“You were in a car accident, but you’re alright now,” Dan told him, slowly and clearly.
“A car accident,” Dan said slowly. “And you’ve hit your head and been asleep, but you’re awake now.”
“Oh,” Phil said, the room staring to come into focus. “I don’t have a car.”
“No, baby, you’re right, you don’t have a car. We were in a Lyft and got hit from behind. But it’s all okay now.”
“We’re late!” Phil suddenly exclaimed, his eyes widening.
Dan smiled. “It’s okay.”
“No!” Phil said, his words starting to come more easily. “No, they said….they said they can only hold the table for fifteen minutes!”
“I think that we’ve missed that by now, sleeping beauty,” Dan teased.
“Oh, no,” Phil said, as Dan finally came into focus. “What’s that on your neck?”
“It’s just a collar. I’m fine. Just a strain of some muscles or something. Are you hungry?”
“I don’t know,” Phil admitted. “My head hurts.’
Dan rang for the nurse, who came in and gave Phil some pain medication through his IV and called for the doctor. The doctor said Phil had had a moderate concussion, and that he would need to stay a few days for observation, but would certainly be fine.
“Thank you,” Phil said to the doctor and the nurse as they left the room.
Dan looked at Phil, who, uncharacteristically, was starting to cry.
“What is it, Phily? Does it hurt again? Should I ring for the nurse?” Dan asked with great concern.
“I’ve ruined everything,” Phil said.
“No you haven’t.” Dan reassured him.
“I wanted our dinner to be so special! Now look at us.” Phil looked away from Dan.
Dan reached out and gently turned Phil’s head back to face his.
“It is special, Phil. You’re here and I’m here. That’s what matters. Your mum and dad are on their way, and in the meantime, we are going to have our dinner!”
Dan scooted his char up to the bed again and took the cover off of the plate.
“Oooh! Mashed potatoes and salmon! And medium warm! Our favorite!”
Phil started to giggle.
“And what’s this?” Dan asked theatrically, lifting the lid from the second, smaller plate, “Oh my gosh, it’s a warm salad with wilted lettuce!”
Dan unwrapped the utensils and tucked a napkin into Phil’s hospital gown. Then he picked up a fork and knife and cut off a piece of salmon.
“Here you go,” he said, “here comes the airplane into the hanger!”
Phil laughed and turned his head away. “NO!”
“Yes, now, be a good lad and let Danny give you some supper. Your right arm is all bruised and has an IV in it. Open up.”
So Phil did.
For the next thirty minute, Dan fed Phil his mediocre quality hospital food, while they laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation. Dan kept wiping Phi’s hair out of his eyes and promised to bring some gel back for him after his parents got there.
By the time they got to the dessert, what was left of the cherry jello, they were giggling so hard the nurse had come in to tell them to keep it down.
“You fed me jello when I was unconscious?!” Phil asked when Dan told him about what had happened earlier in the evening. “I could have choked!”
“It was only a drop on your lip, Phil,” Dan explained, “I’m not stupid!”
Phil just shook his head. “How is your neck feeling?”
“Sore, but it’s okay,” Dan said. “The collar feels good, actually. It’s supporting it.”
“And your arms?”
“Back to norma!”
“Oh, good!” Phil said, obviously relieved. “I was so worried.”
“Me, too.” Dan admitted. “For you and for me.”
“We’re always okay,” Phil said after swallowing he last bit of jello, “as long as we’re together.”
“Yup,” Dan said, wiping Phil’s lips with the napkin.
“Thank you for feeding me, Dan,” Phil said.
“You’re welcome,” Dan said, tussling Phil’s hair.
“This was one of the best dinners we’ve ever had.”
“I think so, too,” Dan agreed.
“Happy anniversary, Bear,” Phil said softly.
Dan leaned forward and kissed Phil ever so gently on the lips.
“Happy anniversary, Phily.”