I Fell in Love with Hope
I Fell in Love with Hope کتاب من عاشق امید شدم اثر Lancali زبان اصلی
The heart-wrenching TikTok sensation about a group of terminally ill patients who vow to live the rest of their lives to the fullest and find a love that transforms and transcends.
Against the unforgiving landscape of a hospital, a group of terminally ill patients embraces the joys within their reach: friendship, freedom, rebellion. Each in their own way is broken; each in their own way is stronger for it.
In the midst of pain and loss, they find community, even miracles, and together they are determined to reclaim from life what illness has taken from them. But a singular heartbreak has led one to swear off love forever. The risk of experiencing another tragedy feels too great. Yet, in this desolate place where it seems impossible for love to make an appearance, a door opens—and so do hearts.
Chapter 1: Yellow-Flared Eyes
1 yellow-flared eyes
WHEN HE DIED, I became someone else.
I used to dream of us, thinking that within his yellow-flared eyes there was a future I could count on. Futures are never certain. Nothing will teach you that better than watching someone you love walk away.
Nothing will teach you that better than growing up in a hospital.
The steady white noise keeps you sane. Stretchers pass and staff walk in their assigned lanes like they’re on some kind of medical highway. Apart from that, there is bland, tasteless food and bland, tasteless decor to accompany your sentence. That’s all a hospital is, really. Not a place to get better or a place to be treated, but a place to wait.
Imagine a bomb chained to your wrist. It makes sounds. Like a heart monitor. Day and night. A countdown. A countdown, by the way, that you can’t see. Look at your bomb, hold it up like a watch. All that’ll stare back at you is a blinking red light with that barking beep. Reminders that this bomb will go off. You just don’t know when.
That’s what waiting to die is like.
A bomb drifts through your veins by the name of illness.
You cannot defuse it. You cannot destroy it. You cannot run from it.
Time, disease, and death are rueful mechanics that way. They enjoy crafting nooses out of fear, and they love playing games. Shadows are their tools, curving over your shoulders with eerie fingers, coaxing you into the dark, taking your body, your mind, and anything they please with it.
Time, disease, and death are the greatest thieves in the world.
Or they were.
Until we came along. Four friends who do not believe in bombs.
Sony barged into my life not lying on a hospital bed but kicking a vending machine that had robbed her of her chocolate. The second she saw me her frustration melted away, and we shared crappy chocolate and spoke of far-fetched dreams sitting on a cold hallway floor. Though I didn’t know it at the time, she had survived a loss far greater than one of her lungs. With hair the color of fire and an air of freedom, she is a gladiator, the bravest thief I know.
Coeur is a much calmer being. He’s our muscle, our ever-guilty muscle. His mother is French, his father Haitian, both pretentious namers. Coeur means heart, though the heart in C’s body is broken. Literally. But the heart in his soul is the biggest among us. He is the lover in the bunch and the worst thief among us.
Neo is a writer, a bitter poet. Unlike Sony, he is silent, and unlike C, he is remorseless. His spine is fragile, but his words make up for it. He’s bony and short, so small we call him Baby, although, for a baby, he sure has a temper. I’m fairly certain he’s never worn a smile in his life. I’ve known him the longest, and though he’s scowly and mean, it’s all a mask, his protection. He’s also the smartest person I know—observant, creative, resilient—the one who plans and records our great feats of thievery. He claims that Sony and I are extroverts who’ve kidnapped him and coerced him into being our friend, but I know he secretly enjoys the company. Hospitals are lonely until you find your people.
It’s been years since Neo, Sony, and C have been in and out of the hospital.
Now, when they go home, they don’t go home for long. Disease is greedy. It takes pieces of you until you no longer recognize yourself, and Neo, C, and Sony don’t recognize themselves outside this place anymore.
Whether you’re sick or not, the night creates mirrors out of windows. In the past, it showed my friends images of corpses in the glass: skeletons with bones unwrapped by flesh, organs falling through the rib cage, blood seeping from the mouth. They trembled at the foretelling, their fingertips grazing the surface that entranced them. Diagnoses, pills, needles, and so many new mirrors they never meant to find encroached on their lives. Their reflections became their realities.
So rather than meet the new versions of themselves made vulnerable by the beds they slept in and the gowns they wore, my friends turned off the lights. They climbed a staircase and met on a rooftop. They let their fingertips graze the sky with no barrier to stop them from touching the stars.
We should just steal everything, Sony said. Even with a low-burning flame, she was brave. Let’s steal everything we can before we go.
Everything? C asked.
Everything’s a long list, Neo said.
Your lives were stolen, I said. Why don’t you steal some of it back?
That was the day our hit list was born. But so far, everything isn’t ours yet.
Stealing is an art form, and we’ve yet to become artists. But it doesn’t stop us from trying.
On a cloudless afternoon we slip out of the hospital. Sony leads the charge, C pushing Neo in a wheelchair across the boulevard. We make our way down the sidewalk and inside a mini-mart. Sony sidles up to a kiosk filled with sunglasses and dons a pair of aviators, scopes out the place, and nods her head.
“Now,” she says, the price tag dangling from her temple.
C makes his way toward the refrigerated section.
“Now?” Neo looks up, caressing the book that never leaves his side. His copy of Great Expectations. It’s a constant, like a beauty mark or the shape of his nose. And it’s bent at the spine, just like him.
“Now,” Sony commands, chest high.
“Won’t we get caught?” I whisper, looking around the gas station mart. Three people roam the aisles; the cashier flips through a magazine.
“We’re definitely getting caught,” Neo says.
Sony smirks down at him through the periphery of her soon-to-be-stolen sunglasses.
“Why would we get caught?” she teases.
Neo snorts. “We always get caught.”
“Today is different. Today is on our side,” Sony proclaims, taking a breath, deep and dramatic. “Can’t you taste it, Neo? How sweet the air is?”
“We’re in a candy aisle, you idiot!” Neo’s wheelchair creaks when he throws his head back to look at me. “Sam. Tell her she’s an idiot.”
I would, but I value my life.
“Sony, you’re an idiot,” Neo says, grabbing a pen and notebook wedged in his chair and slamming the book open, and scribbles, 4:05 p.m.: Sony is an idiot.
Neo is our scribe—the one who records our great deeds. Granted, he didn’t exactly agree to the job. He didn’t even agree to come along on this mission. But when your spine is hook-shaped, you can’t escape the shackles of friendship. The wheelchair groans as I pull it just out of Sony’s reach.
“It’s a wonder you need back surgery at all, Baby.” Sony doesn’t have a job per se. She’s the giver of jobs, doubling as the devil on my shoulder with toothy, shameless grins. “That stick up your ass could surely serve as a spine, no?”
“You talk a lot of shit for someone who can’t go up a flight of stairs,” Neo growls. I pull his wheelchair a little farther back.
“It’s a gift.” Sony sighs, her one lung filled with ambition. “Now watch me work, and don’t break my concentration.”
Neo and I watch as Sony marches to the front counter, her dirty white sneakers squeaking against the tiles. The devil doesn’t forget to sneak a lollipop into her back pocket on the way.
Neo grumbles, “Klepto.”
“Excuse me…” Sony waves her arms over her head to catch the cashier’s attention. His sidelong glance becomes a double take. Sony’s pretty. The kind of pretty that’s brutal, bright-eyed, and heavy-handed. But I’m guessing his stares have more to do with the breathing tubes trailing the space under her nose and around her cheeks.
The cigarettes she points to behind the counter dig her grave.
“Just those, please,” Sony says.
“Miss, I…” the gas station attendant interrupts himself, looking at the cigarettes and then back at her. “Are you sure? I don’t think I could give these to you in good conscience.”
“He’s staring at her chest in good conscience,” Neo bites out, like he’s about to chew on the fist holding his head up.
“Oh no, sir, they’re not for me—um…” Sony recoils, dipping her head. “My friends and I, we…”
The devil is quick to tears. She presses a hand to her lips. “We don’t know how much time we have left. Neo, the boy there. He has to get surgery tomorrow. Cancer.”
She points over her shoulder to Neo and me, the attendant making eye contact with us. Neo and I instantly look away. Neo goes so far as to pretend he’s browsing for chewing gum by looking at the ingredients on the back.
Sony sniffles dry air and wipes at tears that haven’t fallen. “We just wanted to go to the roof like old times, rebel a little,” she says, shrugging her shoulders, laughing at herself. “I don’t know what I’ll do if he doesn’t make it. He’s such a good soul. He lost his parents in a fire, you know, and his puppy! I—”
“Okay, okay!” The cashier grabs a pack. “Just take them. Go on.”
“Why, thank you,” Sony chirps, taking them without a second thought, and prances out the door.
Shocked that even worked, Neo and I chase after her. He manages to swipe a bag of gummy bears, tucking it between his leg and the armrest. Once we’re out and the door shuts behind us, we both exhale our jitters while Sony takes a few giddy steps and stops.
“Write it down,” Sony commands, pointing at Neo’s book.
Neo does as he’s bid, writing in the notebook, 4:07 p.m.: The idiot has successfully conned a boob looker into giving her free cigarettes.
Sony flips the pack in the air and snags it with one hand.
“I don’t have cancer,” Neo says.
“No, you don’t. But cancer just saved us ten bucks, which is the only good thing it’ll be doing anytime soon.”
“Sony,” I whine.
“What? The cancer kids love me. They always laugh when I run after them and keel over from lack of air. Quid pro quo, yeah?”
“You sure they weren’t crying?” Neo says.
“Quid. Pro. Quo?” I ask.
I’m not well versed in commonalities, things everybody knows. Sarcasm, irony, idioms, sports. It all eludes me till Neo explains.
“It means ‘something for something’ in Latin,” he says. Neo knows everything.
“Yeah!” Sony chimes in. “Like when you kill somebody, so they kill you. Like karma! That’s how quid pro quo works.”
I look at Neo. “Is it?”
“It isn’t. Is there a reason I had to be here for this?” he asks, his wheelchair suddenly creaking, the weight disturbed by something slipped into the cubby beneath it. Neo’s brow crinkles. He turns as much as his back will allow and sees a six-pack being placed beneath his seat.
Our mission’s brawn has arrived. C looks more man than boy, tall and beautiful. With his hands tucked in his pockets, he gently shoves the beer farther into its hiding place with his foot.
“How’d it go?” C asks.
Sony’s quick to show off her spoils.
“I saved ten bucks with cancer!”
C cocks his head to the side. “On cigarettes?”
“And gummy bears,” I say. Neo tosses the bag over his shoulder into C’s chest.
“C’mon, C.” Sony puts her hands on her hips. “What would we be without irony but boring clichés, yeah?”
“Not using a wheelchair patient as a mule?” Neo tries to roll himself away, but C holds on to the back like you’d hold a shirt collar.
Neo rolls his eyes. He takes out another notebook from the side pocket, this one with the front torn off. As we start making our way across the street, back home, he adds today’s conquests to our hit list.
Cigarettes (the cool ones in Bond movies)
An afternoon outside
A heaping pile of jitters
Hospitals are bland, tasteless places. But even if I do not dream as I used to, there is no more thrilling company than the company of thieves.
“Baby, you are a pillar,” Sony says, pride and camaraderie lighting up her face. “Without you, the mission would fall apart. Who else would keep track of our glorious histories?”
“Plus you make an excellent shopping cart,” C adds, petting the top of his head.
“Look, C, traffic,” Neo says, pointing at the road. “Push me into it.”
C shoves a handful of candy into Neo’s mouth instead as we make our way back.
Sony jumps the white lines of the crosswalk like skipping stones over a stream. C pushes Neo right behind her, two ducklings following in a row. I’m the tail end, the narrator. They always reach the finish line before I do.
Neo carries our hit list in his lap, a glint of light catching on the notebook’s metal spirals, fleeting like the sun decided to tease it. I look up to find it, staring beyond the line of cars that branch off after the intersection.
My heart drops.
Just past the cars, a river cuts the city in two. Its bridge is all that connects either side. A bridge I’ve known my entire life that creates an ache in my chest. Instead of laughing strangers and children throwing coins into the water, I see snow across the railing. I see the dark.
I start to look away, leave the past on its own, but something else emerges behind it.
Just a glimpse of it.
The gray cowers, strands of color carried by the river’s breeze. Did the sun descend to Earth and decide to spend a day among its subjects?
I crane my neck to get a better look, but there are too many people on the bridge; the couples, the tourists, and the children block my view, and cities are impatient. A honk pulls me back to where I stand, my friends waiting for me just ahead.
“Sam?” C calls.
“Sorry.” I scurry the rest of the way back. As we step inside the hospital together, my chin catches on my shoulder, the bridge too far to hurt me. I keep looking back till my reflection ghosts across the glass doors.
“Well, well,” Sony says, lollipop between her teeth. “The smuggler crew returns from a day at sea.” She tucks the cigarettes in her sleeve once we reach the atrium.
It’s old and falsely joyful, as most children’s hospitals are. Fancy balloons and faded colored tiles attempt to brighten a space where many enter and leave, feeling dimmed. There are posters and banners on the walls about treatments and real-life survivor stories, but those are old too, nurses and doctors clocking in and out to complete the scene. “Now, quick!” Sony says. “Let’s get everything upstairs before— Eric!”
Our floor’s most notorious jailer (nurse), Eric, has a keen sense of timing. He raises a brow at Sony’s tone, his foot tapping away at the ground. His bullshit detector is a honed weapon, and when he gets mad, I wouldn’t wish his wrath upon actual prisoners.
“And right under the idiot smuggler’s nose, history repeats itself,” Neo narrates. “Should I say I told you so or rat you out for kidnapping me…” C stuffs more candy into his mouth while I open the book from the side pocket and put it in his face.
“Where were you?” Eric asks. His under-eye bags and dark hair match in color, his arms crossed on his chest. He’s worried about us, otherwise, he wouldn’t have made the trip all the way down here to wrangle us home.
“Eric, Eric—first of all—are those new scrubs?” Sony asks, pointing smoothly up and down. “They really bring color to your face—”
“Not you.” Eric puts his hand up, silencing her. Then he looks right at me.
I wish I were invisible.
“Just getting some fresh air,” I say, looking at the ground and scratching the back of my neck.
“Fresh air, huh?” Eric scowls, unconvinced. “Did you forget we have an entire floor dedicated to that?” He’s referring to the garden on the sixth floor.
When Neo’s back still functioned, the four of us would hide in the bushes up there. We made a plan to live our entire lives in the garden and pretend we were woodspeople living off wild berries. It worked for about three hours, but then we got hungry and cold, and C was close to tears at being unable to charge his phone to listen to music. We came back covered in mulch and smelling of soil.
Ever since then, Eric hasn’t been too keen on letting us out of his sight.
“Well!” Sony is undaunted. “Excuse us for needing a change of scenery.”
“Enough.” Eric swipes his arms through the air, the four of us huddling closer together. “I shouldn’t have to tell you not to be reckless.”
He points at Neo—“You have surgery tomorrow”—and to C—“and you have an echo appointment”—then to Sony—“and you aren’t even supposed to be out of bed. Now get upstairs!”
C hurls Neo’s chair forward as we trot to the elevators. Sony presses the button with the sole of her shoe. Once we reach the top floor, C picks up Neo from his chair, cradling his skinny frame, careful of his spine. From here, we have to travel upstairs to get to the roof. I grab the wheelchair while Sony skips up the steps.
Halfway through, Sony and C need a break.
Sony closes her eyes and leans against the railing. Half her chest rises, deep and quick, but she refuses to open her mouth to breathe. Such an admission of defeat is not a satisfaction she would ever give to a mere rise in altitude.
C leans against the rail too, Neo’s ear pressed flat to the center of his chest.
“Does it sound like music?” he asks, his voice nearly gone.
“No,” Neo says. “It sounds like thunder.”
“Not when there’s a storm between your ribs.” Neo taps the scars of blood vessels climbing C’s collarbones. “Your veins brew lightning. It’s trying to escape.”
C smiles. “You really are a writer.”
“Yeah.” Neo shifts for balance, ear called back to the beating. “Breathe, Coeur.”
This is ritualistic too. A moment of silence for half a pair of lungs and half a heart.
Sony is the first to open her eyes and start up again. She kicks the door to the rooftop wide open, arms stretched, reaching for the horizons on either end. She whistles the tune of an unconvicted criminal by a few giddy foot taps.
“We made it!”
“We made it,” I whisper, putting Neo’s chair back down and adjusting the breathing tubes at Sony’s ear. C gently sets Neo down, handing him some pieces of paper he’s pulled from his back pocket.
“You liked it?” Neo asks.
“Yeah, I did.” Neo and C are creating a novel together. Neo is the writer. C is the inspiration, the reader, the muse, the one with ideas he can’t always put into words.
“But I was wondering,” C says, still reviewing the chapter in his head, “why do they just give up at the end?”
“What do you mean?” Neo peers over at the pages.
“You know, the main character. After they find out their lover has been lying all this time, they don’t yell or get angry or throw things like you want them to. They just… stay.”
“That’s the point,” Neo says. “Love is hard to walk away from, even if it hurts.” He absentmindedly caresses the bandage on the inside of his elbow, the cotton still guarding a fresh needle prick. “Try walking away from someone who knows you so well they ruin you. You’ll find yourself wondering how you could ever love anyone else. And anyway, if I gave you the ending you wanted, you wouldn’t remember it.”
Neo doesn’t just write stories, he becomes them. Most of the little things he writes ring true, give a certain chill, but then again, most little things he writes get erased or tossed away. That’s how it’s always been.
Sony places a cigarette between Neo’s lips, then another in mine. Gripping it firmly in his mouth, Neo cups a hand, a shield from the breeze. The lighter flickers till the embers catch Sony’s fire.
Neo doesn’t inhale. Instead, he observes, as I do, lets the scent tingle his nostrils, and watches the smoke rise, becoming one with the clouds. C and Sony don’t sip the brew bubbling beneath bottle caps. They lick the foam, tongues slapping the roofs of their mouths.
We’re greedy creatures, but not ungrateful. You don’t have to partake in destruction to admire the weapons.
“Do you think people will remember us?” Sony asks, staring at the sky, toying with her collar. C caresses his scars and the lightning in them. Neo shifts protruding bones against his seat.
Injustice or tragedy, my friends are going to die.
So what is there left to do but pretend?
“I don’t know.”
They all look at me.
“Our ending doesn’t belong to us.”
Sony smiles. “Let’s steal our endings back, then.”
“That’s why we came up here, right?” C piles on. “We said we’d plan it today. Our great escape from the hospital.” Neo glances his way. The possibility of today, but grander, stirs between us. C shrugs. “What’s stopping us?”
Suddenly, the door creaks open.
“Here we are. You’re not supposed to come up here, but sometimes the kids like to…” Eric’s voice startles us. C nearly breaks his bottle by stepping on it, while Neo and I toss our cigarettes so fast we almost set each other’s hands on fire.
The second we’re on our feet and turned around, Eric is already seething, but amidst the chaos, time slows. A familiar melody strikes a single note, turning all heads in the orchestra.
I go silent.
Yellow light emerges from behind Eric’s frame.
And a sun hides behind him in the shape of a girl with yellow-flared eyes.
About the Author
Lancali is the pen name for Lou-Andrea Callewaert. Born in France, where her imagination was so all-consuming her parents teased that she lived on the moon, she moved to the US when she was ten and soon started filling empty boxes with stories she’d write. Lou is now twenty-one, still a moon treader, her imagination more sculpted and developed, and she attends the University of Florida where she studies literature and classics. I Fell in Love with Hope is her first novel and she is currently completing her second.
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|جلد کتاب:||شومیز (جلد نرم)|
|قطع کتاب:||سایز رقعی|
|رنگ صفحات:||چاپ سیاه و سفید|
|تعداد صفحات:||400 صفحه|
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