“What’s your relation to the patient?” the duty nurse asked her. “Family?”
“No,” she replied.
Lisa would rather get a pap smear with a rake than date the patient in question. Still, desperate times… “Yes.”
“I see.” The nurse wheeled her chair back to a stack of files on the other side of the desk.
“He wake up yet?”
The nurse glanced at one of the folders. “There’s been no change in his condition.”
So he wouldn’t be much company. There was some good news. “Can I see him?”
“Room 313,” the nurse said before returning to whatever it was that duty nurses did.
She crept down the corridors of the intensive care unit, in no particular hurry to get there. She didn’t know what to expect when she did. It couldn’t be any worse than finding him alone on a bed in a dark room the night before. She was wrong about that; seeing Sean today, alone on a bed in a bright room, was much worse. Instead of shivering and convulsing like he did last night, he now just lay still.
But what really disturbed her was the way he was wrapped in needles and tubes and pale sheets rather than in the droopy cotton sweaters he preferred.
She’d known him for a while, and had no idea he was so tiny. Sure he wasn’t all that tall, but she’d always attributed that to his slouch. Turns out he was just this little skeleton with some skin on it.
He wasn’t going anywhere, so she might as well get some rest. After settling into the visitor’s chair, it took only a moment for her eyes to drift closed. They took less than a moment for them to shoot back open as soon as something she’d seen reached her sleep-deprived brain.
Wide awake now, she hopped to her feet and crept closer to his side. Slowly–oh so very slowly–she rotated his wrist to get a good look underneath. A white, surgically precise scar ran down the length of his forearm. It had completely healed, but still couldn’t be more than a few years old. And it was serious. Whoever made this did not want it to close up.
She sank to the floor. When she’d discovered this drooling mass of sweat and flesh in his dorm last night, she’d just assumed his overdose was accidental. Now she felt really, really stupid. He’d always been the kind of guy who just shuffled his way through life, glassy-eyed and distracted, as if he’d rather be elsewhere; but it wasn’t until just now that she realized that he really did want to be elsewhere.
She’d had to drag herself through years poverty, abuse, illness, and mountains of cruelty to be alive, and yet here he was, surviving a second suicide attempt out of dumb luck. What an asshole!
Behind her, on this bed, without his cigarettes and marijuana and smartass comments and narrow, condescending eyes, he looked just like a little boy. And that’s all he was: a petulant, self-absorbed, frightened little boy. So why the fuck did she even care about him?
She didn’t even like kids, much less this guy. It was only a combination of boredom and curiosity that brought her to him in the first place. If she had any sense whatsoever, she’d get up off of this floor and fly the fuck away while she still had a chance to escape.
But she couldn’t.
After a while, she melted into sleep, waking some time later to a soft voice croaking, “Crap. Not again.”
Embarrassment yanked her to her feet immediately.
He blinked a few times, squinted, and frowned before focusing in on her face. “Shit,” he whispered. “If you’re here, then I must be in hell.”
The only thing keeping her from laughing in relief was the way she collapsed back into the visitor’s chair. Too late now. She was going to burn, and it was her own damned fault.