"I'm sorry."

What a common phrase.

It was the only thing I could say as I stared into my frantic sister's violet eyes. She kept quiet, but looked at me as if some miracle would happen and I wouldn't have to pull the plug.

The life support plug, that is.

The subtle ache in my heart was nothing compared to the endless tearing in my lungs. I spent every day hooked up to machines that breathed for me. Ate for me. Drank for me. Kept my heart beating. I was so completely sick of it all that I had decided to move on to whatever was beyond my short life on earth.

The only thing left was to tell my family, starting with my older sister, Maya.

"Haiden," she says finally, but shuts her mouth after I heave a bone-rattling cough.

"This is how it has to be," I tell her after I regain my breath. "I love you, Maya. Goodb-"

Suddenly, the metal door to my hospital room swings open. A slender doctor strides in with a solemn look on his weary face. I give him a weak nod as he checks my vitals and hands me a pill.

"Sorry to interrupt, sir," he says, offering up a glass of water. "Even if you...uh, made up your mind, we still need to let you go as gently as possible."

A hot spear pokes through my heart as I see another wave of silent tears rush down Maya's rosy cheeks. I didn't recognize this specific man, but I wasn't surprised. New doctors introduced themselves every day, but all of their information went through one ear and out the other.

The young doctor steps out of the room awkwardly as Maya's grip on my frail hand tightens. "He doesn't mean that, does he?"

A smile curves my lips. "I'm sure he does, he probably felt weird about it."

Who wouldn't be, after walking in on someone breaking the news that they wanted to die?

"You haven't even started your life, Haiden. How could you make up your mind so quickly if you don't even have a wife, or children, or a house-"

"Maya," I interrupt. "Some things aren't revertable. You go start a life. You go live the life I'll never get to have."

Minutes pass by as Maya sobs into my hospital gown. I need to say goodbye, but part of me doesn't know how.


Au revoir.

You didn't do anything for me until they said I was dying, good riddance.

"It's my choice," I tell her, placing my free hand on her back. "Just tell yourself that I won't be in pain anymore."

Maya takes a shaky breath and attempts to stand tall, but crumples back down to her knees, kneeling on the side of my bed as another rack of cries hits her body.

I silently will her to hurry up so my lungs don't feel like I'm burning alive anymore.

"C'mon, May-May," I coax, smiling a little at the old nickname. "Let's not act like it'll be forever."

"But it will be forever!" Maya retorts, suddenly furious.


"Plus there are so many things we haven't done together. It's almost Christmas and you know how torn apart Mom will be. Just cling on for a little longer!"

I imagined the icy chill of frostbitten December air, slightly disappointed when I open my eyes and see the dim lights of the hospital gleam in front of me. "Some things are hard to hold onto, Maya."

"That may be true, but this isn't one of them. You're so important to all of us."

I swallow the bile rising in my throat. "After you ghosted me for three years and only came back because you were told I was dying?"

"I was in Kenya," she explains to me, a line forming between her eyebrows. "If I had known you had mesothelioma..."

Her voice trails off, leaving the room silent besides the steady clicks of machinery beside my bed.

"I thought you were still stationed in Austin when I got the call. You're my little brother. I had to come as soon as possible. And the fact that this all happened three months ago?" Maya pinches the bridge of her nose and shakes her head.

"I know," I agree. "I was definitely taken aback, too. But you were here every day, right next to me! I couldn't ask for anything more, May-May. But the doctors have done everything in their power for me."

"You can't just let go of life, Haiden. Please."

I feel the lump in my throat double in size, blurring my vision. I hadn't heard my sister this desperate before. Five hundred memories flash through my mind at once.

Summers at the lake.

Christmas mornings.

Forts as big as the rooms in our house.

The day I left for the Marines.

I know I would never be able to live without my older sister, but I couldn't bear the state I was in anymore. I lived every day feeling as if razors lined the inside of my lungs, activating every time I breathed. The hoarse feeling in my throat felt as if I was swallowing smoke from a thousand fires.

So I blurt it out.


Sirens wail past the window on my ground room. Red and blue lights blare, sending tendrils of pain through my eyes and straight to my brain. I furrow my eyebrows and wince from the sudden strain. I feel Maya disappear from my side, instantly at the door. In a distant world, I hear her calling for a doctor. I try to dismiss her, but every time I open my eyes a fresh wave of scarlet hurt rushes through my body. I'm half aware of the needle stabbed into my forearm, sending me to a space in my mind quiet and warm.

Part of me feels calm. Glad, almost.

But most of me feels dread.

Further pushback on the hard conversation, and another agonizing day of mesothelioma.

April 17, 2021 03:18

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Kendi Karimi
06:55 May 05, 2021

Before reading this, I had no idea what mesothelioma is. This is a beautifully penned story with great attention to details and also quite imaginative. 👌🏽 I love it! Looking foward to reading more of your work. 🤗


Akhlys Ivy
22:29 Jun 04, 2021

Thank you so much! That’s very polite of you 😊


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