I don’t want you to say goodbye, and yet here I am again, sitting crossed legged on the floor of this hospital, waiting to see if this waking moment will be the last of this life, on this earth. Dramatic? I think not. You’re dying, obviously, and even in death you can’t seem to realize that I’m the one that’s always been here, and not Satchel the class A jerk who didn’t bother to come to your deathbed because he’s at a party. With other girls. What kind of guy goes to a party without his girlfriend when she’s dying? Scratch that, why would he go at all? I struggle to see what is so appealing about Satchel, really, I do. I can’t waste time thinking of him now though, now when the next vehicle you ride in is a hearse. You aren’t quite asleep but your eyes are glazed over, like ice ponds.
You’ve never looked so cold and all I want to do is cup your gaunt face in my hands and warm you up with thousand kisses, like the song in Rent you used to love. I call the nurse to hand me your phone and I unlock it. First of all, there are no messages from your boyfriend. I tell you this. You say he’s going through a period of denial and I tell you nothing; I’m already scrolling through your favorite playlists. You weren’t talking to me before, not until I mentioned stupid Satchel. I’d complain about his name more but you’ve always called me Pinecone, which is a lame name but you must have some reason for it, I guess.
I don’t play the song from Rent. I play a different song, a song with a much happier ending, instead and your eyes seem to clear if only just slightly. I smile. I knew you’d like it. And look, I’m not pushing this anymore. If I’m your brother, fine, if I’m your cousin, okay, and if I’m anything else to you- as long as I get to be in your life- that’s cool. Really. Or at least, I’ll do my darndest to pretend it’s cool with me, even after… well, I mean, if you aren’t here anymore but you’ve made yourself clear where we stand, that’s how I’ll remember it. I won’t be the stalker. I won’t be the midnight prowler. I refuse to be the villain in this equation. It doesn’t in the end who I was here as, just that I was here.
I can come to terms with that, I guess.
We were, after all, friends before I ever realized I would put my life on hold permanently for you, to wait as long as it took for you to get better, back on your feet, and out of the hospital. Now you aren’t though, and after tonight I don’t see how I can press play on the life I paused for you to have me around even though you didn’t ask. You didn’t ask for me to take a gap year, or lose my scholarship, or ask my sisters to donate their hair… nope. That was all me and I’m not trying to say that I deserve a thank you but at least a sign that you noticed what I was doing would be nice; to see that you would remember me well in the afterlife.
“Pinecone?” Your voice is softer and still electric.
I pause the song playing on your phone and nod, “Hmm?”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t choose you. I thought I would have more time.”
“What do you mean?”
You close your eyes, don’t talk for a second. I consider calling the nurse but then you say with your eyes still shut, “I mean that, I lied when I said I only saw you as a friend or brother or whatever. I meant, I thought I’d marry you one day when I was done with my wild teenage days, done with Satchel’s madness, done with wanting to follow all the rules to be a heartbreaker.”
I don’t know what to think. “Well, I guess you accomplished one thing.”
“What was that?”
“You did manage to break my heart, Xiovana.”
You open your eyes one at a time and soft glare at the center of my face. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“You meant to though?”
“I thought it would make a good story for when we were older. How I always told you we’d be friends, but then I went through a bad breakup with my jerk boyfriend and then you were there for me, but then I never followed through. I never broke up with Satchel and I couldn’t stop lying or pretending. It was such a game to me, Pinecone, I know you don;t understand.”
“Am I supposed to say what I think or not?” I weigh the phone in my hands, thinking about what size dent it would make in the wall if I threw it right now.
“I said, do I say what I really think right now or not, because you’re dying and it could be the last thing I say to you.”
“Then I’ll be dead, though.” You blink, “It won’t matter what you say. My hurt feelings aren’t going to follow me to the grave, you know.”
“I wish you wouldn’t say things like that.”
“What? That I’m going to a grave?”
“No! That this doesn’t matter. Don’t you think it matters to me?”
“Right, because you’ll still be alive, living your life until elderhood and I’ll be seven feet in the ground, dead at seventeen. Fantastic parting words, Pinecone!”
“Xiovana…” I start, “This doesn’t have to be the last things we say to each other; we can end on a better note. After all the years, don’t you think we deserve that?”
“I don’t think you’re the same person I knew all of those years.”
I’m exhausted. This may be why your body is shutting down; you infuriate it so. “Pot kettle much?” I wanted to say I love you one last time before holding your hands close to my face as you passed peacefully in your sleep. I did not want to argue with you about what did and did not matter in the long run of things. “You know I love you.”
“I love you too, but it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t.”
“Why can this not matter? You’re dying and when people leave they’re supposed to say, ``I'll be in your heart and I’ll never leave your side and gone but not forgotten but you’re almost wanting me to forget you.”
“If it would cause you less pain, Pinecone, of course. I want you to move on.”
Crazy, you are absolutely crazy. “Move on? Like you’re some dog that ran away? What are you talking about anymore? I’m not just going to move on tomorrow, or the day after that, or next year, or ever. You’re not replaceable.”
“You’ll die if you keep thinking like this.”
“Yeah.” I fall silent. I shouldn’t, though. We should be filling the air with light memories and songs of remembrance and all that kind of stuff but… I guess it’s like you to want to do the opposite of things. “But it’s always going to matter.”
The door bangs open and Satchel of fair hair and dazzling eyes crashes through into the room, leaving in his wake a path of cologne poison. “Xiovana!” He doesn’t notice me, apparently, which I am used to by now. “Oh, no. No, please, don’t do this to me. You can’t leave me.” Of course he’s playing the hero minutes after he had forgotten all about you. He most likely is going to kiss you, take a few dramatic last photos, send them to his social media followers, and then wait for the onslaught of pity he seems to enjoy so much, when it’s convenient for him.
“I knew you’d be here eventually, Satch.” Your eyes are shining. You lied twice. You love him and you’re confused about me. You throw your bone thin arms around his neck and he leans in too close to the bed, where I can smell the cologne and self righteousness dripping off him like oil on ducks in a corrupted dystopian wasteland.
“Yeah, of course.” He sits on the edge of the bed.
We all sit in silence, knee deep. A few minutes, or maybe hours, go by before you startle in the hospital bed, reaching for both mine and Satchel’s hands. “Go get my mom.” I jump up from the floor and run towards the waiting room, because our time is up and now the hourglass is wearing thin. You know what happens next.
You hand us all letters, and then hand an extra one to Satchel but say it’s for me and him, then you tell us to leave the room and your family stays. I wave as I leave the room, because what else am I supposed to do?
The next morning, the world is short one Xiovana, and I am short one heart.
I have some
Letters to read.
(This is my sequel to Sarang, aka Hospital Visits, if you haven't read it this will maybe not make sense. Hope it was okay. Not as good as the first one but it'll do, Donkey, it'll do.)