I licked my finger, flipping through pages of a men’s magazine, tucked inside of a Bible, counting calendar pages, avoiding a body bag—at least for today. I look at the magazine for the articles, that’s what I tell people. My head feels like crushed rocks, closing in the four walls of this hospital room. I slide in and out of depression-like a kamikaze pilot abandons his mission, one-day wanting death and the next making life decisions.
I woke up resuscitated, but Tara wasn’t there when my eyes bulged. Kill me. “Are you trying to torture me, God?” I said, eyeing at the ceiling.
I stare down at my body, thinking of a casket. A casket I can’t afford. A coffin that I hoped wouldn’t speak of me or my name. My heart quickens from within my ice-cold lungs. I breathe a sigh of, well, a breath you shouldn’t confuse with comfort. I exhaled the Seattle nightfall, thinking of Tara and where we met and why I wish to God that I’d never seen her face. I wished we hadn’t danced on a dance floor, dancing as if no one on earth could tell us to stop or could not care less what they thought. Talking to each other, making silly faces; I woke up; she woke up with me, tangled in unfamiliar bedsheets, my bedsheets.
Tara sucked the life out of my veins, but the safest place to hide is in memories of that night tangled in bedsheets, scared to death of what our pastors would say, jolted her body with adrenaline as if she’d gambled her last dollar and finally hit the jackpot. Tara shoved her feet in her jeans, kissed me on the cheek, and closed the door behind her.
Stage four stomach cancer gives me an eye candy nurse, who tells me my vital signs are well, for now.
IV tubes pull at my skin. Pull at my self-esteem. Yank at my sense of self. I hold a hand mirror to my face, noticing patches of hair that weren’t there before; “Maybe I’ll pull through,” I say.
A woman walked through the door with blond hair. Tara had black hair. “Hey,” the woman says. “It’s me, Tara.”
My final breath feels gone.
(© 2022 AC)