How did I meet my one true love? It’s a funny story actually. Actually, I can’t remember much of it. Only thing that sticks out in my mind is when she pulled the plug on a patient at the hospital.
So there I was, scratching the bandages adorned (quite like that word, adorned) to my arms. Waiting. Passing boredom by calculating the time I’d been on the drip (25 hours at that point). Checking out the gorgeous view of the parking lot. Front row seat from my window. And if it all became just a little too much, I’d retreat into my head and play my favourite song (they wouldn’t let me have my phone). At some point, I needed to piss. I did the standard routine one would expect. Climbed out of bed. Shuffled across the floor. Dragged the drip along. Shuffled. Dragged. Shuffled. Dragged. Stopped to grab my wrist because it hurt like shit.
After biting my lip and looking up, that’s when she walked into my field of vision. Like an actress kept out of shot, only sent in at the right moment for their scene. Chestnut hair bounced off her back. Converses tapped against the floor. Fingers twitched in anticipation. To what, I wasn’t certain at that moment in time. But don’t worry, we’ll get there in a moment.
My shoe squeaked along the floor, and I nearly brought my drip crashing to the ground. If I hadn’t, she probably wouldn’t have even turned her head my way. But she did. She also stepped forward and grabbed the device before it could fall over and spill my precious, precious painkillers.
“Thanks,” I pulled my best in pain but totally taking it like a man smile.
“No worries,” she replied, before tilting her head. Analysing me. Searching my soul for my darkest secrets. “Jay, right?”
Or she was searching her memory banks for her name. She’d pulled a positive name. I riddled through my own brain, attempting to come up with an appropriate response.
“Depends on whose asking,” I replied, pulling something out of the romantic movie archives. Yeah. That ought to get her.
“So you don’t remember me?”
Well shit, that backfired pretty quickly. I stumbled over a few words. Ran them through my head. Deemed them unfit. Discarded them. Tried to come up with something else. Failed. Decided to take a more direct approach.
“That’s more like it,” she gave me a thumbs-up, “so I take it you’re not here to observe the sights?”
She pointed at my drip, then my wrist and finally my gown.
“Not here by choice I replied,” I said, rubbing my cast, “how about you? I almost didn’t recognize you without a book to replace your face.”
Probably could have chosen a better choice of words. Before I could mentally slap myself however, she giggled slightly. Perhaps the drugs were improving my comedic ability. If so, I had to take it upon myself to cash in on the situation as much as possible.
“Just volunteering to help around here. [a]Shift’s over so I’m about to head home.”
A couple of seconds passed. If I failed to act quickly, we would fall into that unescapable domain of awkward silence.
“So, how do you l-“
But one look at her told me the opportunity was lost. Her eyes were looking past my shoulders. The sparkle in her eyes had dimmed. Could have sworn she was shaking a bit too. Though I wasn’t quite sure.
“I’m sorry Jay, I’ve got to get going,” she gave me a smile spiced with sadness, “though it was nice to see you… shame it had to be a place like this.”
She walked past me, taking care not to push against my oh-so vital drip. I titled my head at her, watching her walk away. A brief pang rose up in my chest, but I pushed it back down. No point lingering over such things.
It was at that moment I recalled why I’d left my bed in the first place. After a brief visit to the bathroom and washing my hands, I expected to return to my bed. To rest my weary head and forget all about that encounter. After all, what was going to come from it? Nothing worthy of note, that was for certain. Or at least, what I believed.
Until I caught sight of her again.
She’d claimed she would be leaving. That’s what get going means, right? Implies you’re not sticking around. Yet there she was again. No longer nearly knocking me to the ground in the hallway, but instead stationed in one of the private rooms. Was she visiting some sick relative? A friend perhaps? Look, you know how this scene ends. Course she isn’t going to off her grandmother.
A curiosity of some bizarre form struck me. Pulled me forward. Dragged me across the floor and towards this room. I couldn’t figure out why. What was it that interested me? The walls so white it hurt your eyes? A lamp on the bedside which flickered on and off constantly? The old geezer in the bed, lips moving but no sound emerging? I couldn’t figure it out, and yet I was tempted forward by a dying man’s siren call.
I was stationed a few meters away from the door now, granting me a clear view into the room. Krista was stood by the man’s beside, a fist clenched. She was definitely shaking now. Her eyes, normally a sparkling emerald, seemed to shift to a burning red. Her thin lips started to move, but the voice that emerged failed to reach me.
I pulled my drip forward ever closer. What was she going to think? Classmate stalks her, even when he’s got a broken arm? Yeah, that’ll go down well at school. Common sense finally smacked me across the mouth, and I was about to pull away, until a swift motion caught my eye.
In a few simple moments, she had stepped around the bed and reached the plug to his life-support machine. But surely she didn’t mean to do it? Perhaps she was just going to remove it and stick it back in. Did life-supports require such a thing to be done? At that point, I wasn’t certain. All I knew is that, even though I didn’t know the old guy’s name or age or his favourite type of music or his worst memory, I had to find a way to preserve all of that.
Naturally, that would involve crying out and snitching up my friend’s murderous intentions. Of course, like those poorly made action movies, time seemed to slow. Slow-motion gripped my senses, rendering me incapable of the simple action of saving a man’s life. I felt the message rise from the depths of my body, attempting to reach out to those around me. Doctors, nurses, even the sleepy security guard. But it never did. And never would.
The old man was staring at her now, his eyes full of pleading. At least, I think they were. He seemed in a pleading mood. I probably would be too if placed into the same situation. His wrinkled hand parted the white sheets and grabbed her arm, almost gently. I couldn’t see Krista’s face from here, but I assumed (from looking at the back of her head), that she was glaring at him. Perhaps relishing the moment.
The (soon-to-be) victim’s own eyes iced over, and he rose his voice approximately half a decibel. Perhaps trying to get his last little attack in before it ended. Krista just shook her head. Slowly at first, then with enough force to swirl her hair all over. Still rooted to the spot, I desperately attempted to open my mouth once more, but found myself unable. Like a giant wall protecting a great kingdom, keeping those out who would destroy it.
It occurred to me that, despite not knowing the old man in the bed, I was perhaps wishing for his demise as much as Krista.
And that’s when she pulled the plug on the poor bastard.
Why do humans do the things that they do?
Is it by some form of primal instinct? A long lost directive or protocol, buried in our subconscious. Kept quiet by the constant hum of background noise, but every now and then breaking through, resonating clear in our minds, before dissipating once more.
Is it by some cold, calculating machine? Each and every detail, planned out to the minutest notion. The execution, delayed time and time again, until the time is deemed correct and all is in place.
Or perhaps it just happens. Just like that. With a snap of the fingers, we decide to do something and go ahead with it, before awaiting our next order.
[a]Find out if you can volunteer at hospitals