The Irony Of Choking On A Lifesaver
“Strange maze, what is this place?
I hear voices over my shoulder,
Nothings making sense at all”
“Nobody ever talk to us, it drives us insane when the only company we have is each other. Thank you, Rhinae. Promise me, don’t go away. Everyone always does, but you’re different, right?” Jack pleaded as he climbed into bed. You could see the honesty in his eyes as he pronounced each word. This wasn’t a childish story to provoke sympathy, no one but me in this hospital cared. Every moment in this place made me hate the workers more.
With a sympathetic smile, I nodded. I couldn’t bear to leave Jack the first night, or any night really. From that day forward I promised to stay in his room and simply watch. The whole time I sat there, all I wondered was why none of the nurses cared about their patients.
When I was just about to drift off, I heard the faint patter of feet. Knowing that nothing was what it seemed in this place, I snuck over to the door to have a look. In the distance there was a figure, walking in the direction of a corridor I hadn’t been down before. Suddenly full of energy, I followed him. Jack would be okay on his own for five minutes.
This part of the hospital was much darker than the rest. The lights had been turned off so the only sense of direction I had were the young boy’s footsteps ahead of me. On top of this it was considerably colder. I seemed to shiver more the further I walked. The environment bled with death. You could tell that this was the abandoned part of the hospital.
“Ow!” An unexpected cry called out. Without realising I had stepped on the back of my oblivious guide’s heels.
“I’m sorry,” I apologised, stepping back into more darkness. Seconds later a match flame appeared opposite me, illuminating a stout boy with very little hair. I couldn’t help but notice that his arm was bandaged up; by the looks of things he was a gangrene patient. Yet another child that had been left to fend for themselves was suffering the consequences. His eyes were brown like the rest of the other’s I’d met, however he had a more mature presence about him. It was clear he was older.
“I’ve never seen you before,” He spoke in a soft American accent, and when he smiled a necklace of white teeth were revealed. “I’m Rian, Rian Dawson. As you probably know I’m one of the patients here, but I also like to monitor the wards seeing as nobody else bothers to… Except you obviously. You being?”
“Wait - what do you mean?” I asked, stunned by what he had said. What’s the point in working in a hospital if you’re not going to look after your patients? Something was very wrong here. Maybe Rian would be able to help me.
“That’s a nice name,” he laughed, soon turning serious, “For some reason all of the nurses are too scared to come down here…” his voice then drifted off. Silence swallowed us whole. For a moment all we could hear was the sound of the rotting curtains blowing delicately in the breeze. Everything was calm until a scream was heard in Jack’s direction. Before anymore looks could be exchanged we were both running towards him. The corridor didn’t seem as dark anymore.
“JACK!” I screamed as I entered the room and turned on the lights. My eyes widened when they eventually processed what was happening in front of them. A young boy, much stronger than Jack, was stood opposite his bed as if he were waiting to pounce, staring. I was desperate to know what was going on.
“Zack leave Jack alone, you know you’re not allowed near him like this,” Rian shouted, causing the other boy to evacuate immediately. All the while he was hissing, shooting daggers at Rian. Once they’d both left the room, I climbed onto bed with Jack to comfort him.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said casually, looking down at the ground, “Zack’s always been like this. He’s schizophrenic you see. When he’s okay, he’s an amazing friend and really funny, but sometimes he has his bad turns. Like this evening.” Sighing Jack lay back under his covers and closed his eyes. It shocked me how he was so calm about this. I was still distraught about the whole situation, especially by what Rian had said. This sense of unknowing made me reluctant to listen to Jack.
“I will worry about you, every single day. You’re my patient and that’s my job. Ten minutes ago didn’t you just beg me to stay? I won’t break my promise.” Gently I whispered, not even sure if he’d heard me. Not wanting to disturb him anymore, I went to join Rian outside.
Instead of coming face to face with Rian though, I was met by Alex. Initially I didn’t notice him because he was sitting in a wheelchair. Only then did I realise how bad his HIV was. He was definitely dying too. Not even I could tell how long he had left, perhaps weeks. Months? The disease was far too developed to cure now. How long had he been out there on his own before the hospital found him? How did they even find him when it appeared that they didn’t care? My questions would need to wait for another day, as all Alex wanted to hear about was Jack. His eyes were full of tears, obviously knowing what had happened.
“How’s Jack?” He asked, trying not to cry. To comfort him I knelt down and gave him a hug. Instead of embracing me back however, he pushed (kindly) past me. All he wanted to do was see his best friend.
“Hey Jacky,” Alex cooed as he approached Jack. Seconds later he appeared from his covers, giving Alex a gleeful smile, the same smile I’d seen earlier. No words were exchanged after that, but what they did do would stay with me for the rest of my life.
Smiling all the while, Jack climbed out of bed, wrapping his arms around Alex’s body to move him up onto the bed. Alex shook his head, warning his friend that he was too heavy, yet there was no stopping the younger boy. Surprisingly he succeeded. Jack’s weak physique was defenceless against his will.
Now both sitting on the bed, Jack rested his head on Alex’s shoulder. Regardless of the situation Alex didn’t return the favour, instead he looked down at the floor, almost in shame. Minutes passed and Jack tried to get a response from Alex. Unsuccessfully he tried poking him, touching his shoulder, and even pulling his ear. That was when it clicked.
Jack didn’t like Alex; Jack was in love with him. He didn’t want to play football with him, get drunk with him, or help him get the person of his dreams. Jack wanted to be that person. Solely he wanted to give Alex all of his heart until the day he died. That’s why he said to make sure he died before Alex, because he meant more to him than anything else in the world.
Nothing was going to stop me making Alex see this. I knew that somewhere he felt the same way too. If I was staying in this place, I was at least going to do my job right. I owed it to them. They deserved it after all the neglect.