Story: Three minus Four Equals A Lot

By: Reese Scott

gurney
Jake laid down on the gurney. It felt as though he was on backwards. Suddenly all he could think of were fragments of song lyrics that he was infatuated with when he was younger and afraid to grow old. He looked up at the ceiling. The bright lights hurt his eyes. He could hear the lyrics. “The Girl in the window won’t drop” banged against one side of his head. While the lyrics “The shining moon, the dead oak tree, nights like this appeal to me” banged against the other side. He felt like he was a conductor at a train station but the trains no longer paid any attention.

Jake turned his head away from the people rolling him down the hall. He deserved some type of privacy. Everyone deserves something at least close to it. He dug what was left of his finger nails deep into his skin. It felt like he had been on the gurney for a month. But he had watched the people before him rolled down the hall like a ball that no longer was allowed to bounce. There was that blonde girl who wouldn’t eat and that one guy who had his own room and didn’t talk to anyone except himself and that older women, Kathy, whose neck and body were covered in scars that she had designed herself. Jake liked her. She looked like hate and for some reason Jake trusted that and they actually had become friends since they had been in here. She had even showed him how she had made the cuts on her neck.

“What a fucking idiot. I never even thought about that.”

“You’re a guy. What you expect?”

They both laughed. It was an actual laugh. It made him pause. It wasn’t an “I’m scared laugh” or “Please make me laugh so I can forget just for a second.” No. It was just a simple laugh. Kathy looked at him. Jake looked at Kathy.

“You bitch.”

“You asshole.”

He imagined taking her hand and walking her into his room. Both of them removing their clothes. Then lying down next to each other in bed. Doing nothing. But just looking at one another. They were both too far gone for sex.

He remembered sitting at the table when Kathy came back from one of her treatments. By this point she no longer knew how many there had been. That no longer mattered. He looked at her eyes. They reminded Jake of glazed donuts or some horror movie he wished he had never seen. The next day she would be better. Jake stopped when he said the word “better.” “What a strange word when you have nothing to compare it to,” he thought.

The next day she was talking even though most of what she said were questions that were so simple they were difficult to answer.
“What day is it?
“Tuesday.”
“So yesterday was Monday?”
“Yeah.”
“Tomorrow Wednesday?”
“Yeah.”
The word “Wednesday” made her face suddenly crack like she was being raped without being touched.
“I don’t like Wednesdays.”
“I know.”
“You will too.”
“I know.”
Kathy laughed. It was a strange laugh. Jake always thought after his first treatment he would understand what that laugh really meant.

“Monday. Fun. Wednesday. Fun. Friday. Fun.” Kathy sang in a voice that reminded him of everything he no longer wished to remember. Then one day Kathy was gone. She had given him her phone number. But he didn’t realize it was a number short until she had left. “That’s okay,” he thought. “Memories are good.”

He watched the walls pass by, he listened to the Nurse, Linda, talk about cheating on her boyfriend and the other Nurse, George, talk about how he was thinking of breaking up with his girlfriend because she wouldn’t get breast implants.

Then they came to the swimming doors as they called them. You can swim before you go through those doors but not after. The Nurse, George, was looking at him out of the corner of his eye and at the same time talking to the other Nurse, Linda. They both looked at him and smiled. He saw George reach into his pocket and hand Linda what looked like a twenty-dollar bill. He thought maybe his hospital gown had fallen off and he was now partially naked or was already drooling. But he wasn’t. It took him a few minutes to realize what they were laughing about. He was crying. “God Damn baby. Be a Man.” Jake yelled inside his head.

Linda walked over and tapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. It only takes a second and you won’t remember any of it. Kind of like Christmas,” Jake didn’t know what that meant, but he had a bad feeling he wouldn’t forget. Then they lifted him up and put him on the table. The IV was already attached to his arm. He looked over at the Doctor that was going to put him to sleep. He looked like a used car salesman who wished he was a pedophile. His Doctor’s face was almost perfect. It showed no care. He closed his eyes as they attached electrodes to his head, chest and to one of his fingers, then placed the oxygen mask over his face. He promised he would remember this moment but he knew he never was good at keeping promises.

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