Phase One: Wasting Away
Karmen overheard nurses and doctors discussing the grim news of a male patient’s final wish- to let him die, alone, before she went to sit with a friend fighting leukemia. They’d become best friends over the course of ten years and she’d hate to lose her to this disease. Lacey was a fighter, so Karen always held out the highest hope possible.
But, to die alone like this patient who was willfully wasting away in room 317, got under her skin. How could anyone choose death and not give life or hope a glimmer of a chance to prevail? When it came to being defeated, she hated it with a passion, but perhaps she could get this man to understand life was worth living, even when it kicked you in the teeth.
Wrapping up her visit, she promised to visit Lacey again, soon. Karmen prepared herself to do something that could get her into big trouble, or at least it would earn her a searing rebuke. Taking the elevator a floor up, she couldn’t believe she was about to break the law all for someone she’d never met before. Once the steel box settled, the door glided open leaving her jittery, and heart thumping. There was no turning back now, she clenched her fists, thinking silently.
Keeping her stride sure and unrushed, she didn’t want to attract unwanted attention. Casually looking around, the floor was nearly deserted making her search smooth and seamless. 317 stood before her and soon enough she let herself into a dark room and listened to the beep of a monitor. After allowing her eyes to adjust, the only movement she could make out was the rising and falling of his chest. Karmen took a step, then another toward his bed until she was looking down the left side of his face.
He sported a sharp jawbone, his neck looked a little thin and judging by the length of him, she put him at six feet even. She had no time to react as the room filled with light and his eyes were on hers. He lay staring up at a face he didn’t recognize, but her face was etched with concern making him feel edgy under her gaze.
“Are you lost?”
“Let me guess, a reporter looking to take pictures of me dying?” he asked bitterly.
“Then who let you in here?”
“No one let me in. I came here of my own free will. I heard a group of doctors and nurses talking about a patient who wanted to die.”
“Yeah, and what’s it to you if I do?”
“It shouldn’t be anything to me, but I wanted to let you know you shouldn’t give up hope. If there is a one percent chance, it’s better than no chance at all.”
“I don’t need you or anyone else preaching to me about my life. You don’t know me.” he ground out.
“You’re right, I don’t know you, but your choice to give up is just plain stupid.”
“You heard me. What woman would align herself with a quitter when things get bumpy?”
“You’ve got some gall lady! I have cancer-“
“Is it terminal?” Karmen cut in.
“Then you should be fighting, not wasting away.”
“Who are you to tell me anything? What do you know about pain and suffering, huh?”
“I know plenty. Listen, if you don’t have a support system, I’ll be it until you get back on your feet. You shouldn’t have any excuses about why you can’t put up a good fight to save your own life.”
He was truly stunned and speechless. No one had ever talked to him this way, not to his face. Emotions he hadn’t felt for months bubbled to the surface shattering his nonchalant demeanor. This woman had no idea that his life had been flipped and dumped all over the ground for vultures to pick over and consume the meatier parts of the tattered remnants of what was left of his former life.
“I will, but I’ll be back this afternoon. The rain is supposed to let up enough to make commuting safer.” Once she left the room, he began hacking up a mixture of phlegm and blood. Bitterness and the taste of metallic were all that was left on the tip of his tongue.