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The Love of a Dying Man ( Chapter Three: Lies)
The next few days were measured by the number of chemotherapy sessions Mr. Anderson had instead of hours, or days. We soon fell into routine at the hospital. Our mornings started with an hour of chemotherapy, our afternoons were spent by Mr. Anderson’s bedside while he fell in and out of consciences, after that our evenings were followed up with CAT scans and another round of radiation. Our nights ended around ten, some nights were worse than others. Some nights he was so tired, so sick, so weak, it was hard to look at the man that had influenced our lives so much.
It was hard to come to the realization that his time was coming to an end. It was hard to make myself come to the realization that one day Mr. Anderson……was…….was going to die. But as hard as it was for me, I knew with all my heart that it was twenty times harder for Luke. I knew this because over the days Luke became withdrawn. Never sleeping black circle bags under his eyes. Never eating, not even as much as a club cracker. Never talking, not even letting a word slip pass through his lips. Never leaving Mr. Anderson’s beside, not even for a walk bit of fresh air. All of the sudden it wasn’t anything that was going wrong it was everything with him. It wasn’t the small things that made him break down even more, but rather the big things that pushed him over. There was a side of him that was coming out that I had never seen before. A side that was ugly, a young man that was angry, upset, hurt and afraid all at the same time and didn’t know where to turn to.
I had to take a break from sitting at Mr. Anderson’s bedside and decided to go to the cafeteria. “Luke, I’m going to get something to eat and some fresh air. Do you want to come?” I asked leaning up against the door waiting for an answer. Luke picked his head up off the bed and stared at me, dark circles under his bloodshot eyes.
“No Jessica, I can’t leave him. I just can’t. I mean what happens if he wakes up and I’m not here?! Tell me what I suppose to do then. I promised him that I wouldn’t leave his side. I promised. And right now Jessica all I want to do is spend as much time with him as possible. I don’t want to leave him because I’m afraid that I might miss something. And let’s face it Jess, you and me both know he doesn’t have much time left. Once he’s gone, he’s not coming back. So you go ahead get away from this for awhile, relax get some fresh air. But I’m going to stay here with him. Its fine go ahead Jessica. I’ll call you if anything happens, good or bad.” Luke seemed to ease up a little bit. He managed a small smile. “Can you bring me back a sandwich and a Coke back?” he laughed a little.
“I’ll see what I can do baby.” I said as slowly closed the door behind me. I opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator; I needed the exercise after sitting in that chair for so long. After three flights of stairs I found the main floor and walked around before making my way towards the hospital cafeteria. The smell reminded me of the cafeteria back at school. And the hot lunches looked like they smelt. I found a nearby vendee machine and stayed safe with a bag of Chex Mix and a bottle of Sobe water for me and a sub sandwich and a big bottle of Coke for Luke.
I found an empty table by the window that over looked the Missouri River. Large fluffy snowflakes were still falling from the sky, another bleak day outside, same old same old. But insides these walls of the hospital everything was always changing for better or worse. I began remembering the good old days, when life wasn’t moving so fast, when it was at a simpler place, a simpler time. It felt like somebody had hit fast forward and here I was sitting alone in a hospital cafeteria, while my favorite teacher was upstairs dying of cancer, while my boyfriend self destructed right in front of me. While everything was going all wrong. And I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand why this was happening to Mr. Anderson. Why in our time of need Luke and I put up a wall between us and the world, and we grew closer together. And then I was ripped from my day dreaming as a recognizable voice came from behind me.
“Your Jessica right?” he asked
I spun around in the chair to see who it was. It was Dr. Harris. “Yes I am.”
“I thought that was you when I walked in. Can I sit down with you? I have to start my rounds in a half hour and I thought I would get something to eat.” He said a tray in his hand and street clothes on.
“Oh yeah, company would be nice Dr. Harris.” I said motioning with my hand for him to sit.
“Thanks, and please call me Joe, and I have a feeling we will get to know each other fairly well in the next couple of weeks.” He said stirring his salad around the bowl with his fork.
“So Dr. Harris….I mean Joe, how’s Mr. Anderson? Is he going to be okay?” I asked so much for a break from all of this chaos.
He took a drink of his lemonade before answering. “I didn’t want to say anything until the end of my rounds to you or Luke today but I’m afraid I have nothing but bad news. Since Monday Mr. Anderson has gotten worse. That’s why we have been putting him through all these test and, the chemotherapy sessions, and that’s why we started him on the radiation as well. I’m sorry, but we think he’s going to keep getting worse from here on out. I’m telling you this because I think you should spend as much time with him as possible.” He said looking out the window.
It was just like the doctor had said to us on Monday. Mr. Anderson was slowly dying. Dr. Harris gave him no more than three weeks to live. “Is he in any serious pain?” I asked.
“A little bit but that is to be expected with all the test and treatments.” Dr. Harris said.
I was angry the doctor had broken his promise. “But you promised us on Monday that you would do anything in your power to keep him comfortable.” I said
“I know I did, and believe me I’m doing the best I can.” Harris said.
“No you’re not! If you are doing your best than why is it that my favorite teacher is upstairs in pain and dying?! Why is it than that my boyfriend is self destructing right in front of my eyes! Why is it than that I’m sitting down here explaining myself to you, if you are doing your job?!” I said trying to hold back everything else I wanted to say.
“I know how you feel Jessica, believe me I know this feeling all too well.” Harris said.
I cut him off. “NO! You don’t know how this feels!” I said.
“You didn’t let me finish. I know how you feel because when I was seventeen years old my father was killed right in front of me. After I made my way through high school, I went on to Harvard and got my diploma in medicine. I didn’t become a doctor because I wanted to play God, I became a doctor because I wanted to help people.” Dr. Harris said.
I was speechless and felt like a prick for exploding on him just moments ago. “I’m sorry, I had no idea.” I said reaching across the table for his hand.
He jerked his hand back and stood up from the table. He was angry now, his face red, I could see by his contorted face that he was trying to find the right words, and he found them. He threw on his white jacket and clipped his pager to the side of his jeans. “Don’t you tell me that you are sorry for me. Just tell me how you can avoid the mistakes I made. Tell me that you will spend as much time with Mr. Anderson as possible. Spend as much time with him as possible, make some memories if anything. Because once he’s gone Jessica, he’s not coming back.” He paused for awhile. “I’ll stop by at the end of my rounds, to see how he’s doing.”
I didn’t say anything by gave quick nod and resumed to looking out the window. But before I could slip back into my day dreaming, my cell phone went off.
“Did you forget about me?” Luke asked in a teasing manner.
I laughed “No I didn’t forget about you, I have a sub sandwich and a big bottle of Coke sitting here for you. I was just talking to Dr. Harris.”
“Oh well how did that go?” he seemed surprised.
“Um… well he said that Mr. Anderson….” I didn’t want to lie to Luke but I thought that this would be a bad time to be telling the truth. Luke had so much on his plate already and if I could ease his stress just a little the lie would be worth it. I realized though that sooner or later I would have to tell him the truth. I rolled my eyes in disgust at myself.
“He said that Mr. Anderson is getting better.” I said
“Oh okay, well hurry up I’m starving up here!” he laughed a little. Maybe the time apart was just what we needed.
“Yeah I’ll be up in a second.” I closed the phone and headed back to the room.
With every flight of stairs I went up was like a fresh slap in the face. I knew what I had done was wrong, lying to Luke but I couldn’t watch him self destruct I would tell him the truth when the time was right. When I got back up to the room Mr. Anderson was awake. They both looked at me, I managed a small smile.
“Hey Jessica.” Mr. Anderson said.
“Hey glad to see you are finally awake.” I said taking my regular seat by his bed.
“Luke, here’s your sandwich and pop.” I said throwing it over to him.
“So coach how do you feel?” Luke asked taking the cap off of the Coke.
“I’m feeling better.” Mr. Anderson said. But I knew he was lying to I could see it in his eyes. He was feeling worse. The door opened, Luke stood up shock on his face. I turned around in my chair; Mr. Anderson avoided eye contact and like before started wringing his hands.
“What the hell is this?!” A young man, a little older than Luke stood by the door. He was tall and lean, nothing but muscle. He was cocky, a smirk on his face. I could tell he was the type of guy that owned an expensive car; he lived in an expensive house which was more like a museum rather than a place to call home. He was the type of guy who would never be able to hold down a marriage and above all he seemed like the guy that hated kids. He wore a nice black suit, one’s you usual see lawyers wearing. In one hand he was holding a brown square briefcase. And in the other a rolled up newspaper.
“Who are you?” Luke asked pulling his eyebrows together.
“I’m his son, Trevor Anderson. And who the hell are you?!”