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The Love of a Dying Man: Chapter One, Unexpected Phone Call
Unexpected Phone Call
My cell phone on my bed side table buzzed violently. I rolled over, and slowly raised myself up on my elbow, rubbed my eyes and fumbled for my phone in the dark. “Crap!” I mumbled to myself as I knocked over the glass of water and heard my glasses land on the tile floor. At last I had found my phone; I looked at the caller ID and realized it was the St. Augustine Hospital. I leapt out of bed and ran for the living room, tripping over the space heater, and reached for the lamp. The phone still buzzing.
“Hello?” I mumbled rubbing my free hand up and down my face.
“Yes is this Jessica Oyen?” the operator on the other end was calm and composed. “I’m sorry to be calling you this early in the morning, but you are the only person he has as an emergency contact. I think you should get down here as soon as possible.” She said again.
“Wait….wait…who is he?” I asked shaking my head watching the rain gently fall from the bleak sky.
“Mr. Derek Anderson.” she said so obviously.
At the sound of his name my heart stopped and a lump formed in my throat, keeping me from sputtering out the words. My mind was going a million miles an hour and I began to tremble with fear. I shook my head again, hoping this was all just a bad dream, but the girl’s voice brought me back to the ugly reality.
“What about Mr. Anderson?” I asked closing my eyes, trying to push the worse out of my mind. I had to sit down, because if I didn’t I would have fallen to my knees in weakness.
“Mr. Anderson, was found passed out in his apartment by his neighbor an hour ago. I’m sorry we tried to find somebody to call when he first came in, but he has no family members, except his son, and there was no phone number listed for him. When Mr. Anderson woke up, he kept asking for you. He’s in critical condition right now, but we are doing our best to keep him comfortable for as long as possible, until it’s his time.” She paused and let each word cut deeper into me one at a time. I shook my head and stood up.
“What do you mean when you say until it’s his time?” The headlights of nearby cars on the street danced their ways on and off the walls in the darkness. Luke’s rhythmic snoring could still be heard from the bedroom. I raised my eyebrows in frustration “I wish that could be me.” I thought to myself. The girl on the other line hesitated, and spoken again.
“I’m so sorry, I thought you knew.” She said regret in her voice. “I would have thought he would have at least told someone. Mr. Anderson has stage four cancer, and it’s getting worse, the chances that he will survive are slim. We are trying to make him as comfortable as possible. But medicine can only do so much. I’m so sorry.” She said again.
I closed my eyes and realized the worst imaginable thing that could have happened, happened. I was still standing, somehow. I tried to clear my throat of the lump that had become hard too swallow. I pulled the phone away from my ear, and tried to breath. I looked down the hall way to where Luke lay in bed sleeping oblivious to what was going on at the moment. “I wish that could be me.” I thought to myself as tears cascaded down my face. I put the cell phone back to my mouth and tried to swallow hard before I spoke.
“How long?” I asked my heart already busted into countless pieces.
“What?” the operator asked.
I gritted my teeth and my free hand clutched the side of my pajama pants. “How much time does he have?”
At first she was cautious “Well…we don’t like to decide that, it just depends.” She said.
I became livid I knew she was lying to me, trying to cushion the blow. There was no need because everything inside of me had already been crushed. “You know exactly how much time he has. Just do me a favor, if anything tonight, tell me the truth.” I said moving closer to the chair feeling like I was going to throw up, or die whatever came first.
She sighed, “No more than a month.”
I tried to suppress the cry that came from inside of me, but was unsuccessful. And once it started it was hard to control, it wouldn’t stop. I dab at the tears and took a rattled breath, picking my head up, watching as the sun began to rise. “He…he has a ….month.” I whispered.
The young lady answered me by repeating what I had already heard. “Yes at the most a month. I’m so sorry, but if you want to come down and see him for awhile, you certainly can. We can also provide a room for you and your husband.” She said.
“Ummm….yeah we will do that, but can you have two extra cots put in Mr. Anderson’s room? Once we get there me and my husband will want to be with Mr. Anderson as much as possible.” I said moving to the kitchen and starting the coffee.
“Yes I think that’s the least we can do. Just let me check on a few things first.” And then there was a click on the other end, and that annoying music started to play. I moved to the laundry room and started putting clothes together for Luke and myself. I crammed two weeks of clothes into each of our travel bags and poured myself a cup of coffee.
“Jessica?” I heard the familiar voice at the other end.
“Yes?” I said taking a sip of the tongue burning coffee.
“It looks like that everything is going to work out just fine. We are ready whenever you decide to come. There will be fresh sheets and a couple of pillows and plenty of blankets for you. Mr. Anderson’s room number is 475 in the west wing. If you have any problems, you tell them to page me. Okay?” she said her voice velvety smooth.
I was grateful for what she had done. “Thank-you, so much. Wait what’s your name?” I asked digging through the junk drawer looking for a pen and paper.
I quickly scribbled it down and thanked her again before I hung up. I sat at the kitchen table for an hour, staring out the window, thinking about everything that I had just heard over the phone. Thinking about my beloved High school Civics teacher, lying in that sanitized hospital bed all alone, dying. Having no one there holding his hand, no one there to say that everything would be okay, when really it wouldn’t. I let Luke sleep for another hour before crawling in bed with him to tell him the news. He woke up when I put my hand on his shoulder, rolled over and panic struck his face when he looked at me. He sat up in bed and I moved closer into him. Trying to keep my cries to myself.
“What… what is it, what’s wrong?” he asked as he embraced me. I took a breath and looked around the room, trying to find the right words to tell him. And then finally I looked up at him.
“It’s Mr. Anderson, he’s.” I couldn’t spit it out that damn lump in my throat coming back.
“He’s what?” Luke asked resting his chin on the top of my head.
“He’s at the hospital. Luke…..Mr. Anderson has stage four cancer. ” I felt every part of Luke’s body tense beside me. “ How much time does he have?” Luke whispered.
“No more than a month.” I said. “Luke what are we going to do!” I cried into his shoulder. He pulled me close and tried to comfort me.
“We are going down to the hospital. Jess, we are the only family that he has. We have to go down there. I won’t let him die alone, I, we, owe him more than that.” He said
“I know, and that’s why I had the nurse arrange things for us at the hospital. We can stay with him in his room. She said she would have beds and everything else set up for us. We can go anytime we want I already have our stuff packed.”
He looked down at me. “Let’s go then.” He said as he got out of bed and pulled on a pair of jeans. He threw a shirt on and slipped on his sandals. I finished getting ready, not bothering to put makeup on, while Luke started the car and loaded our suitcases.
He looked at me the smile on his face soon turned to a worried frown. “You ready?”
I tossed my handbag into the backseat and quietly closed the car door. “How can I be ready for something like this? Luke I just know he’s going to die, it’s inevitable. I don’t know half of me wants to be with him, but half of me wants to keep my distance and just stay away. Luke, I’m just not strong like you, I’m not ready for this. I can’t watch Mr. Anderson just…just waste away into nothing, I just can’t.” I started to curse at the tears that fell from my eyes, hadn’t I cried enough this morning?!. Luke realized that this was much harder for me than it was him and he made his way around the front of the car to me.
“Look this is going to be hard for all of us. And you know that you don’t have to go through this alone, I’ll be right beside you. I promise. He’s just as important to me as he is you. And if you think for one second that I’m going to let him die without saying goodbye you’re wrong. It’s going to be tough at first, but we will make it through this, all of us. I promise.” He said as he began to choke on his words.