Once more I found myself lying in bed staring off at a blank white ceiling. How did I get here? How did things get this bad? How did I let them? I was king of the world. I had everything I’ve ever dreamed of. The fans, the money, the spotlight, I had it all. Stadiums of people used to sing my name, but now here I am in a small white box. That one missing piece in my heart collapsed everything I knew. I had gone on for so long without him, but the second I pulled the plug on Messiah, well I wound up pulling the plug on myself. Should I really be that surprised?Their devotion, their adoration, it was the only thing that kept me going for the longest time, and that, well maybe that’s where I went wrong.
I carefully watched the nurse as he carted everything out of the room. Extra chairs, trays, tables, anything that can be moved was moved. “Take a picture, it’ll last you longer.” The nurse teased, noticing my gaze. I rolled my eyes and turned my back to him, not caring for conversation. “I was kidding.” He let out, but kept his distance from me. “If you’re wondering why I’m taking everything out, it’s what we do around here with a case like yours.”
I kept my silence and closed my eyes, hoping to at least get a little bit of sleep. It’s amazing, I’ve been chained to a bed for four days, and yet I’ve barely been able to sleep. I guess my mind is just too, busy. “What’s the matter? Only talk to Dr. Haner?” You’d think people would understand when you ignore them but some take the opportunity and make it about themselves. “You’re a lucky one. Somehow you always manage to capture his attention.” I couldn’t tell if his words were forced or jealous, but either way I could tell something wasn’t quite right. “But you need to be careful taking up his time. It’s valuable you know?” His question came out more like a warning as his shadow spread over me. “He’s a surgeon. He doesn’t have time for transferring or visiting patients. So don’t let him waste his day playing around,”
“Mike.” I finally called out, not even bothering to turn over.
The nurse’s words froze as I heard heavy footsteps enter the room. “What’s up Ryder?”
“Can you get him out of here?” I groaned more to the wall than to a person.
“Yeah,” Mike quickly responded with a few more heavy footsteps. “I’m sorry man, finish up whatever you have to do then I need you to leave.”
“Really?” The nurse sarcastically asked. “In my own hospital?”
“Just helping Ryder adjust.” Mike replied, trying his hardest to keep the peace.
“Whatever.” The nurse grunted as I heard his footsteps reach the door. “We’ve got a million other patients who deserve the attention.”
Mike let out a childish laugh as the door closed. “You still don’t play well with others I take it?” But just like Nate all he got was silence. I heard the door reopen as Mike went to leave the room. “For the record, that nurse has no shot compared to you.”
I went to speak but the door closed before I could manage anything. No shot? No shot at what? Teddy? I guess it’s nice having someone on my side, but I don’t think it’s a competition. I don’t think Teddy even registers that nurse when he walks by. Then again I can’t help but wonder if Teddy even registers me. Mike’s words seemed to trap me in a vicious circle of thought as I laid and stared off for what had to be hours.
“I like your new room.” I heard a voice call out as the door opened and the sound of chair wheels filled the air. “Why’d you kick out one of my nurses?” A question hit, not bothering to let silence fill the air. I forced myself over and looked at the young man next to me. He kept the same hair style from high school but let it flow a little longer. His wide eyes were as big as ever as the features on his face stayed delicate. He was perfect in every sense of the word. He always has been. “Well?” Teddy pressured waiting for the response.
“You’re done already?” I asked, trying to lock eyes with him.
“It’s been two and a half hours.” He shook his head and grabbed a clipboard from the basket attached to my bed. “Time flies fast when you’re having fun.” He teased, but he was right. Time feels like an illusion around here, but I can promise you I’m not having fun. I’m staring at a white wall and getting lost in my own head, getting lost in hell. “So why’d you give Nate the boot?”
“Talked too much.” I grumbled, as his eyes connected then fell away.
“You can’t kick out a nurse just because they talk too much.” Teddy sighed, as another nurse entered the room. “Ryder, I’m being serious. I can’t have Mike throwing everyone,”
“Don’t waste your time.” I interrupted turning back over. “You are a surgeon after all.”
“What’s that mean?” Teddy asked, thrown off by my words.
“Trust me Dr. Haner has plenty of time to visit.” The other nurse comforted as she overheard our conversation. “Psych ward is his favorite place after all.”
“Thank you Cait.” Teddy exhaled unsure how to take it. “Ryder, talk or I’ll have Cait give you an I.V.”
“Just don’t want you to waste your day.” I shrugged, hearing the other nurses’ voice echo in my head.
“Dr. Haner does that all on his own.” Cait teased once more as she wheeled over a stand and grabbed my arm.
“That’s all I had to say.” I grumbled, trying to pull my arm away. “I swear.”
“Jokes on you bud, I was giving you an I.V. whether Dr. Haner wanted it or not.” The nurse shrugged, finally pulling my arm straight and stabbing a small valve into it. “We’re letting you lay around without restraints, don’t make us regret it.”
“What the hell do you guys think,”
“She thinks you’re going to pull the I.V. out.” Teddy explained knowing the question before he could fully hear it. “Who the hell filled this out? It’s all sorts of messed up.”
Cait let out a short hum before looking over Teddy’s shoulder and observing the paperwork for herself. “Looks like Nate’s hand writing.”
“Well I need to have a talk with him.” Teddy shook his head. “This is borderline unacceptable.”I couldn’t help but let out a laugh at his words. “What are you laughing at? Shouldn’t you be freaking out over the needle?”
“Surprise, surprise, another patient doesn’t like Nate.”Cait let out, speaking more freely than before.
“He’s a good nurse.” Teddy argued, looking at her then me. “He messes up from time to time, but he’s a hard worker.”
“Yeah something about him is definitely hard when he’s near you.” I spit, not even fully thinking about my words.
“Ha!” Cait accidently exhaled as the joke hit her. “Oh Mr. Sullivan, this may be fun after all.”
“Would you both cut it out!” Teddy reprimanded. “Is that why you kicked him out Ryder?”
“And that’s my cue to leave.” Cait announced, rushing towards the door and quickly shutting it behind her.
“Answer me.” Teddy demanded, forcing me to look at him.
“That’s not why I kicked him out.” I groaned, turning my back to him. “He just talked too much.”
“About?” Teddy asked, slightly leaning over me.
“Nothing.” I grumbled as his shadow engulfed me. “I would hate to waste your day explaining it.”
“Would you stop with that!” Teddy yelped, actually starting to grow frustrated. “Is this a test? Do you need to hear that I want to visit you?”
“No.” I concluded, refusing to budge anymore.
Teddy let out a deep breath as he thought it all over. “That’s what he said to you, isn’t it? He told you my time is valuable.” I stayed quiet at his question. “So you kicked him out?” He asked it as a question, but I could tell it was more of a statement at this point. “My time is valuable.” Teddy nodded. “I’m buried in paper work, and could randomly be called into surgery at any moment, but I became a doctor to help people. If I can’t sit next to a patient and talk for a little while then I wouldn’t be here.” Patient? So that really is all he thinks of me. “And sometimes patients are old friends.” He shrugged shocking us both and instantly silencing my mind. “But now that you’re out of my E.R. I’m not your doctor anymore. So that means you’ll have a few new ones, but I promise they’re good, and I promise I’ll check in with them. Understand?”
I slowly nodded my head trying my hardest to comprehend how he meant those words. Is he just being a friend, or is he trying to be something more? And why the hell is he being so nice to me all of the sudden? “Your E.R.?” I asked realizing that I was staring.
“Yup.” He nodded, not looking up too much from the clipboard. “Ask any doctor or nurse around here. The E.R. is my area.”
“Well then doctor.” I exhaled, trying my hardest to see his face. “How much longer until I can go home?”
Teddy shrugged his shoulders but finally looked up. “You’ll have to ask your psychiatrist that, also depends where home is.” My eyes fell away as I thought about it. All the properties I own, and yet none of them are actually home. “You buy the cemetery?”
“The second I had enough money to.” I nodded, thinking it over. “Last time I fell asleep there was with you though.”
I saw him lean forward slightly as he let my words hit the air. “Oh.” He let out, he went to press the issue but stopped himself.
“I was there a few days ago to visit my grandma.” I confessed, opening myself up to him. “I didn’t make it to the grave though.”
Teddy quickly wrote something down as he heard my words, no doubt eager to piece my story together. “No?”
“No.” I confirmed, this time letting things stay shut. A minute or two of silence passed as Teddy lost himself in thought and slowly began to bite down on his lip. “You still bite on your lip.” I couldn’t help but point out. I could feel my heart grow excited at the familiar site, but then immediately come crashing down as I remembered what had happened between us. What I had done.
He slowly nodded his head. “You still bite yours?” He asked as our eyes met.
“Yeah.” I confessed as the first genuine smile crossed my face since the last Messiah concert. “But only because I saw you do it back then.”
An uncomfortable silence filled the air as we both thought everything over. “When you’re stronger, well, one day in the future, can we talk about everything that happened?” I tilted my head and waited for more. “Even if we stay apart, I just need to know.”
“Yeah.” I forced out as the smile fell from my face. “What you read was the truth though.” I swore, hoping he had actually read my letter.
“I know,” He began but hesitated for a second or two. “I just want to hear it from you. To really know if you’re telling the truth.”
I nodded my head but could tell those words hurt him just as much as they hurt me. “It’s okay that you don’t trust me.” I exhaled, as his eyes drifted. “I don’t blame you.”
“I blame me.” He confessed, but before I could press him on it he stood up and took his stethoscope off. “Shirt off. I want to hear your heart.” I did as followed but couldn’t help but swallow hard. At first I thought this was another dig from him. That he was trying to call me heartless, but now I know he’s concerned. I wonder if he could hear how fast it was beating as he lowered his head over my chest. To have him this close again, it’s something I never thought would happen. He let out a deep breath and fell back down into his seat. “I mean its better,” he began, seeing the look on my face. “but I’m still not a fan.”
“At least my skin isn’t still yellow.” I shrugged, trying my hardest to keep both our minds off it.
“God bless that liver.” He shook his head. “Probably had a hard enough time dealing with all that ink you covered yourself in,” He teased, looking over at my tattooed arms. “but on top of that you went and,” Suddenly his words froze as he stayed focused on my arms. I went to move from him as he stood up but he grabbed my arm before I could. “What’s that?” He asked, seeing the small tattered pride flag surrounded by rubble hidden on my arm. He froze further as he saw the small T.H. designed on it.
I went to back off and give him space, but the second I saw the spark in his eyes I knew I had to capitalize. “I got that when I turned twenty-six. I had the sleeve all done already, but it was missing something.” I explained, throwing my shirt back on. “I was missing something.”
“You could’ve called.” He let out, once more surprising us both.
I went to tell him I tried. That over the last fourteen years I’ve tracked him down about a thousand times, but I knew that would be too much for him. Hell, seeing this tattoo might have been too much for him. “I’m sorry.” I exhaled in an attempt to shoulder him from the pain.
“We’ll see.” He let out, grabbing his chair and wandering towards the door. “Take the elastic in the belt area of his pants out.” I heard him instruct as the nurse from a little while ago walked back into the room.
“You’re not my boss but I guess I’ll do it anyway.” She teased, as the door shut behind her. “Off of work for forty minutes, and he still hasn’t gone home.” She shook her head. “The second my shift ends I run out that door.”
“He finished work?” I asked, looking over at her.
“Yup.” She slowly nodded, grabbing the clipboard he had just worked on. “He was done after he finished surgery.” She let out a laugh as she saw the confusion on my face. “Don’t worry, no one around here understands him.”
“No one ever could.” I shrugged. He’s older, smarter and taller, but it sounds like he’s the same Teddy Haner I knew growing up.
“Well he must be slipping up.” She let out, looking up from the chart. “I think the only thing he didn’t write down was your favorite color.”
“I’m sorry?” I asked, not fully understanding.
“Let’s just say he left a lot of notes for us about you.” She explained, looking up at me. “Doesn’t play well with others. If he’s not talking give it time. If he still doesn’t talk leave him be. If he goes a day without talking come get me. And it goes on like that for a little while longer.” She looked over it again and smiled. “So I take it its an honor to be having this conversation.”
“I’m not that moody or picky.” I lied. “I just, like my space.”
“Yup, well we don’t give a lot of that around here. I respect you, you respect me, deal?” I nodded my head and watched her read the chart further. “Good because I’m not about to track down the most popular doctor in the hospital every time you get pouty.”
“He’s the most popular?” I couldn’t help but ask.
Once more she nodded her head. “Ever since he started. We went to school together so I’ve been with him this whole ride.” I felt the look on my face change as I heard her words. “That’s right, so I know all about you Ryder Sullivan.”
“He told you?” Once more it seemed like my words were flowing out of my mouth without thought.
“Not at first.” She denied, looking up at me. “But he opens up after a while.” I grew quiet as she went back down to observing the chart for a few minutes. “Oh, he has heart circled a few times, that’s ironic.” I shook my head and turned my back to her, not eager to get yelled at from someone else. “Oh, come on! We had a good back and forth going, don’t get all upset.” I stayed quiet but felt her hand trying to force me over. “Come on, I need to give it a listen.” I groaned but gave in. Before I knew it she was stuffing a stethoscope into my shirt. “hmm.” She let out, trying her hardest to hear it. “Alright.” She exhaled, pulling away. She sat back and smiled at me, waiting for me to ask.
I turned back over, tired of playing games but the second I heard her chair move I caved. “Is it bad?”
“No.” She quickly responded. “About what it should be for what you’ve been through. It needs to improve, but he’s just being normal Theodore.”
“He’s always this paranoid?” I asked, looking back over at her.
“Only with people he likes.” She shrugged, writing something down. “One time his brother broke his arm and just phew!” She shouted in a laugh. “He had the whole damn E.R. doing backflips for that little brat.” I looked at her and shook my head, not sure what she was saying. “Relax man, it means he cares about you.” As I heard her words I turned away once more. “If you need me just buzz, my shift doesn’t end until midnight so I’ll be around to check on you.”
I let silence fill the air as she slowly shut the door behind her. I’m not sure how to feel about her. I guess she seems nice, but who knows in this place. I looked around at my four white walls and couldn’t help but sigh. All I’m missing is the padding and a stray jacket. Eventually Cait brought me a remote to the small TV encased in plastic up in the corner of my room, but even then it could only do so much.
My body ached and cried out from pain as it begged for a high, but just like all the other nights I’ve been here I couldn’t get my fix. I felt sweat coat my face as my heart began to race in my chest. Before I knew it I was burning hot and sweating, then ice cold and shaking. Every night here seems to get worse and worse. If it’s not getting lost in my own head its getting swarmed by my addiction. Before I knew it my monitor was beeping like crazy as I struggled to breath.
Mike ran in and said something before rushing over to me and hitting the red button on the side of my bed. “Hey,” he anxiously let out as Cait rushed in. “He’s like, freaking out.”
“its’ alright.” She patted him on the back as she hurried to my bedside. “Just withdrawal right Ryder?”
I forced my head to nod as I looked up at her. “I-I-it’s killing me.”
“I know.” She sighed, handing me a small cup with a pill in it and another small cup of water. “This should be enough to fight it off, but you only get one a night for another few days before we fully cut you off. Your body will be stronger by then.”
I didn’t even need to ask her what pill it was, my body just downed it instantly. It didn’t matter to me that one won’t get me high, or that I’m throwing more damage onto my already broken body. All that mattered was meeting my fix and silencing my mind. But as the minutes passed and Cait disappeared the only thing that improved was my breathing.
“You alright?” Mike asked, still lingering in the room.
“Yeah.” I forced out as goose bumps still lined my arms. “This happens every night. They just gave me medicine too late tonight.”
“I know.” Mike exhaled with a nod of his head. “I’ve just never seen it that bad. I thought for sure your heart was going to pop.” I shrugged my shoulders but didn’t speak. “My shifts actually about to end, so I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Once more I stayed quiet but as I saw him reach the door I couldn’t help but let curiosity get the best of me. “Why you?” I asked, taking a long look at him. “Why are you always the one guarding my door?”
“Someone has to do it.” He shrugged his shoulders. “So I volunteered.”
“Teddy ask you to?” I poked, seeing what kind of information I could get.
He shook his head and locked eyes with me. “This is the first time I’ve spoken with Teddy since High School.” I broke eye contact but knew he could still feel my curiosity. “I have reasons why I’m doing this, but for now all you need to know is I’m the one who found you in the cemetery.”
“How?” I let out, turning back towards him.
“It’s an unmonitored cemetery on a quiet street, we always have cops checking it. Plus it’s in my section so I’m usually the one stuck doing it.” He explained, leaning against the door. “I hadn’t seen movement in that house in the ten years I’ve been a cop, so that night when I saw lights on I knew something was wrong.” He let out another deep sigh and tried to look into my eyes. “Sure enough there you were entering cardiac arrest or whatever was happening.” I turned my back to him, trying my hardest to block out that night.
“I could’ve went my whole life without seeing you again and been perfectly fine.” He let out, slowly opening the door. “But I’m glad I found you. I’m glad I was able to get you help.”
I went to thank him, but when I opened my mouth nothing came out. I want so badly just to be able to hate him. But once more the only hate I could feel was against myself. Everyone’s grown but me, I’m the only one left doing childish shit. After all these years we were wrong. Mike made something of himself, and I, well I need him to babysit me so I don’t kill myself. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so fucking pathetic. But I did this to myself, and I, I can’t run from that truth anymore.