SHE’S WEARING this really nice outfit—really fucking fantastic. Something you’d see in a completely whorey flick. It’s a blouse and skirt; delicate looking fabrics pressed upon her delicate figure in that sort of way that makes you know she wants it. But her stubby shoes totally ruin it for me. It makes her ankles look oblong and squared.
She’s bringing a tray of food to this middle-aged man beside me. There’s some teriyaki chicken and rice on the plate, and then there’s this personal sized container of orange jello. I almost want to make a comment about how fucking disgusting the orange jello looks; especially served with teriyaki chicken. The guy’s probably going to die of cancer or heart failure or some pancreatic fuck-up and the least they can do is serve some kind of Asian dessert to go with his Asian meal. Like green tea ice cream or some shit.
I’m about to ask the nurse something but a man in a white coat walks in. Probably wondering why this broad is serving orange jello with Asian food.
“Do you need any help with this patient?” he asks. The man has this gentle tone. It’s almost sickening how soft he sounds to her.
She replies, “No. But thanks doctor.”
He nods his head.
I notice as she’s placing the tray on the table she’s wearing this silver wedding band. I turn my eyes and see the man, the doctor, a more elaborate gold and diamond. You know they’re not married but there’s something in his voice. By the way he holds his stethoscope curled around his left hand. You see his lean as he turns to leave the room. He secretly loves her. And of course secretly sort of wants to splay this broad on a gurney, spread her, and show her how doctors fuck—so that he can punish her for being married, pound her for wearing her ring to work, to make it as if everything were completely fucking different.
Lisa knows what I’m talking about. Her and I are the only ones that realize these two people in uniform want what they can’t have.
“He’s cute,” Lisa says to the nurse.
“Is he?” The nurse circles her fingers around her band. It looks obscenely smooth and shiny. “I didn’t even notice,” she says. She turns and leaves the room.
Lisa’s side of the room isn’t very bright. Nothing but silhouettes from the doorway scattered across the metallic white of the room. I turn to look at Lisa from the chair I’m sitting on; she’s lying in this slanted bed staring out of the window away from me. I can’t really see her. Barely her reflection.
“They could’ve been sweet together,” she says.
“I fucking doubt that.”
I want to ask if she wants candy but I don’t know if she likes that stuff anymore. So I stay quiet for a little bit. And nothing but the rain grating the metal roof outside.
I begin to think maybe we were reading too much into the nurse and doctor thing. Maybe we were just bored like we always were before. We used to make up these really messed up stories where everything was always wet and mourning—
“Do you want some candy?” I ask her.
“Maybe,” she says.
I think she’s smiling but I can’t see her in the dark. She used to do this thing where she pursed her lips. It made her face look softer. I used to see her do it a lot when I had this problem and I needed someone to talk to.
As I leave the room I keep feeling I forgot to do something.
When I find a gift shop I see this young, dotty kid maybe mid-twenties as I look near the cash register for a bag of Skittles.
“Can I help you, sir?” A voice calls.
Yeah. You can get your ass away from this place and get a chick—bang, I mean, like fucking jackrabbits.
“Do you have any more Skittles in the back?” I ask him, politely.
He goes to the backroom.
“Hmm,” he adds. He returns, “I’m sorry. But we’re out of Skittles.”
I pick up the oversized bag of M&M’s thinking what the hell and give the kid a dollar and some extra dimes.
Walking back I see the nurse writing something a few steps ahead of me. She’s leaning over a counter and I see her massaging her instep behind her ankles.
“I didn’t know she likes candy,” she says.
“She loves it.”
She doesn’t really move after that except she’s still writing. I walk a few steps past her looking down at the candy.
“I think,” she says, “someday, you should tell her.”
I feel a sudden urge to punch the wall and smash something into it but instead I turn to look at her. She fakes a smile keeping her eyes down on what she’s writing. “I know how that is,” she says.
* * *
I walk into the room and show Lisa the oversized bag of chocolate. I tell her, “They ran out of Skittles.“
She’s still looking away from me. “That stuff isn’t good for you,” she says. “Too much fat.”
“I don’t eat chocolate anymore.”
I almost want to throw the bag and break it. “Since when?”
“I don’t know.” Her voice is low. I don’t think she can speak loudly right now.
She used to love that stuff. It was one of the only things that made her happy after our talks. She loved pouring the stuff—the chocolate I mean—over ice cream and then afterwards she’d lick the whole fucking bowl clean. Then she’d do that thing with her lips when I looked at her funny for being such a slob.
She was never really messy unless it came to chocolate. Even then it was never anything like this. This is shit.
I toss the candy into the trash and go back to sitting on the chair beside her.
“I can go back and get something else.“
She looks down a moment then shakes her head.
“I thought you said you wanted candy.”
She raises her shoulders and a strand of her hair falls to the bed. It actually lands on her hand and stays there.
“You know there’s something wrong with the T.V.,” she says. “It won’t turn on.”
“I really don’t think T.V. is going to help—“
“Stop being that way.” She says it like before with a look. I can’t see her but I’m sure she’d do it if she could.
I get off the seat to turn on the T.V. but it won’t work. After I plug in the power cord I press a knob thinking why the person before me couldn’t have done the same. As I turn around I can feel the static emitting from the screen.
“Oh,” she says her eyes still to the window. “Come sit next me.”
“I’d rather not,” I reply.
“Fuck you,” she says, softly. “Sit next to me.”
I look down a moment then move to the bed to sit next to her. I keep my eyes to the strand of hair. Then she brushes her shoulders against mine. And nothing. Then she punches me a couple times on the arm as if she were mad at me.
The T.V. is muted. I can tell there’s a tension in the scene because this boy and girl are walking out of a classroom with a look in their faces. The boy doesn’t seem to know the girl is behind him while she looks down at the ground. Then it hits me that he’s completely ignoring her. There’s a crowd of puzzled students spurting with backpacks as boy and girl continue walking through the building. Girl is walking beside boy now and looking at him but he keeps his head away.
I can almost make out from their lips what they’re saying.
“Why are things awkward between us?” the girl asks.
“It’s not that things are awkward.” He looks at her and shrugs.
I turn to look at Lisa but she’s not watching.
The girl turns her head to look somewhere else. The boy is dressed in blue and remains there in a sea of faces. I’m not entirely sure why they’re doing this in public but thankfully the boy starts making his way towards what could be the exit door. But the girl dressed in red grabs his arm as the camera follows them.
“Tell me how I fucked up,” she says quietly. “So I can make it better.”
The boy pauses a moment. ”It’s not that things are awkward between us,” he repeats. She takes a step back. “It’s that I don’t feel the same connection we had when we were really close.”
Lisa shifts her body slightly and I stop watching the T.V. All of a sudden I feel the room getting colder. I hold myself from grabbing some of her blanket. I turn my eyes to notice the nurse brought her dinner—same as the other guy just she’s not eating it. Somehow she catches me staring at her food.
“Here,” she says. “Eat this.” I almost see her face as she turns to give me something.
It’s the orange jello. The stuff is still awful looking but I’m too slow to turn it down. She puts the little container on the edge of my palm and I guess she’s being careless because I have to quickly grab it with my other hand so it doesn’t fall. And then I notice her hands. Her hands are so frail now. And when I felt her fingers. Her fingers feel broken.
“Aren’t you going to eat your food?” I ask her.
“I don’t like eating anymore,” she says.
She traces a shape on the bed: “It hurts to chew now.”
I pick up the plastic thing beside her so I can eat the jello because now I realize I’d be hurting her if I didn’t. “Do you want to talk about what happened between us?” I ask.
She looks down a moment then shakes her head.
I take another bite of the jello before I turn to look at her reflection and I can’t tell if I’m looking at water droplets or if she’s really crying.
“No Lisa.” I tell her, “That isn’t good enough.” I remove the strand of hair that had been stuck on her hand.
Then she turns to look at me and I see her face in the dark. There are these small dents on her cheeks and I understand that she can’t open and close her mouth like she used to. She can’t do that thing because parts of her lips look like they were chewed away. And she keeps looking at me and I know the room is feeling colder. Maybe I should tell her how she looks even though everything is strung to tubes and electricity. I take my fingers and press her cheeks. I run my hands to her ears and cover them so maybe she can forget everything. She closes her eyes for a moment and then looks at me.
I try to imagine how a person can deserve this or if I would wish this on anyone, even her, and I almost want to tell her how she should’ve been more careful and how really reckless she was for doing things her way—or whatever it was that happened and I think to myself how it was never her that was reckless and I know for a fact that this didn’t have to happen, not like this, and I know if she only I don’t know—
She grabs my arms before I can go off on her, a touch that keeps me from speaking, keeps those things—words—etched on the back of my throat.
And I just sit there in this dark room beside my Lisa.
I notice the T.V. again and the two characters from before are outside a fast food restaurant. The girl is eating a hamburger with no meat, which defeats the purpose of eating a hamburger. The boy at least looks relieved from before but his hands are still shaking; his eyes circle his periphery, then back to his plate: he has a real hamburger in front of him, untouched, unbitten.
The scene dissolves then reassembles itself unto a corner: the camera starts its trajectory from above a stoplight to ground level; its movement is without hesitation. We see the stars hang low above the street wires; their electric humming, the cold and two people with so much to say but not knowing how, when or if ever there’d be a more perfect place. Boy and girl are facing opposite directions waiting for their lights to permit crossing. As a light changes she turns to look at him, and asks: “So are we ok?”
The nurse happens again into the room; she dims the lights, then leaves. Here in the tenuous light I can still feel the bold static emitting from the blank screen.
Lisa’s fingers make their way to mine and stay there awhile before, one by one, fall back onto the bed.