Maybe It Was Good
Maybe it was good – One –
A story by [Alexi Ice] - C @ 2011
“She will die soon.”
I was signing papers when I heard this. I glanced over at the two women, one of them was short with dark curly hair and the other was a rather stern faced nurse who obviously didn’t care whose feelings she hurt. “If we don’t find a donor soon…she won’t make it. And she is low on the list. I suggest you make preparations for, you know, the funeral.” The nurse continued, stubborn. The dark haired woman was sobbing into her hands.
I passed my clip-board of paperwork back to the receptionist. Was a hospital lobby really the right place to be passing on such morbid news? I didn’t think so. “Thank you, hun. See you next week.” The receptionist said. Her name was Jody and she knew me well. My mother needed blood transplants nearly once a week and I always took her to her appointments. I nodded in her direction but I was focused on the other conversation.
“Why can’t you just take mine!” The woman begged, desperate to save whoever it was she was trying to save.
“I told you. You’re not a match, she would reject the organ which would only cause further problems. I’m sorry but there isn’t much else I can do for you.” She placed a hand gently on the dark haired woman’s arm “It might be time to move on.” The nurse then bustled off. I watched the woman for another moment before following her across the white-tiled floor.
“Hey!” I called to her, as she headed to the patient rooms near the back of the hospital. She turned to see if I was speaking to her.
“Can I help you young man?” She asked, irritated that I was bothering her.
“That woman back there, the dark haired lady, what were you talking about?” I asked. According to HEPA nurses had a confidentiality agreement but I figured it was worth a shot.
“I’m sorry but I’m not allowed to discuss that.”
“Well…if you’re looking for something, blood maybe, I might be willing to donate it.” I said. I had spent my whole life giving blood to my mother so when she finally found a donor willing to continue what I had started it left me feeling a little empty. Sure, losing blood made me sick…but knowing that I was helping my mom was a euphoric feeling I could hardly describe.
“A kidney. She’s looking for a kidney. I have to go.” The nurse bustled off, leaving me with a prickling feeling. I looked back at the dark haired woman slowly making her way down the hallway. Who was lying in the bed waiting for her? Her sister or mother? Perhaps even her daughter.
“Ma’m” I approached her tenderly. I understood her struggle. “Hi.” I greeted, quickly thinking of a lie to cover my tracks. “My name is Josh and I am doing a school project on…the way hospitals treat their patients. Do you think I could have a few words?” I asked, giving her my most charming smile. The woman looked me up and down, her face tearstained and pale.
“How old are you?” She asked. Crap.
“Twenty-one. It’s a college paper.” I lied again. It wasn’t too hard to do.
“Alright..she needs some company anyway.” She agreed, which made me wonder how much stress she was really under. She led me to the room where a young girl lay in the bed. Room 204. I’d been in this room before with my mother. It had a painting on the wall that she particularly liked, a tree house with animals peeking out the windows. The room looked very lived in. Hospital bags were strewn across the floor along with blankets, fast food, books and magazines and countless vases of flowers either real or otherwise. The girl in the bed couldn’t have been more than seventeen. I figured her kidney failure was a birth defect. She was lying under a handmade black and red blanket that covered everything but her eyes. She had a light caramel complexion and dark black hair accompanied by striking blue eyes.
“What did she say, mother?” she asked immediately. Her mom looked at me as if to warn me not to breath a word.
“She says your looking better. It shouldn’t be long before they find you a donor” It was just like a mother to cover up such drastic news. It was almost cruel. Then she turned to me, desperate for a subject change “This is Josh. He’s doing a college paper about Hospitals and wishes to have a word…I need to go call your father. Remember, if you need anything, hit the emergency button.”
I had a feeling that was code word for ‘if the punk tries anything, get the nurses to kick his ass out.’ “Hi.” I greeted, disregarding her mother’s obvious concern. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m doing a paper on how hospitals treat their patients. May I ask you a couple of questions?” I pulled one of the crappy plastic chairs next to her bedside.
“Hello” She greeted, pushing the blanket back. At one time she was very beautiful but her eyes were dark and her cheeks were sunken. I felt sorry for her. “My name is Maria.”
“Nice to meet you. May I ask what you’re in for?” I tried to be as polite and professional as possible.
“Kidney failure.” She said, blunt. She didn’t even bother to sugar coat it. It sounded as if she would accept her fate faster than her mother.
“Ah.” I wasn’t sure how to respond to a statement so dead-pan. “Blood type?” I asked. If I was going to be a potential donor it was important to know.
“AB negative” She answered. She was focusing on the TV now. “You have very pretty eyes” She said, still watching the commercial.
“Thanks…you too” I was thrown by her comment. “So how long have you been in the hospital?” I asked, trying to shake my own thrill at having the same blood type as her. This could work.
“I’ve been here on and off since I was little. I think I’ve seen you before with an older woman.” Come to think of it, this girl did look familiar.
“That’s my mom. She needs blood transfusions.” She nodded as if she understood. “Are you feeling alright?” I asked, noticing that her eyes seemed glassy.
“It’s just the medicine kicking in…” Her face turned a few shades lighter before I grabbed the pan beside her bed and thrust it under her mouth just in time for her to vomit. I glanced away, not because it grossed me out, but rather because it was polite not to watch someone empty the contents of their stomach. Once she had finished dry heaving I turned back to her.
“Better?” I asked, brushing her hair back so that it couldn’t fall into the pan.
“A little. Sorry.” I shook my head. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before.
“S’ alright. I’ve spent plenty of time in hospitals. I’m used to this sort of thing.” I set the pan back down on her bedside tray “Do you need a nurse?” I asked, going into the bathroom to receive a warm towel. She took the towel from me gratefully and dabbed her face and hands with it.
“No. I think I’m fine now, that was breakfast and lunch anyway” She chuckled. I smiled at her as well. She laid back against her pillows, pressing her hand into her forehead. “Anymore questions?” She asked. I sighed, sympathetic.
“I’ll save some for later.” I said, handing her the bottle of water she was reaching for before standing to leave “Thank you for your time.”
She looked at me, her expression pitifully hurt. “I hope I didn’t gross you out.” She seemed desperate for me to stay.
“I promise you didn’t, but my mother should be done by now. Her boyfriend will be looking to take her home and unless I’m in that car I have a long walk ahead of me. I’ll see you soon. We can finish the interview, alright?” I kept the smile on my face, hoping that I wouldn’t offend her.
“Oh!” She reached into the bag hanging from her bedside rail and pulled out a card, handing it to me. “This is my mother’s number but…she’s almost always here. We can finish the interview over the phone if that’s alright?” I took the card from her.
“Thank you.” I said before turning and leaving.
Roy, my mother’s boyfriend, glared at me. “Where have you been?” He snapped, irritated as usual. They were sitting in the ER lobby waiting for me. I kissed my mother on the cheek.
“Are you feeling better?” I asked. She nodded and the three of us loaded into the car. My mother and her boyfriend didn’t always bother talking to me. I had become fairly obsolete since Roy decided to offer his blood to my mother. All I was needed for was my signature.
We were quiet for a while at the dinner table. The chicken was cold from this morning and my mother seemed a little ill. Roy was doting on her insufferably. “Mom…” I began, not sure how to say this. My mother’s head snapped up. “I…um…I met a girl today.” Now Roy was paying attention to me. I wasn’t sure what to say. “She’s dying.” I decided to be blunt about it, just as Maria had been.
“You met her at the hospital? Is that where you went?” Roy snapped “Your mother needed your support and you were off looking at DEAD GIRLS?” I slammed my hand on the table rattling all the plates. My mother jumped.
“She isn’t dead. But she will be.” I snarled, standing up. I was a good foot taller than Roy and I glared down at him from my taller frame. “I want to help her.” I turned to my mother “With the money dad left us…I could…it wouldn’t be an issue.”
“What does she need?” My mother asked. “Roy, please sit down” She added. Roy did as she asked.
“A kidney. I want to get tested to see if I’m a match. Our blood types are the same so…it’s a possibility.” I admitted that it was a far stretch but…I remembered the frail look on her face when I left. This was a girl who had been struggling with this since she was a young child and yet..I could see it in her eyes. She didn’t want to die.
“Honey!” My mother shrieked “A kidney? Do you know what that does to a person? You will never be as strong as you are. You will be limited on the things you can do and you will knock quite a few years off your life. And what if your kidney fails later on in life? Who would give you one?” I could see her eyes well up with tears.
“I know the risks. I’ve read so many hospital pamphlets that I know the risks of almost every major surgery out there. I spent my youth giving you blood. I was constantly sick from blood loss, I wasn’t allowed to have a normal childhood, and I was willing to do that for the rest of my life. Luckily for you, Roy decided to take over as your donor but it won’t take back the things I missed out on. This girl, Maria, she’s the same. If I can help her live just a little longer then maybe all the sacrifices I’ve made up to this point will have been worth it. Dad was just like Roy. It was all about you, mom. And I love you too but you don’t NEED me anymore. I’m just around because Roy can’t legally sign your paperwork. I want to be able to DO something for someone again. And I think I found out how.” I was hell bent on this though I didn’t realize how badly until I began talking about it. “I’m going to get tested tomorrow. I just wanted you to know my plan.” My mother was crying just like Maria’s mother had been when she learned her daughter would die soon. “I don’t want to hurt you.” I turned to glare at Roy then left the mansion my father had left us. My father, who had sacrificed his family’s hard earned money for a woman he had just met because he loved her too much to let her die.
I had never been very close to my father but at that moment I felt his determination.
“Josh?” I heard someone ask. It was a faint sound. “Josh?” I felt someone tap lightly on my cheek. My eyes regained their focus. Jodie was smiling down at me “There we go!” She said. I looked around. The lobby was empty save a couple talking amongst themselves. “You passed out. Are you feeling ok?” It felt as if Jodie were talking to me from a tunnel.
“Yeah…how long have I been out?” I asked, trying to locate a clock.
“Just about an hour or so. You were still breathing so I decided to leave you alone.” I knew my sleepless night of wandering the city would take its toll on me but I never thought I would pass out in the middle of my test.
“The results?” I asked her. It was the only thing my brain was focused on.
“According to the nurse, you’re a perfect match.” She handed me the paperwork. “What are the odds? I remember saying that to you so long ago when your dad asked if he could give his blood to your mother. Your real mom had just passed away and the two of you were so determined to save Lydia. It was heartwarming. I’m beginning to think your just a regular knight in shining armor.” She winked at me. A perfect match. I was…a perfect match. “Want me to gather the paperwork?” She asked. I nodded, finally locating the clock. It was eight AM.
“I want to keep it anonymous.” I called after her. She gave me the thumbs up. I decided to go visit Maria.
Room 204 was quiet when I arrived. Her mother was gone and she was sleeping lightly. I peeked in but decided not to disturb her. “Mom…” I heard her whine as I walked away. Pausing, I rounded the corner. Once again she had everything covered but her eyes.
“No, sorry” I said, leaning against the wall “But I’m sure the nurses know where she is. Want me to check?” I asked. She looked even worse today than she did yesterday. Her complexion was almost white it was so pale and her eyes were teary.
“It’s ok. I don’t want to bother her. She’s almost always here with me. I feel sorry for her.” She pulled the blanket up over her head.
“Do you need something?” I asked, walking further into the room.
“Nooooo” She moaned, her voice cracking.
“Come on, Maria. Whatever it is just ask.” I sat in the chair by her bedside.
From underneath her covers I heard her choke back a sob “It hurts, Josh. Dying freaking hurts.” I could see her body shake from the strain of her tears.
“I’m calling a nurse” I said, standing up. She caught my hand. Her skin was ice cold and she could barely hold onto my arm.
“It’s ok…it’ll pass” She assured me. I eased myself back down in the chair and covered her hand with my own. “Your warm.” She said, still blunt like yesterday. “My mother always cries when I get like this. I’m glad it’s you that’s here with me” She added, almost as if I wasn’t a perfect stranger.
“Do your classmates visit you?” I asked, trying to take her mind off the pain that was rippling through her body.
“Not really. I don’t go to school enough to really make friends. A couple of the school representatives came by to give me their condolences and some flowers but that’s it.” She said. Now I understood a little more why she treated me like I was the last person on earth. It probably wasn’t often that she got to associate with someone that wasn’t a nurse or her mother.
“Does your father visit?” I asked, hoping that wasn’t too sore a subject.
“Sometimes. He doesn’t stay here like mom does. I have a little brother whom he always takes care of and he has to work two jobs to pay my bills. But it’s ok…soon he won’t have to.” I felt myself grow cold. She was waiting to die. She was counting on it.
“I’m sure your father doesn’t think like that. He’s doing everything he can to keep you alive. No one wants to see you die.” I felt a little irritated at her attitude. I was willing to give her my kidney in order to keep her alive and she was counting on death to take her. I wanted her to WANT to live. “Maybe when you get out of the hospital we can hang out. Do things that teenagers do. Or something?” I was trying to convince her that it was worth it.
She peeked at me from under her covers “Like a date?” she asked.
I smirked “Sure. Anything you want.”
She eased herself back up onto her pillows in order to gape at me. “I’ve never been on a date before!” The excitement lit her eyes. “The only boy I ever liked turned me down when I asked.”
“He’s a jerk” I assured her.
“No..he’s just rational. Why would anyone want to date someone who won’t live long enough to graduate? He would have just been setting himself up for failure.” She shrugged. Talking about death in such a casual way. It bothered me.
“Does that make me irrational?” I smiled at her. She stared at me, my stringy shoulder length blonde hair, my pale icy blue eyes, my jeans and tee shirt (the same that I wore yesterday) and the dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep. Her scrutinizing made me a little self-conscious.
“Possibly” she said. She opened her mouth to continue but her mother bustled into the room. She seemed to be glowing with pleasure.
“Maria! They found you a donor!” She shrieked. “Someone was willing to give their kidney to you after hearing your story! I knew that newspaper ad was a good idea…” She trailed off for a moment “Oh sweetheart” She threw herself at her daughter, sobbing happily. I felt intrusive as if this were a private moment I wasn’t supposed to see. “You’re going to be alright.”
I slipped out of the room, not wanting to disturb the pair of them. The nurses didn’t notice me as I left the hospital and headed back towards my house. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go home and see Roy and my mother. I wasn’t sure about much at this moment. I ducked into a nearby convenience store just as the sky began to bleed rain and bought a candy bar.
Maybe it was good.
At that moment, I couldn’t taste much.
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