“Which of my many poor decisions brought me here?” she thought to herself. Was it owning a body that exceeded its warranty? She’d had a good run. Thirty years is a long time to keep yourself alive if you really have no skill at it. She’d been awfully careless with her allergies. Every decision to eat or touch or breathe had to be in delicate balance with the outside world. It became so exhausting after a while. She did the things she shouldn’t, just to prove she still could.
Was it her disastrous love life? There was a pattern emerging, and her friends showed growing concern. If a partner seemed to despise her, she made room in her heart for him. She could love him when he wouldn’t love her back. She could love him when he couldn’t love himself.
Was it her recent career change? She’d been successful at bumming around, living rent-free, and cranking out the occasional book for a few dollars. Now she was a lot less successful doing the normal thing, being awake at 7:30am when her eyelids screamed at her. Hoping she could hide her weirdness from all those co-workers. Wondering why anyone would be so foolish to hire her. She really only applied because it seemed to dare the world into rejecting her one more time. It came as a total shock when the rejection never came.
So she looked at her surroundings now, and couldn’t figure out what led her here. She’d gone to the hospital far too often lately for those little rebellious allergy attacks, bringing her close to death. And in her life, she’d flirted with death before. Usually her lover would turn away, either in apathy or some undiagnosed personality disorder or both. She had to fight to stay alive when her brain kept whispering lies. She pictured her funeral a lot. She wanted to imagine the faces of the guests, but she knew she’d never see them for real. Being a ghost seemed too tempting to be real. It probably never happened to those that wanted it.
So she argued with herself. She gave herself a list of reasons to live, and the darker side of her supplied counter-arguments. She pulled out a list of goals to procrastinate. But the fact is she had climbed into the creek already. This wasn’t a metaphor. She literally stood in the creek wondering if her feet would slip on the wet rocks. Obviously worrying that she would fall was another argument for life, or at least another procrastination.
So she climbed out of the creek and into her ex-partner’s house. She still had clothes there, because procrastination fit well in every aspect of her life. He knew where she’d been. It didn’t seem to bother him overly. She had a fight with him about something random and inconsequential. It shouldn’t matter at all, but to her it mattered a lot.
As she described her shallow water swim to a friend the next day, it seemed like a confession. It shocked her to find the police at her door when she came home, but it shouldn’t have. How many times had she told her friends what to do in a crisis? But she never expected it to really happen.
And even though she didn’t fear commitment to one of the many men she’d been engaged to, being committed held a totally different meaning in this circumstance. The policeman said it was her choice. She blinked a few times. Nothing really felt like a choice when your friends call the cops. And she figured that if someone worried this much about her, she should be worried too. She went willingly.
So it all seems pretty straightforward looking back. A job she didn’t feel like she deserved, an ex-boyfriend treating her like slime, a friend worried, a body allergic to everything, and the choice to listen to the insanity that clutched her by the throat. It all led here. It led to a hospital.
She had often referred to herself as a “crazy networking fool.” As she relaxed in the hospital bed (as much as you could in a hospital) she pulled out one of the books she wrote. She answered any questions she got from hospital staff as if she were incredibly famous. In her own mind, authors were allowed to go crazy. It gave them more material to write with.
But this level of ego wasn’t ridiculous to everyone. And the physician who checked in on her seemed more impressed than the average fan. Did she seem endearing? Did he think of her as a child showing off a crayon drawing? Did he see her as a genius casually showing off her masterpiece? Did he maybe think she was attractive? That last one was so inappropriate but it made her blush. She almost needed to hold her breath around him, waiting until he left to allow her face to react. He made her smile too much. As codependent as it sounded, he made her want to fight harder to live.
All those fairy tales had ruined her mind growing up. Not only did he have the handsome looks of a Disney prince, he needed to look at her from the same angle as the prince leaned over Sleeping Beauty. In reality, she was in a hospital stretcher in the middle of an ER, with the fluorescent lights painting her in unflattering tones. But she had the brain of a writer, constantly rewriting the script.
And he liked her. Probably he only liked her in that professional way, with cool detachment and a level head. Somewhere in his speech about suicide, he referred to her as a “great person.” She considered that comment rather adorable.
She commented that he must say that to all the patients.
He said “No, I only say what needs to be said. And that needed to be said.” Yes, definitely adorable.
But she’d been here before, with a crush on her massage therapist. She learned a medical license is under scrutiny if a medical provider dates a patient, unless 3 years has gone by since the last medical encounter. One stupid night in the ER had given her hope then dashed it away. And strangely enough, she worked in a doctor’s office. There were plenty of doctors in this world she COULD date but she seemed to only want this one. He had cared about her. She just didn’t experience that very often.
When she went home, she kicked herself for being unable to give him a free book. He was a big fan of the genre (time travel) but she hadn’t brought the first book in the series. Like a fool, she only brought the sequel. A crazy networking fool should be more prepared to turn craziness into successful networking. Her friend said she needed to drop by again with a free book and a thank-you card. But an emergency room is the type of place you only “drop in” on if you’re close to dropping dead. And she was dreadfully embarrassed. She was such a transparent person, and her crush was quite obvious to everyone around her. Perhaps she should stop referring to him as “Hot ER Doc.”
A week had gone by and she couldn’t shake him from her thoughts. Slowly the features of his face had etched themselves in her memory. She didn’t have to power to stop his image from appearing in her mind, and she didn’t want to. It seemed clear she’d never get the romantic connection that she so desperately wanted, and even a friendship seemed improbable.
But she WOULD get him that book. And she would do her best to hide her crush. She’d try to hide the fact that she’d imagined kissing him from every angle. She’d try to hide how she melted when he talked about loving DeLoreans ever since he saw the “Back to the Future” trilogy. She’d try to muster up the courage to reach out to him in spite of the fact she wasn’t good at hiding things at all. But as much as she feared his rejection, she kept imagining the unlikely kiss. She fantasized that she’d be giving him a long and passionate speech about her feelings, and he would interrupt her with this electric film-worthy kiss. She never got any further than that in her fantasies. It seemed greedy to want more.
And that kiss would never happen. But did it matter? Imagining the joy of that kiss was somehow enough to keep her going. Life could be quite unhappy at times, but he made her happy. And hopefully memories like that would keep her happy for a long, long time.