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For Reasons Unknown
Racing through the trees of a wood miles behind his suburban home, Eli Harper was beginning to feel a familiar pain in his joints. “I really don’t think I’m going to make Cross-Country anymore,” the runner said to himself, simultaneously catching his breath and gripping his knee. Eli had been experiencing more pain in the last month than he has had in his entire life, being a sixteen year old boy that never gets sick. Giving up on his running, he started on his walk back home, where he saw his mother’s used blue Toyota pulling into to the Wawa parking lot a mile from his house. “Hey, beautiful!” He exclaimed behind her back to get her attention, as she was walking into the store.
“Oh, hi, Eli,” the single mother said with an embarrassed look on her face. “Want a ride back home?”
He replied with a chuckle and a casual: “Yeah, thanks. Can I drive?”
“Sure,” she said to the Driver In Training, or at least that’s what the bumper sticker on their car says.
Eli is generally a happy person; there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been charmed with his good humor or bright smile. He has a lot of friends, one could say he’s quite popular; and he is the star runner on his school’s track team. He has a girlfriend of 6 months, Bridget, and he will be able to get his driver’s license in about 2 months. It’s hard to tell by talking to him that his father had just passed away when Eli was 11 years old.
During the drive home, Eli observed the colors of Spring and told his mom about the pain he’d been feeling in the past few weeks. “Oh, I’m sure it’s just your body growing, sweetie,” she said in that hopeful way that all moms do, while puffing smoke from her cigarette out through the cracked window. However, Eli, who is an unmistakable foot taller than her five feet, disagreed.
“I know it’s not puberty, mom.” He said while braking for the stoplight and looking into the mirror at his small amount of pimples and cleanly shaven chin and upper lip. “Could we just go to the hospital and see what they say?”
“How about we wait 2 weeks and see how you are then; that’s when your next check-up is,” she said, trying to avoid the unnecessary hospital bill.
“I guess.” Eli said, sure that this wasn’t just his body growing.
When they returned home, Eli walked down the hallway to the room that he shares with his fourteen year old brother, Max Harper. Max was at his girlfriend’s house, so Eli decided to lounge on his bed (the same bed he’s had since he was in fifth grade and only four feet tall) for lack of anything better to do, and looked at the medical magazine he had curiously bought at the gas station while his mom was paying for the half-tank of gas she had just put into their car. As he was flipping through the pages of his magazine, he came upon an article on Leukemia and its symptoms, and started to fixate on it.
There are various types of this Cancer, from children-only, to adults-only, to one that any person can become sick with. For more information on possible ways a person can get Leukemia, and ways to get rid of it, please read on through the next few pages.
“Whoa! There’s more than just one kind of Leukemia, and some just affect kids? This is depressing!” Eli continued reading the next two pages, as the introduction suggested, and he became amazed at how many of the noticeable symptoms he had been expressing. “Headaches… bone and joint pain… often feeling tired…” As he was reading the symptoms, he ironically started feeling tired and after two minutes of trying to fight the feeling, fell asleep.
When he had woken up from his nap 2 hours later, Eli skimmed over the article again. “Possible causes of Leukemia: Exposure to radiation, smoke, chemotherapy to cure other cancers, or having Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders. These are not the only causes of Cancer, however; it is a disease that is not easily avoidable and may be naturally caused.” As Eli was reading this to himself, he realized his younger brother had returned home and was reading over his shoulder and staring at him oddly.
“What the heck are you reading about Leukemia for?” He asked abruptly.
“I... think I might have it,” Eli replied with slight humility.
“Are you serious?” Max said with a smirk. “If you have Cancer, I’m still a virgin!”
“You BETTER still be a virgin, freshman!” Eli retorted quickly.
“Okay, well I may be a virgin but you don’t have Cancer.” The fourteen-year-old boy admitted with a slightly exasperated tone. “What makes you think you have Cancer?”
“I don’t know, I’ve just been feeling…weird, lately. I’m hurting in places where I don’t usually hurt, and I haven’t sprained anything, or exercised too hard, or anything.” He replied. “And, all the things I’ve been feeling are listed under the symptoms, and some of the causes fit, too.”
Max jokingly pointed out, ”Yeah, you do have a lot of genetic disorders.”
Eli’s face changed with his patience as he looked at his brother with low expectations. “One of those is sharing the same gene pool as you.” Max frowned. “But I was actually referring to how Mom smokes around me all the time,” Eli continued.
Max laughed at himself and said, “Okay, well just because she smokes, doesn’t mean you have Leukemia.”
“I don’t know, I just know there’s something wrong with me…” Eli said uncomfortably and ending the conversation.
Max was searching for a new topic and came up with: “Well, it’s eight o’clock and I’m going to get some food; you want some?”
“Nah, I’m not hungry,” was Eli’s reply.
“Maybe there is something wrong with you!” The younger Harper brother exclaimed as he left the room, ready to make his favorite meal, Macaroni and Cheese.
2 weeks later, Eli had his doctor’s appointment and he asked the doctor about the possibility of him having Leukemia. “You very well could have it,” Dr. Webber announced, “but you most likely don’t. What sort of things have you been experiencing, to make you think you do?”
Eli described the joint pain, how he recently started sleeping all the time, and he also informed him of how he had been visiting the nurse’s office every day for Tylenol to cure his headaches.
“Well, that could be anything,” the doctor told Eli. “But you’d like to be tested for Cancer?”
“Yes,” Eli decided, “If that’s possible.”
“Yes, it’s possible.” Dr. Webber said, and then proceeded with collecting blood to test Eli for Leukemia. 20 minutes later, the doctor told Eli, “I’ll call you sometime in the next week to inform you of the results. Other than that, you seem just fine.” Then he walked out of his office, and Eli walked back into the reception room, where he met his mother and they walked back to the car together.
“So, what did the doctor say?” Mrs. Harper asked Eli.
“I seem fine, but I’ll get a call about the test results sometime in the next week,” Eli told her, slightly relieved.
For the next week, all Eli could think about was: “What if I DO have Cancer? I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life, because I’ll probably be too weak to keep running; and I’m not really interested in any sciences or math classes, and I have no writing skills, whatsoever.” When the seventh day rolled around, Eli finally got the phone call from the hospital.
“We need to see you by tomorrow,” Dr. Webber said in a serious, low tone of voice.
The next day, Eli drove himself and his mother to the doctor’s office, both terrified of what the doctor had to say. “We’ll need to test him again,” the doctor said to Mrs. Harper, though Eli was sitting right next to her. “We can’t read the results, and we want to be 100% sure you are not positive for Cancer,” Dr. Webber continued, this time to the boy himself. When his mom left the room, the doctor collected Eli’s blood, once again. “This time, we’ll call you sometime in the next few days,” Eli was assured.
Eli is horrified. He’s finally realizing that he could very well have Cancer. “Eli Harper, Track Star, Leukemia Patient,” the Harper boy labeled himself in his mind.
The next few days were hell for Eli. He researched the effect of chemotherapy, and he did not want to go through that. The pain, the false hope, he didn’t need this at all. When he had first went to the hospital, the day before Spring Break, he told his friends what he thought he might have. And now, coming back after the short vacation, he feels that everyone is looking at him when he walks down the hallways. “Look at Harper, he thinks he has Cancer; loser!” He imagines them saying as he continues the school day.
His own pressure has gotten too much for Eli to handle. Ever since the first test, his personality had changed from happy and charming to depressed and alone. Later in the evening, after the family had eaten dinner (and Eli finished his small portion, because that’s all he was hungry for,) Eli went to his room and he heard the phone ring. He knew who it was, and he couldn’t force himself to pick up the phone. So, he waited a few seconds until he heard his mother pick the handset in the living room up.
“Hello,” she said into the receiver. “Oh, hello Doctor,” there was a pause. “Mhm…” the widower was nervous for her son’s health. “Yes…” she agreed to something Eli couldn’t hear.
Eli pulled out the bottle of Aspirin he had kept in his nightstand for the frequent headaches he had been having. He had slowly twisted off the cap, thinking about what he was doing and why.
“Oh!” He heard his mother exclaim into the phone.
“Oh, Doctor!” She exclaimed again. He could not sense the tone in her voice, but he imagined it was not a positive one. Down went the first couple pills down Eli’s hopeless throat.
“Thank you, Doctor Webber,” Eli barely heard the words through his mother’s muffled tears.
“Well, this is it,” Eli whispered to himself. “I guess I know how it’s going to end,” he sadly said while forcing down the rest of the bottle. Eli took out a pen and paper, and wrote down a few words. He thought about his girlfriend, his family, and his Leukemia. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t live life being branded as ‘sick,’ because I’m not sick. Eli Harper is not a ‘sick’ person…”
After he turned off the lights and pulled the covers of his bed over his head, Eli Harper cried himself to sleep. A sleep, that nobody else knew he wouldn’t wake up from. About 10 minutes after he had fallen asleep, Eli’s mom walked into his room. “The doctor called, you don’t…” She saw him sleeping, stopped her sentence, and said to herself, “I guess this can wait until the morning…” and she silently closed the door and told her younger son to be quiet when he decided to go to bed.
When the next morning came around, Eli was not up at seven o’clock, like he usually is for school. Max was in the bathroom taking a shower, when his mom walked in the brothers’ room.
“Eli, wake up, Honey! You have to go to school. I have great news!” she exclaimed, while pulling off his sheets and trying to wake the boy up. But he didn’t wake up. She rolled his body over to see his face and screamed. His eyes were open, but rolled back; and there was vomit on the side of his bed. She kept screaming.
“MAX!!!!” she hollered. “Max, get out of the bathroom and get in here!” she shouted.
When Max walked out of the bathroom, the look on his face changed from annoyance to terror when he saw what she was screaming about. He walked over to the nightstand he shared with Eli, saw the note next to an empty bottle of pills, and picked it up.
“What does it say,” Max’s mom shakily said without question in her voice. He just looked at her. “What does it say!” This time she shouted it.
“It says…” Max muttered while opening the crumpled piece of paper, “Eli Harper, Track Star, Cancer Patient, Suicide Victim.”