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“I’m sorry to have tell you, it's stage 4 lung cancer. You’ve had it for quite some time. It’s in your right lung, there,” he pointed to a spot on the x-ray, “about the size of a tennis ball. Even with treatment, I’d say I can only push out about a year.”
“What about without treatment? I can’t afford therapy,” the man was shaking vigorously.
“A few months, maybe. I’m sorry.” He walked out of the room and left his dying patient to contemplate his life. John hated telling his patients the date of their death. Knowing how much time they have left completely shatters their world. It was part of being a doctor, but that didn’t matter to him. He always felt like he was responsible for their deaths, blaming it on his lack of better doctrate skills, or how he didn’t try enough to save them. Doctors always told him to let it go, that once you begin to blame yourself, there is no turning back. He knew he wouldn’t love himself again.
The phone began to ring at 1:37 a.m. He swore as he picked up the receiver
“Hello?” he sighed.
“It’s your brother,” the voice said, “he’s at the hospital. He is O.Ding, again.”
John rushed to the hospital immediately, trying to think of a way to help his irresponsible baby brother. For years he’d been trying to beat his brother’s addiction, unsuccessfully. It was different trying to save someone who couldn’t help dying, as opposed to trying to save someone who didn't care to be saved.
He stood in the hospital door, staring at his pathetic brother, resting. His lips were blue, and he was attached to an oxygen mask and an I.V. The I.V didn’t need to leave bruises; they were already there.
Kyle looked up, and saw his brother standing in the doorway, a feeling of comfort overwhelming him. “Yes, John?” his voice was raspy, his eyes still glazed over. He attempted to push himself up on the hospital bed, but failed.
“I love you, Kyle. You know this, you always have and always will. But I can’t stand to see you go on living like this anymore.”
“I know man. I need help... But it's so difficult to quit, you know how this drug feels." he began to trail off with a dreamy look on his face.
“Shut up, and stop thinking about it." John sighed. "You’re ruining your life, and I’m not going to sit back and watch you do it anymore. Come talk to me when you’re sober.”
John walked out of the door remembering the past; he wished he never showed Kyle such a horrible thing.
Over the next few days, Kyle persisted in calling John, but of course, only got the machine. Kyle laid on his sofa in discontentment, staring at a needle, idly listening to the television in the background.
"Are drugs ruining your life? Seek refuge and gain your life back. Call (1800) HELPING today!"
"Shut up," he muttered, glancing at the supplies on his coffee table. One more time, he thought. One more time, and then I’ll stop. For good.
He glared at the phone ringing as the effect was wearing off hours later, the high beginning to die down.
“HELLO?” he screamed, taking his anger out on whoever was on the line.
“It’s me.” John said, his tone displeasing and monotonous. “I was calling to check up on you. It’s been a week, and by now the withdrawals would be over. You haven't... touched the stuff, have you?"
Kyle panicked. “No, well, yes, but, I’m… Err. I’m still getting off of it. In fact, I threw everything away not long ago.”
“Oh really? So, if I walked inside right now, I wouldn’t see needles, or spoons, or lighters of any sort around?”
“No you wouldn’t. All gone,” he said, trying to sound like he was smiling.
“Well, good. I’m outside of your apartment, and I’m coming in right now.” The door opened in synchronization of his voice, and Kyle could hear the echo.
John stared at the table in disbelief, as the rage and disappointment entered his heart. He saw the bruises, Kyle’s eyes, the needles, everything.
“What is wrong with you?! Have you no sense of control?! You’re a failure, a junkie! At this rate, your life will go no where, and I wouldn't be surprised if you died while you were stoned out of your mind. Life isn’t just about feeling good, Kyle.”
"I'm going to quit man, you just have to have faith in me. It's not as easy as you think."
"I've been through it, remember? It's not going to be fucking easy, Kyle. How can you expect me to have faith in you when you go around doing crap like this all the time?!"
"You were as messed up as me, and you know it, so don't be a hypocrite. You know what, I don't need you. Get out of my face." Kyle made a shooing motion towards the door.
"You don't use your head, do you? I at least quit before I was to a point beyond return, O.Ding every other week! If it wasn't for me, you'd be six feet under right now, and you know that."
John punched a hole into the wall and slammed out of the apartment, planning to stay away from his brother for a long while.
Kyle sat there glaring at his drug paraphernalia. His mind was racing; I don't need him, I never did need him. He hates me anyway, so why should I care? Just one more time won’t hurt, and I actually mean it- it'll only be to get over this fight and then move on with my life. He grabbed the belt and went to work. Once he saw that beautiful vein that appealed to him like art he forced the needle into his skin. One... last... and the thought was lost.
John kept scanning back and forth across the lanes and couldn't concentrate on the road as he was driving home. Everything that was happening was his fault to begin with. Why did I have to show him that drug?! He slammed on the steering wheel and began to sob, noticing the key chain from Panama that Kyle bought him from their trip two years back. It's the little things like that that Kyle did which were so great, but, he didn't let the big things slide, either. For one thing, Kyle at least stayed by John's side when John went through it all. He owed Kyle that much. If it wasn’t for Kyle, he wouldn’t have been able to be as strong as he was. He realized that if it weren't for Kyle, he’d be dead, too. He would've died exactly to what he threatened was Kyle's fate.
He began to weep more as the radio began to ring an old tune:
"Bye, bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry. And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye singin' this will be the day that I die, this will be the day that I die!"
A memory flashed back into his mind; Kyle and him at the lake one summer, fishing, talking about pretty girls, laughing, singing that song, and having a good time simply in each other’s presence. He decided he wasn't going to lose that, and he couldn't jepordize a relationship that strong; he needed to apologize for being so harsh. He did a 360 in the road and headed back to Kyle's house, intending to make things right for good.
John realized he should give Kyle a little bit a leeway, to call Kyle to let him know that he coming back over. They needed to sit down and seriously talk. It rang 5 times and went to voicemail, so John hung up. He kept looking left to right on the road, as if completely aware of all of his surroundings. In reality, though, he was just angry at himself for making Kyle ignore him. He's going through enough, you just had to go and make it worse, didn't you?
John spent ten minutes just standing at the front door, talking and receiving no reply. First, he knocked.
"Kyle, hey, can I come in?" There was no answer, and John assumed Kyle was ignoring him again. "I know you don't want to talk to me, but I'm really sorry. Please let me in, Kyle, we need to talk about this. We can get you help, we can fix this, I'm just so sorry, I forgot about what it’s like to go through everything you're going through. I just want you to know I love you no matter what, and I only got mad because of how much I love you. Kyle, please let me in?" he sighed. "Kyle, you're still mad at me? Please man, I didn't mean what I said, I just want to help you. Kyle, why won't you answer me?" he banged on the door. "Hello?!"
John burst through the front door ready be screamed at again, only to see his brother's pale, lifeless corpse, with bruises on the arms, a needle next to him on the floor.
“NO! Kyle!” He ran and practically dove at his brother to try and hold him. He noticed Kyle was tinted a slight blue, and realized that meant he had respitory failure; there was no need to feel for a pulse, no need to get an ambulence. There was no saving him at all. Not this time.
-Three days later-
"Hello, this is your local newspaper, how may I be of assistance?"
"Hey, uh, my brother just died. How do I do an obituary?"
"Well, one thing we could do is put you on the phone with an editor, and you can dictate what you would like to say about the one you lost, and they can write it down and edit it a bit for you."
"I bet that costs extra, doesn't it?"
"Yes sir, it's a little more expensive."
"Well, I'll do it anyway, I guess."
"Okay sir, let me connect you."
"Hello. I'm so sorry about your loss, and I'm ready when you are."
"Okay." John chuckled slightly at how fake they sounded, about how they were payed to put on such a facade. They weren't sorry; they didn't know what sorrow was. "His name was Kyle R. Smith, and he was born September 14th, 1984." John found himself at a loss of words. "What do I do now? Just, talk about him?"
"Well, you can do that if you'd like. Or you could talk about how much he'll be missed, or his accomplishments, whatever you'd like."
"Okay." he took a hefty breath. "My brother Kyle was the only person who knew me as well as I know myself. Sure, he messed up a lot, but, we all do, we're humans, it's in our nature. Sometimes, the only option is to help ourselves, but when that's not possible, we have to let ourselves be lifted up to our feet by those we love. There was no knowing Kyle without caring about him deeply, he carried this... charisma about him. Kyle was weak, and Kyle was scared, but most of all, Kyle was human. There's no escaping that. I'm not dead yet, so I don't know if there is a Heaven or Hell, but, I do know one thing; every time I shut my eyes, I see his face. Every time I smile, it reminds me of a truth I will never let die; he's alive. He's alive, somewhere."