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Business Ventures with Hades
“You have a month, maybe. I’m sorry.”
Mom cries. Chris doesn’t.
Hospitals smell like chemicals and mothballs, and everything is sickeningly sterile. No wonder people get sick in hospitals so much, the sterile stagnancy of of the air seeps into your bones and freezes you a long with it.
As it turns out, people do **** for you when you’re dying of cancer. It’s nice not to have your father tell you you were a botched abortion all the time, but more than anything, Chris just wants to go home.
There’s a girl who’s also terminal three rooms down and Chris couldn’t give less of a **** about her, but she keeps coming down to talk to him, her breath wheezing in and out of her chest like there’s nothing there.
Since Chris doesn’t actually know what’s wrong with her, he supposes that could be true, if medically implausible.
“I’m dying. It’s somehow made me think about everything differently, like my life didn’t have meaning before.”
“That’s a load of ****.”
She looks at him, eyes blinking sluggishly.
“You’re kind of an ***hole.”
Chris’s mother visits and though she doesn’t explicitly say it, he knows that she won’t be back unless it’s to see his body.
He wishes that he could muster up the energy to at least be offended but honestly, this cancer thing is taking a lot out of him.
Across the hall, her father cries for her and for whatever the **** is wrong with her.
She’s splayed on next to him on his hospital bed, her IV dripping silently next to her and giving him moon eyes.
”I’m dying, not retarded.”
His dad comes in for the last time, and he does explicitly state that he won’t be back unless there’s a money thing that needs to be worked out. He ruffles Chris’s hair in a way that’s probably meant to be affectionate before he leaves, work boots clapping against the slick linoleum.
The smells of cigarettes lingers in the air, and the nurse wrinkles her nose when she comes in to change his IV
“There is no ****ing way that is your name. Is your mom really that much of a pretentious ****lord?”
”Persephone is so my real name, and I like it. It comes from Greek mythology-”
”Everybody knows it comes from Greek mythology. Persephone’s that chick who’s tricked into being Hades’ mistress or some ****.”
”Why do you hate everything?”
”Why do you read so much ****ing John Green bull****?”
Chris can’t really leave his bed anymore, his lungs are too weak and breathing sends sharp pains through his chest. Somehow, all of that just makes him want a cigarette more.
He tries to charm the nurse that changes his IV into getting one, just one, for him but she just gives in a look that’s 1 part apologetic and 2 parts disapproving and wanders away.
“Dying doesn’t make you wise, Persephone. Dying makes you dead.”
“You’re being negative. I feel like I can do anything now that I don’t have to worry about breaking a leg or having a heart attack or anything.”
”Great, so it takes you being locked in a hospital room 24/7, except to **** and shower, to stop being a ****ing coward too scared to control their own life?”
”You’re a ****ing ***hole.”
”Aw, look, she use two whole swear words in one sentence. She must be mad.”
When the nurse comes in to change his IV, Chris vomits all over her pastel covered shoes. It looks like it’s mostly stomach acid and blood, which makes sense, since he hasn’t been able to really eat anything for a few days.
The nurses have been keeping him on a steady diet of morphine and whatever the hell they’re putting in his IV to keep him alive, and Chris knows that if he ever got out of here, he’d be hooked on morphine for the rest of his life.
That **** is great for forgetting your problems.
“Never have I ever been kissed.”
”Never have I ever had a fist up my ***.”
”That’s so charming.”
”Persephone, if charm was the reason you hung out with me, then you wouldn’t just be terminally ill, you’d be ****ing stupid too.”
As it turns out, dad was an even bigger ***hole than anybody thought. On Friday, Chris’s half-sister who he didn’t know existed (and neither did anybody else) came to visit him. She looks just like Chris thought a bastard child of his dad’s would look like, the red lips and piercings and tats and cigarette dangling from her mouth.
He spares her the ‘woe-is-me’ bull**** and she offers him a cigarette.
He hopes she comes back, because she isn’t a ****ing ****head like his dad, a lunatic like his mom, or a pretentious loser like Persephone.
“I wish I had a half-sister I didn’t know about.”
”No you don’t, you just wish you had something to angst and complain about.”
”That’s not true!”
”You told me you were feeling oppressed for supporting gay rights yesterday.”
”I am oppressed for supporting the gays, you ***hole!”
”No you’re ****ing not. Anybody who’s not Rush Limbaugh’s *** monkey supports the gays.”
Chris’s dad shows up at the hospital, drunk off his *** and crying up enough hysterical tears to fill the Nile. Usually the hysterical crying is his mother’s role, but he supposes his father’s not usually home when he’s this drunk so it’s not like Chris could’ve known.
Chris’s dad tells him he’s sorry he called him a botched abortion.
Chris pats him on the shoulder awkwardly and tells him he’s not that broken up about it.
“If I’m not dead in 15 days, feel free to give me a lobotomy with whatever you can get your hands on.”
”You don’t really want to die do you?”
”’Course I do, why else would I be here?”
His half-sister comes back, and this time she comes bearing gifts of cheap booze and more cigarettes. Chris figures he’s going to be dead anyway, so there’s no point in delaying the process.
He’s glad he’s not close to his half-sister, because if he were, he’d never be able to sit here and puff on cigarettes with the door locked and towel shoved under the door, or laugh at the TV that isn’t actually that funny.
It’s nice, this unfamiliar familiarity.
“What’s your favorite book?”
”Do I look like somebody who spends their time reading to you?”
”I guess not, but you’re really smart so I figured you did.”
”What the **** does me reading have to do with me being smart.”
”I don’t know, teachers always say the kids who read are smarter.”
“Yeah, well, that’s not the only lie public school shoved down your throat, kid.”
Chris is always aware of the whole dying thing. He can feel it in his bones, and can feel it in the way his limbs feel hollow and even he can tell that his skin looks paper thin.
The nurses smile politely and tell him he looks better every day but he knows.
He knows that his hair is brittle and his skin is so translucent that you can see the deep magenta and blue wisps of vein in his arms and up his face, like a dead man’s roadmap.
Chris always knew that he was dying, but now he has to see the physical signs of it.
“You really don’t think that being terminal has made you look at life differently?”
”**** no. My dad’s still an ***hole, I still won’t graduate, and I haven’t come to any new conclusions about the inevitability of death or the pointlessness of living or any of that ****. Do I look like Sylvia ****ing Plath to you?”
”Maybe if I squint.”
”Haha, very funny you ****ing smart***.”
Chris wonders when exactly hospitals became so routine to him, and whether or not he could classify it as Stockholm’s syndrome. His days and nights seem to bleed together, and the passage of time is mostly marked by the coming and going of the nurses which have been assigned to his care.
Chris knows he’s going to die, and frankly, he thinks it’s overwhelmingly stupid and careless to have the nurses wait on him when there are actual people that need actual help.
“I ****ing hate you. I mean it. I think you’re a self-absorbed child that needs to grow the **** up.”
”That’s the medicine talking. Or maybe you do hate me. I don’t care.”
”Probably both. “
Infomercials are the only thing they really show on hospital TVs. Do you have trouble doing various menial tasks, such as washing the dishes or eating popcorn? Are you a white middle-aged suburban mom whose purse has to be set on the floor for the germs to get to at restaurants?
Chris ****ing hates restaurants. He doesn’t need a purse hook, or a special popcorn spoon, or waterproof dish-washing gloves.
Chris doesn’t need anybody but himself.
“Do you want me to tell you a story?”
”No, **** off.”
”Once upon a time there was a dying girl, and a dying boy, and they were both ****ing pathetic. The boy couldn’t even take a **** for himself anymore, and the girl was so terrified of being left alone in the cold, sterile, room that she put up with the dying boy’s constant verbal abuse on a daily basis. Then the boy died, and the girl died, and it was all very poetic.”
Chris blacks out, and he dreams of his father. His father yelling, his father spitting, his father drinking.
Chris dreams of his father being proud of him. He dreams of him going to his little league games, and his soccer tournaments.
Chris hate soccer, and he always will. Until the day he dies.
” . . . “
”I know you can’t really talk because it’s hard for you to breathe and all but I just wanted to say sorry for being a ****-head, like all the time. It’s not fair. You’re so much smarter than me, and better than me, and yet you’re the one with a week to live, maybe. I’ve got years.”
” . . . “
”That’s all I wanted to say.”
Chris’s half-sister shows up for the last time. She doesn’t stay long. She tells him that his father is still a jack***, in case he was wondering, and that she’s glad he wasn’t involved in her life for the most part.
She also tells him that his mother is a coward for putting up with him, and though it leaves a bitter taste in Chris’s mouth to do so, he can’t help but agree.
But then again, who isn’t a coward?
”You’re my best-friend. I ****ing hate you, and you’re my best-friend.”
”Love you too.”
”That’s not what I said, Persephone, and you know it, you ****stain.”
Chris gets worse.
Chris gets a lot worse.
Persephone smiles weakly, but Chris doesn’t smile back. He’s barely keeping conscious. He’s saved his last breaths for this.
”Final words. Make ‘em good.”
She smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.
He takes a breath.
Then he smiles, teeth flashing white as bone, white as ice in the dead of winter, white as bleach.
He smiles, and he turns to Persephone and he says:
”See you in Hell, ***hole.”