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Out of Order
Everything I say just floats through the air, drifting away from you. I can't believe you're not listening. I'm standing here, pouring my heart out, and you don't seem to care. Are you sure you want this? Are you sure that we weren't just pretending for all this time? I can see my breath in the frozen air. It feels like my words just hang there. I try to catch your eye, but you seem determined to look anywhere but at me. 'I love you,' I try to say; but the words stick in my throat. 'I l-' is all that comes out; and finally, you look at me. You're crying, and that shocks me.
'I just can't do this anymore,' is all that falls from your lips. You turn and walk away, and I'm left there alone.
I can't seem to breathe anymore. Ever since you disappeared from my life, my dreams for my future seem so far away. We were going to finish school together and have our internships, residencies, and eventually, practice at the same hospital. We were going to get married at 25, have three kids once we were stable, but now . . . I don't even know where I want to be. Without you, I don't know if I even want to be a doctor. It feels like I was just following you through life; but without you, my plans are gone. And I can't breathe without my plans.
I've been lying on my couch, staring at the ceiling for the past few hours. My roommate's kicked me a few times on his way in and out, but I don't care. I sigh. I've got no homework since I've skipped all my classes. I've got nothing to do. My hand twitches towards my phone to call you but- I can't. You'll just hang up, and I'll be even more depressed than I am now. Suddenly, my roommate barges in holding up little white cartons.
'Food!' He roars. I jump a little and fall of the couch. 'Greg, I'm going to cheer you up!'
'Tony,' I sigh. 'I don't want to be cheered up. I-' But I trail off at the look on his face. He jumps over the couch and almost lands on me. He holds out one of the cartons.
'Eat!' he almost screams and I take the carton. I open it and put some of the orange chicken into my mouth. 'That's better, isn't it?' he says, smiling; and I hate to admit it, but it is. The food warms me up as it goes down my throat. I suddenly realize that I haven't eaten all day so I grab my chopsticks and dig in.
Ten minutes later, I'm lying on the floor and Tony's leaning against the couch.
'Ugh,' I groan. 'I haven't eaten that fast since, well, never. Thanks, dude.'
'Hey, you were moping all day because of S-'
'Don't say her name! I had almost forgotten!' I sigh.
'Damn it, Greg! You know what; we're going to go someplace twhere you can forget all about her!' He grabs my arm and pulls me out the door, despite my feeble protests of 'But my sweatshirt's missing and it's cold!'
'You brought me to a STRIP CLUB???' I yell fifteen minutes later. 'No way I'm going in there, what if someone sees us?' Tony sighs.
'Oh come on! It'd be the perfect thing to distract you!' He wiggles his eyebrows.
'I'm going back to the dorm.' Tony grabs my arm.
'We can at least go to the bar next door. You did bring your I.D., right?'
'Fine.' I give in and he pulls me next door into the crowded, smoky bar.
'Greggy,' Tony slurs, 'you're my bestest best fwend.'
'Yeah, Tony, that's great.' It's midnight and Tony is blind drunk. I had been nursing the same lukewarm beer, but Tony got himself into some sort of drinking game and so on. I'm supporting him but then-
'Greggy, I think I'm gonna be sick.' I quickly help him to the nearest available bushes and stand back as he throws up. I let my mind wander as I wait for him to finish. I'm aimlessly looking around when I see you. You're leaving a high-end bar with a guy I don't know and you're both laughing. I freeze. I glance back at Tony, but he's showing no sign of being done. My head whips around as I look for a place to hide. There's an alleyway five steps away from me. I walk towards it quickly while trying not to call attention to myself.
'Greggy, where're you goin'?' Tony's voice stops me. I can't leave him alone, puking into the bushes. I'd be a terrible friend to even think about it.
'Nowhere, Tony. Are you all right?' You probably won't even notice me; your new guy's too interesting. Still, I turn away from the street and hope you don't recognize the back of my head. Tony turns back to his bushes, and I can hear your laughter drifting across the street. I'm concentrating on blending in with the wall when I realize that even if you do see me, you won't want to introduce me to your date. How awkward would that be? I sigh in relief.
'Greg? Is that you?' My stomach sinks and my heart stops. It figures that the second I stop worrying you see me. I fix an expression of surprise on my face and turn around.
'Sarah-' But it's not you. The assistant professor from my biology class is there. 'Oh, Miss Thorn. What are you doing out so late?' I'm suddenly very aware of my rumpled appearance and try to quickly straighten my shirt and smooth my hair. Miss Thorn smirks and gestures to Tony.
'He a friend of yours?' She asks, the small smirk still on her face.
'Ah, yeah, that's Tony, my roommate. He's had a bit too much to drink. Obviously.' Her smirk widens into a grin that seems to fill her small face, and I feel myself smile back. My face feels stiff and I realize I haven't smiled in two weeks. From behind me, Tony groans. I turn around.
'Greggy? Can we go home now?' I help him up from his hands and knees. I face Miss Thorn with Tony leaning on my shoulder.
'I guess I'll see you in class.' She smiles and tucks a lock of her bright red hair behind her ear.
'I guess you will.' She gives a little wave, turns, and struts away. I don't generally associate the term 'strut' with a teacher, but she's only an assistant and there's really no other word for her walk. I feel a small smile on my lips and I slowly help Tony home.
'Now, who can tell me what medicine is used to treat tuberculosis, what's in it, and how it combats the disease?' Biology class has got to be one of the most boring classes. At least, it used to be before I noticed how shiny Miss Thorn's hair is. If she sits in the right light, I can see pictures in it. She tosses her hair over her shoulder and turns her face this way. I quickly bury my face in my book, and I can feel my ears turning red. I hear a soft laugh. I glance up and Miss Thorn is looking at me. 'Something funny, Miss Thorn?' Professor Tralen looks up from his lesson plans and glares at her over his glasses.
'Nothing's funny, sir.' She says in a soft voice clearly designed to charm him, and he takes the bait. The class drags on and I wonder just what was so appealing about becoming a doctor in the first place. Medicines confuse me and that was all I was going to do. I was barely getting by with you there to help me study; and now, well, I'm failing most of my premed classes; and the only classes I'm not failing are my anatomy class and the surgery class. Of course I'm not failing that. All we do is cut up cadavers and there's no pressure there. No one cares if you nick a dead guy's artery. The bell rings and I'm jolted from my thoughts. I grab all my stuff and head towards the door.
'Greg! Wait up.' Miss Thorn's high voice stops me. She comes up to me and we walk out together. 'I've noticed how you haven't been paying much attention to the lessons recently,' she says almost teasingly. I blush.
'Yah, well, a lot's been going on and it seems like the only things I can do right are cut up dead people and identify body parts.' I say and quickly realize how pathetic that sounds. I open my mouth to correct the sentence, but she cuts me off.
'You know, if you're struggling, I could always tutor you.' I gape quickly and then try to hide it with a cough.
'Uh, great, thanks! Um, when?' I manage to stutter out.
'I'm free now, we could get some lunch. I know an awesome sushi place around here,' she says, smiling up at me. She grabs my arm and pulls me toward the exit. 'Now, the first thing you have to remember is about the traces autoimmune diseases leave . . .'
After lunch, I head to my dorm to grab stuff for my next class, the mandatory math one. I haven't actually gone in a few weeks; and I debate skipping again, but failing it would halve my chances of getting a good job. I go to my room and head to my bookshelf. I search for it for a while, but it's soon obvious that the book isn't there.
'Hey, Tony, have you seen my math book?' I call.
'No,' he yells back, then comes into my room. 'You know, that is, like, the fifth time this week you've lost something. Maybe it's just not here.' Something seems to dawn on him. 'Hey, I bet it's all at Sarah's!' I freeze. It makes sense but that means- I shake my head. It's been a while and I guess going back to get my stuff wouldn't be that awkward. I think.
'I suppose I'll have to go get my stuff today.' I sigh and check my watch. 'Oh, crap, I'm going to be late! Can I borrow your book, Tony?' He chucks his book from behind him.
'I knew you'd ask that.'
I'm standing in front of your apartment, regretting saying no to Tony's offer to come with me. My breath comes in short puffs as I try to work up the courage to ring your bell. I'm about to walk up the path to the door when someone calls my name. I sigh in relief but then I turn around.
'Sarah-' I choke out. We're facing each other for the first time in weeks; and I flinch, waiting for an accusation, but your face breaks into a smile.
'I haven't seen you in forever! We have so much to talk about! Come on inside!' You say, oblivious to the emotions at war in my stomach. I want to go inside, talk to you, explain how I'm not sure what I'm going to do anymore; but I also want to run far away before I'm drawn back to you. You make my decision for me, as always, when you grab my arm and drag me inside. Three minutes later and I'm trapped in your apartment. You walk into the small kitchen and I look around. Everything is exactly how I remember it.
'You want a drink?' your voice calls.
'Uh, no, I can't, um, stay long.' I stutter. You come into the doorway, open beer in hand and a slight smug expression on your face.
'Greg, I know why you're here.' I open my mouth to speak, but you cut me off. 'No, don't say it. I'm sorry, but I've moved on. We can't be together.' My mouth drops open and I almost feel like laughing. 'I know, Greg. I was the best thing that ever happened to you. But you're just going to have to deal with it. I'm sure you'll feel better in a month or two.' You finally finish and an awkward silence fills the apartment.
'Um, I'm just here to get my stuff,' I say, and the smirk falls off your face.
'Oh,' you say. You go into your bedroom and I hear rustling and the sound of objects hitting a box hard. You stalk out and shove the box into my arms. 'Here,' you say and I can tell I'm no longer welcome. Quickly, I turn and leave.
'Nice seeing you!' I yell over my shoulder and rush outside as I am hit with a wave of relief. I can almost feel the hatred pouring from your apartment and I hurry off to my dorm to put my stuff away and finally get my life back in order.