Siobhain, the undead
I’ve always hated hospitals. Still, I’ve spent so much time in them that they feel like a second home. To begin with, I used to work in one, and my dad’s health was never too great, either; he was always in and out of the Johnson Unit or falling down and busting himself up. And given the life that I’ve led, I’ve needed a few surgeries and detox sessions myself. Worst though, I’ve seen a number of friends for the last time in a hospital bed.
The one I remember the most was Siobhain. She was my first kiss. She also used to let me copy her homework in high school; she was Valedictorian, aspiring to become an MD at Brown University. The doctors weren’t really sure what she had; all they knew was that it was killing her. Her fever topped out around 106 and she was hallucinating. Because they believed it might be some unknown, communicable disease, I could only see her through thick glass. The last time she recognized me as Knox, she looked up and smiled at me, slowly lifting her finger with the glowing red glucose meter. She pointed at me and said one word: “Ouch.”
I wanted to stay by her side until the very end but the military sent me down to Panama to shoot at coked up 14-year-old freedom fighters—another story all together. When I returned I inquired as to her whereabouts at the hospital.
“We are not at liberty to share that information with you, sir,” they said.
I asked all over town. Everyone told me she was dead. Even her parents said that her body had been flown back to Ireland to be buried in a family plot.
The news wasn’t easy to swallow, especially since I had just been dishonorably discharged after killing people for my country, and my fiancée, Rita, had taken up with someone else. It took about a year of heavy drinking and cruising from one bed to another to sort of, kind of, dull the memory and feeling. And then I went clean for a stint, during which time I found a way to wrap my head around the situation and come to terms with her death and my sense of loss. I was doing so well, cruising on the straight and narrow, and my best friend, Caleb, said I should let loose a little bit. He and his girlfriend, Tovah, decided to take me out to a strip club in Sparks, NV, for my “un-birthday,” and they bought me a lap dance. As “Star” went to work on me I noticed a familiar face onstage.
No. It couldn’t be, I thought. Much to “Star’s” dismay, I pushed her off of me and walked to the stage to see Siobhain pole dancing to Marilyn Manson’s “The Dope Show.”
Our eyes locked and she froze. I could feel my eyes dilate; it was my sympathetic nervous system kicking into gear: the “fight or flight” mechanism, as they call it in hospitals.
“Knox!” she squealed, leaping off the stage into my arms.
There were so many questions to be answered but I was too much in shock to ask. She invited me back to her place after her shift and I left Caleb and Tovah at the club.
Siobhain lived in a trailer on the outskirts of town. It was a real shithole. Looking around, I noticed her laundry was rotting in the hamper. Trash covered the floors. I saw a cockroach crawl across her mattress.
“Want a bump?” she asked.
To this day, I’m not sure what upsets me more: that the doctors didn’t know what to do and her fever caused brain damage; that her parents disowned her because of subsequent actions related to it; or, that her club manager got her hooked on crystal meth.
What gets me the most, I think, is I felt for a moment she had been better off dead. And who knows for sure? Maybe it would have just been me who was better off.
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