New month, wow. Feels like it passed in the blink of an eye...Heh. I’m stalling, though. I have some really good news, actually. Ryan called me to see if I wanted to come with him to go visit his mom, and I went with him. Something remarkable happened; when he held her hand and talked to her, she murmured something in her sleep. She didn’t wake up, but it’s the most activity they’ve seen her display in years. The doctors are amazed, but they said if she’s able to do that, she may wake up soon. Ryan excused himself to the bathroom to go have a manly private cry, and ended up calling the doc to let him know what had happened. He was happy for him, of course. I didn’t catch the rest of the conversation they had cause Ryan walked outside the hospital, but he seemed pretty chipper when he got back inside. He thanked me for coming along with him today and gave me a totally straight, no-homo hug, as he put it. Heh. He’s a bit of a dumbass sometimes, but that’s why I like him.
Later on, I had my call with the doc myself. I mostly talked about Ryan’s good fortune and how great things were going at my new job. Ben seemed particularly interested that I actually knew Ryan, even sounding a little surprised when I first brought him up.
“Hang on...Ryan Claymont?”
“Yeah, do you know him? Me and Ryan go way, way back. Well, him, Amy and I. We grew up in the same town and all.”
Ben was quiet for a few moments, eventually letting out a chuckle.
“What a small world it is indeed...Well, I’m pleased to hear of Ryan’s good fortune. He called me earlier to tell me his mother was beginning to show signs of recovery, as well, though of course I’m sure that you knew that. It makes me relieved to no end to know she may be making a full recovery. I don’t mean to divulge information on my patients, but since you’ve known him for so long I suppose it’s quite alright.”
Ben paused for a moment, like he was choosing his words carefully.
“Ryan’s a very strong man. He doesn’t like to talk about his feelings, or things that hurt him. Surprising, for a man who works at a hair salon. Though I do not mean to stereotype, ha ha. He’s opened up to me subconsciously about the impact his mother’s coma has had on him; he doesn’t talk about it explicitly, but there are certain mannerisms I can pick up on in his patterns of speech and in the way he dances around the topic in conversation. Although...I don’t think you exactly need a doctorate to tell he’s hurting. For as machismo as he may act, he’s definitely not as subtle as he thinks.”
“...Yeah. I go with him sometimes to see her. I didn’t get to talk to her much before the coma, but it just feels right to go with him when I can. I think...It’s less about me going because i feel an obligation to see her, but more because I know he feels better having me there. Like he can be stronger because of me. Does that make sense?”
“Oh, most certainly. Part of the reason I decided to tell you all of this, James, is that I am very much glad Ryan has someone like you in his life. You may not fully realize it, or only see bits and pieces of the bigger picture, but the truth is that you’re a positive force he desperately needs. Please, do both he and I a favor and reach out to Ryan more. His mother may be improving health-wise, but she’s not out of the proverbial frying pan just yet. In the coming weeks and potentially even years, he’s going to need you around to be a sort of ‘rock.’ I am confident you can do that, James.”
I didn’t know what to say. Nobody’d ever told me anything like that before...But it made sense. I could tell by the way Ryan hugged me, by the way that I was able to get him laughing again pretty quickly and how he smiled; he definitely needed the camaraderie I offered today. I nodded slowly, and then realized that doc couldn’t possibly hear that and kind of internally smacked my forehead.
“...I understand. I’ll do my best to be there for him.”
Ben started talking like he was grinning from ear-to-ear again, and I couldn’t help but to smile too. His positivity was infectious.
“I’m deeply grateful. I look forward to hearing from him next, and seeing if he’s relaxed some since our last scheduled check-in. Now, was there anything else you wanted to talk to me about?”
“Heh, yeah, me too.”
It took me a while to consider his question, thinking about everything that’d happened during the week leading up to today. Suddenly, like a freight train barreling down its rails and slamming full-force into a cow wandering across the tracks, the memory of that strange text returned to me.
“Uh...There was one thing, Ben. I don’t know, it’s probably just nothing, but it was definitely weird.”
He dropped the smiling tone for one of curiosity then.
“Oh? What happened, James?”
I don’t know why, but I felt almost...Guilty? For bringing it up to him, like a voice in my head was telling me it was a mistake. But hey, if he didn’t want to occasionally hear stupid stories, he shouldn’t have publicly posted his phone number in one of the most popular cafes in town.
“I...Got a really weird text. I thought it was from Amy’s number, but she’s registered in my phone under her name, so it would’ve just told me it was from her instead of only displaying the number.”
“What was the text, James?”
It’s difficult to explain, but I got this feeling when he asked that that made my entire chest feel cold. I gulped. For some reason. I didn’t understand why I felt so nervous about this, but some kind of instinct somewhere deep down was saying I was doing something wrong.
“It was, um, a voice memo. I couldn’t make anything they said out, though, it was mostly just static. Then my phone rebooted itself and I haven’t been able to find it since. I think it was just a prank or something.”
Ben was silent for a few moments, before he eventually spoke once more. He sounded slightly shaken, though his composure was rapidly returning and after the first couple words it was impossible to tell at all.
“Yes, likely that. There are a great deal of bored, unemployed youths out there with phones and a great deal of time to waste. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, James. If it happens again, you can always try and report the number to the authorities. I believe our state has some laws about prank callers...Either way, I’m sorry to hear it unsettled you. I can see how such an eerie message would! Take solace in the fact that it was a silly prank, and do your best to put it behind you. Sound good?”
By the end of his sentence, I could hear the smile in his voice again and that put me at ease. I don’t know what was up with the anxiety that welled up in my body for a moment, but it was now gone, and I was grateful.
“Yeah, doc, sounds good. I’ll call you again next week, okay?”
“Actually, James, I was wondering if you might like to have our next meeting in person? I’ve been freshening up the lab somewhat and I think it would be a shame if I never saw any company. I can prepare some tea for us, and pick up some pastries from somewhere local. I believe Amy may join us, as well. Do you like that idea?”
I was surprised, but honestly pretty flattered he’d invite me over in-person. I told him I liked the idea, he told me the lab’s address, and so it was scheduled; I was to go to Ben’s lab in a week. I hopped on a bus to get home, and, to my delight, my favorite spot was unoccupied. So were all of the ones to my left and my right. It seemed like as soon as I sat down, a bunch of passengers stood up in near-unison and migrated further up the bus. I was a little perplexed, but I didn’t want to question my nice window seat away from others. I drifted off into a quick cat-nap as I watched the rain drops roll down the window pane slowly.