Need Someone

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Chapter 5 - Getting Out

Two days later, I walked into a conversation between my two favorites. “You can’t leave until you poop, Mr. Ziegler. You know that.” Theresa scolded him. He stood in the hall holding his IV stand. “Just because you’ve been downing every laxative in the hospital doesn’t mean your body will cooperate. If anything, you’re encouraging a blowout.”

“Dammit, Theresa,” he said in jest. “I just want to go outside for a little bit before I’m stuck in here forever.”

Ziggy chose to go through the treatment, and I had mixed feelings about it. I wanted him to fight it, of course, but I didn’t think he fully understood what it would be like.

Theresa saw me approaching and smiled. “Maybe if you ask your favorite nurse real nice, she’ll walk you around a bit to get the gears turning.”

He looked over at me pleadingly. “Please?”

“Sure. Come on.” I took the saline back from the stand and held it for him. “You better not pass out on me again.”

“Too soon,” he laughed.

We walked together down the long hall to the elevators and I heard his breathing become labored. As we waited, he leaned against the rail and panted. “Why am I so fucking tired?”

“You had surgery a few days ago. Your body is trying to recover.”

“They didn’t even do anything.”

“They did more than you think. You need rest. I’ll get you a wheelchair just in case.”

I grabbed one from up the hall. It was fancy and felt expensive. It folded into a compact size and rolled smooth and quiet. We only made it out of the elevator and a few steps up the hall when he stopped. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Do you want to head back?” I asked him. He didn’t answer right away. He looked distracted. In pain, as usual, but this time, it seemed like it was more than physical.

“I wanna see where it is,” he said.

“Where what is?”

“The cancer wing.”

I took him across the skywalk to the oncology wing. The skywalk wasn’t the most direct path, but the sunny corridor overlooking the campus gardens was sure to ease the darkness of what we were doing. The lush green of the trees and tall grasses shrouded the paved sidewalks that snaked paths between the wings. Ziggy put his weight along the railing and stared through the windows. His slow gait grew slower, but not because he was tired.

When we made it to the next set of doors, I hoped he would like what he saw as much as I did. The doors slid open to the main lobby and he stopped.

The lobby was beautiful, the circular layout open and scattered with various seating arrangements. Couches and lounge chairs covered in pillows and blankets, all in the wing’s color scheme of indigo and navy blue. Sunlight swam over the dark colors and gave the space, while large, a scaled-down, comfortable feel. The nurse’s stations were tucked away to decrease the hospital ambiance even further.

It was difficult for me to avoid coming here on breaks. Something about this room, the patients, the families . . . it put things into perspective and made me feel grounded. Thankful.

Ziggy hadn’t said a word. “The chemotherapy room has the best views of the beach,” I told him to break the silence. It gave the patients something beautiful to look at while they had to sit and wait. They deserved that and so much more.

Ziggy looked it all over. His expression was as close to a smile as he was willing to allow. “Maybe it won’t be so bad.”

“Maybe,” I repeated.

“Agh!” he clenched his stomach.

“What’s wrong? Is it your incision?”

“No, I think I . . . I think I need to go,” he said with a pained smile.

I grinned and unfolded the chair. “Get in.”

I rushed him to the nearest bathroom as nonchalantly as I could, and to our luck, it was empty when we went in. I rolled him to the accessible stall and went around to help him up. He reached for the grab bar to help him stand and I saw it in his face.

He went limp, but I was ready. I caught him under the arms and braced myself against the partition. He slumped in my arms but I managed to keep him somewhat on his feet. I took some deep breaths, giving myself a moment to steady myself.

His head was laid back and I couldn’t feel him breathe but I didn’t let myself get concerned just yet. I jostled him in my arms. “Ziggy?” No response. “Ziggy,” I said again.

I felt his chest rise against mine. His head lifted and his eyes fluttered open. With confusion, he looked around and quickly figured it out. “Goddammit,” he complained.

“It’s okay. I’ve got you.”

He reached for the grab bars behind him and helped me get him back onto his feet. He relaxed back with a sigh then his eyes went wide. “Oh no. Fuck . . .”

“What?” He covered his face with a hand I looked down to see the small mess at the back of his thin pants. “Oh, Ziggy, don’t worry. We’ll get this cleaned up.” I ran out of the stall to grab some supplies from the bathroom closet and went back to him.

He braced himself against the grab bar, hiding his face in the crook of his arm.

I removed his pants, helped him onto the toilet, and put on the gloves. I knew he is embarrassed, but I wished he knew how little it affected me. I’ve had much worse happen to me over the years. Involuntary bodily functions were extremely low on my list. I grabbed some sanitary wipes and reached for him. He grabbed them from me angrily. “Stop it! You don’t have to clean me like a fucking child!”

“Okay,” I surrendered. I handed him the wipes and move to clean up the rest. I folded the pants into the towel and placed them both into the bag. I stopped when I heard him sob.

The sound was heartbreaking. I looked over and found him covering his eyes with a hand, his face tensed and red beneath it. “Ziggy, stop. You have nothing to be upset about.”

“It’s fucking mortifying,” he cried.

“No, it’s not.” I placed my hands on his legs as I crouched in front of him. “You’re sick, Ziggy. This happens, more than you’d think. This is nothing.”

“I’m just sick of it.” He wiped his eyes, but more tears came. “I’m sick of being sick.”

“I know. I know you are. But you can get better.”

“Yeah, sure.” He was not being himself. He was embarrassed and throwing a pity party.

“You passed out. Your body is doing anything but what you want it to right now.” That didn’t seem to help. He needed the dark humor he’s so used to. “Shit happens, Ziggy. Literally. What adult can say they haven’t shit themselves or come frighteningly close? No one that isn’t lying.” He sighed but didn’t crack a smile. “I’ve done it and I wasn’t sick. Just drunk. Well . . . one time was sober. Twice, actually. But in my defense, I was in a very toxic relationship with Chipotle in college,” I joked.

He laughed. I smiled with relief. He peeked at me from under his hand. “Stop it,” he said. He combs his hand into his hair and smiled wider.

I removed my gloves and wiped a tear just beneath his eye. “I’m going to go grab you a change of clothes, okay?” He nodded. “I’ll be right back. Don’t move.”

“Wasn’t planning on it.”

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