Bobby studies the floor as he holds the phone over the railing waiting for the message to finish playing. The volume is high and it bounces off the walls of the stairwell. He’s heard it a thousand times on his way over to the hospital. His head aches with thoughts, his pulse is on the verge of exploding from anxiety, and his eyes are tired from crying. He tries his best to remain collective and calm; not making eye contact with Gloria helps.
Gloria’s back is pressed against the wall, listening painfully as she bites her tongue, trying to hold in the tears. She had planned to tell Bobby everything herself but as soon as she had tried to get a word out he had hushed her with hand movements. He hasn’t once looked at her but had immediately pulled out his phone before any words could be passed between them. When the message had started to play tears had instantly flowed down to her neck. She didn’t bother to wipe them off, she was too busy trying not to vomit and decided to stay as still as possible.
The message ends and it’s quiet for a few minutes. The tension between these two is so intense one would never know that they were, until now, childhood best friends.
“This,” breaking the silence, Gloria made circular motions with her arms, “this was all a mistake,” she whispers, her bottom lip dropping. She tries her best to talk clearly but her throat aches so bad that it constantly cracks on her. She occasionally pauses to catch her breath or clear her throat. “I love Sara like a sister, you know that.” Her heart can not stand the tension and more than anything she needed him. She was okay with him being her best friend, plain old friend, a memory, just as long as she could call him hers; her something, anything but her enemy. “Bobby,” she moves closer to him now only a arm span away. He turns to the side so that his shoulder now leans on the wall, his gaze facing the stairs in front of him.
Before today he would have felt some sympathy towards her but now her whining just made him want to throw her down the seven flights of stairs below.
“I really need you to say something to me,” she pleads.
Hearing her talk about anything remotely related to herself provokes him. “Why the hell do you think what you need or what you want matters right now?” His voice is a low growl.
She looks up, stunned. “No, no you don’t understand.”
“I don’t understand?” He faces her, looking in her dark eyes. “I was going to tell her today. That’s something you probably didn’t understand,” his finger pokes her chest as he emphasized the you. “How did you honestly think she was going to react when you told her? Was this about jealousy? You may have damaged her for life just because you were jealous of the fact that I’m in love with her. I’ve always been in love with her!” He looks up at the ceiling covering his face. “If only it was you,” he mumbles in his hands.
Gloria whips her head in his direction, like he had slapped her, “What…” she covers her mouth. “You don’t mean that. Mmm mmm,” she harshly shuts her eyes shaking her head vigorously until her back hits the wall. Her sobs were strong, and filled with so much hurt.
“Shut uP!” He marches towards her, grabs her by the collar and slams her on the wall as if she was a dude. Her petite body trembles under his shadow in her head she cannot fully phantom the scenario happening right now. “Yes, I said it! I wish it had been you. You couldn’t even stop her Gloria, you just… Why didn’t you? Why?!” He pulls her away from the wall only to slam her back again before he releases her. Her back scrapes the wall as she slides down, gasping for breath, coughing, and wheezing. Her hair sticks to her snotty, wet face and in between breaths it lifts a little from her lips. Bobby puts his hands up in surrender and begins to take steps backwards. He squeezes his eyes shut for a while, not really sure why, perhaps it’s to stop the tears or make this all go way; either way it doesn’t help. Then all at once he halts and stares at her with fiery eyes. She’s still trembling and now it looks like she’s trying to talk between gasp of breaths.
Pathetic he thinks to himself. In a daze he continues in monotone “If she wakes up with brain damage… I swear…Gloria ugh. Honestly,” he bites his bottom lip, “I don’t want to see your face again.” With that, he thrust open the doors leading to the hospital halls and in tearful eyes he stumbles over his feet. Behind him he hears Gloria’s screams descending with each step, she was saying she was sorry. The sound of her voice only repulses him more.
Everything around him seems really intense. The bright lights in the halls makes him feel like there’s a lighthouse directly facing him, stinging his sore eyes. Nurse’s shoes squeak across the floor as they enter and exit rooms carrying medical tools. He wonders if he’s passed any who cared for Sara when she first came in. For an hour now he’s been wandering without a destination, head down, hands in his jean pockets studying the white and occasionally scattered blue/purple tiles. It was an alarmingly calming task that seemed necessary, to him. It’s like his mind refused to think about anything else but the tiles paying close attention to each one. He even took note of all the gum and the footprints on the floor; he would not let anything distract him from counting, he only looked up now because he had reached a dead end.
He finds himself in the cafeteria, surprised it’s open this late. He looks at his watch and realizes it’s 6:40 in the morning. Could the surgery be over already, he thought.
“Can I get you anything, sir?” Bobby looked up to see a teenage boy behind the counter smiling with his very large, very buck, white, teeth.
“Nah, man.” Bobby shooed him away with his hand.
He pulls out his phone to double-check the time. 6:42. If there was any news his brother would call. But wasn’t the surgery suppose to take 6 hours, it’s been that long already. Even more. Why hasn’t anyone called? He found a bench to sit on and lowered his head between his legs. His phone beeps and he nearly drops it as he stumbles it out of his pocket. Clicking over to his messages he releases his breath as soon as he sees it’s just Gloria’s mom, Linda.
I can’t find Gloria, it said. Bobby huffed, shaking his head “unbelievable.” He shoves his phone back in his pocket, leaving the cafeteria.
He manages to find the rest room. Standing in front of the sink he studies his reflection. His usually neat brown set of curls looked like a dirty, flat mop sitting on his head. His 17 year old baby face and usual sandy brown skin now looks pale, and his eyes carry large bags. He wonders why his eyes are so heavy, so dry, but then realizes that he hasn’t slept in the past 24 hours. He turns the cold faucet on full blast, and states at it, wishing it was his thoughts that were swirling down the drain instead. The water drowns out the sound of his phone that’s been vibrating like it’s been having seizures for the past fifteen minutes. He knew it was Lynda, he had switched her notifications to vibrate only. The sudden noise of the door swinging open startles him and he slightly tilts his head to peep at the guy coming in, it’s his brother, Mark. Mark walks in slowly and yawns a few times. He almost looks as tired as Bobby but it doesn’t look like he’s been crying at all. Mark doesn’t see Bobby standing there right away, but when their eyes meet they both reach for a hug.
“Man!Where have you been?” Mark exclaims holding Bobby back by the shoulders. “You alright?”
Bobby shrugs walking back to the mirror. “I’ve been waiting for your call. Any news?”
“My phone died. I’ve been looking for you. She’s out of surgery but hasn’t woken up yet. Everyone is here man, the waiting room is crowded. We’re all just waiting now, you know.”
“How long has she been out?”
“A couple of hours.”
“And she hasn’t woken up?”
“No, her parents are in the room with her. They’ve been just waiting, everyone has. So… have you seen Gloria, I know know she went looking for you?”
Bobby chuckles. Was he ever going to stop hearing about Gloria? He squeezes the sink with both hands at its corner, eyes studying the floor.
“What’s so funny?” Mark stands next to him, eyeing him with concern.
“Bobby, no one has seen her for hours. Her mom is freaking out. I know she’s been trying to reach you, why not answer?”
Mark’s annoyed. “Man do you know where she is or not?”
“Damn! I don’t know where she is,ok? The last thing on my mind right now is that thing.
“Hey” Mark steps back, Bobby stands up, “hold on now… What happened? You’re honestly blaming her right now? You’ve all been friends since you were like, what three? You don’t think she’s hurting?” Mark nudges him, “Hey, look they had a fight, not the first time. No one could predict that Sara would run off and get into a car crash. Gloria doesn’t need this right now, no one does.”
Bobby bangs his fist on the sink. ” don’t come around here trying to preach at me! You don’t even know what the fight was about .”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course it does!”
“No, it doesn’t Bobby”
“Just shut up, shut up and listen .” He pulls out his phone and plays the same message he played for Gloria hours ago.
It was Sara’s raspy voice, it was clear that she was crying:
Bobby, is this real? Is… I don’t believe this, I don’t believe this can happen not to you Bobby, not you. …I love you, you gotta know I love you. Gloria told me everything, she told me. She thinks I’m stupid, I’m selfish, that it’s been obvious for so long that you loved me. Honestly Bobby I do too but you never told me! You never…..I thought…I decided I would just love you as my brother. My brother, my very special brother. But, this cancer, you’ve had it for so long, I mean I really do think understand. 10 months to live, how could you keep this from me? Why, why didn’t you come to me? I’m here. I’ve always been here for you.… I’m coming over alright, I need to see you, okay? Just be home. Please….be home.
Bobby’s hands shake as he struggles to fit the phone back in his pocket. He begins to laugh and cry uncontrollably, looking up at his brothers stunned face. “Yeah, I know!” He can’t stop shaking.
Mark grabs him, tight, trying to get him under control.
Bobby smothers his face on one of marks shoulder, pounding his fist on the other. His cries are muffled but the pain of the cry could be heard all the same.
Mark wants to comfort him there’s no good news to give. So, he just keeps squeezing him, silently crying along.
A while later, they both agree to see Sara and wait. As Bobby goes in the room, Lynda is on her way out. Seeing him, she floods him with questions only giving him time to glance over at Sara; still sleep.
“Not now, not now,” he walks into the room and she tries to follow him but Mark blocks her way.
Bobby stands at the foot of the bed. She looks so beautiful he thinks to himself. He can still recognizes her angelic huge eyes, even with them closed. Her head is wrapped in a bandage but a thick bush of hair peeps out in the center. From where he stands he only notices one scar under her eye. Her dark brown skin glows and she looks so warm, so soft. He just wants to touch her, feel what she feels like.
He glances at her parents, sitting in chairs beside her bed. They look horrible, distressed; the wife lays on her husband’s lap as he rubs her back, soothing her. He’s the only one who had acknowledged Bobby when he came in,giving him a quick, dull, nod. His gaze is now back on his daughter.
Linda is getting louder and her voice now leaking in the room. Bobby turns to the door, deciding it was best to leave the room out of respect, at least for Sara.
“You need to back off!” He says as he steps out.
She just yells back just as loud and just as fast. “I’ll back off when you tell me where my daughter is. I seen you with her last and then I heard her crying but I couldn’t figure out where she was. You need to tell me where my daughter is!” Neither his anger nor his height intimidate her, he was just a little a boy to her and she wasn’t about to back down until she found Gloria. She stood up tall, looking directly up at him, letting him know that she was serious.
Bobby glares back, nostrils flared. “I never want to see your loser of a daughter again.” He feels the quick hard smack of her hand across his face. He looked back at her enraged but said nothing.
“How dare you! How da–” Linda’s husband pulls her back from behind.
“Honey, now isn’t the time. We should go” She tried to pull away, reaching for bobby, like a cat clawing for defense but with his force he easily managed to grab hold of her. “Shhh…” He rubs her hair and comforts her until she stops resisting and collapses in his arms.
“She will never forgive herself Pablo, she’ll never forgive herself” She cries, grabbing onto his arms.
Bobby stands watching, holding the side of his cheek, still feeling its sting. He backs into the nearest corner and sinks to the floor holding his knees. “Wake up. Wake up. Wake up. Sara wake up!” He put his head between his knees, he cant breath.
His mom pops up, out of nowhere, hearing all the commotion. She rushes to him “Bobby,” she says, kneeling down to his eye level. “Bobby, honey look at me. He looks up and she grabs his face with both her hands.
“Why hasn’t there been any news mom? Why don’t they know anything? It’s killing me mom, it’s killing me.”
“Bobby listen to me, I just came from Sara’s room, the doctors where there. Listen honey, it’s not good news and I know this is unreal and awful. But…Sara, she’s not going to wake up. Bobby, Sara is brain dead.”