I laid in bed with my face buried in the pillow; I had spent the last five minutes wondering why on earth we were having an earthquake in New York City. It took me another five minutes to realize that someone was shaking me, not an earthquake. I rolled onto my back and opened my eyes. My best friend and partner was standing over me.
" Sam, do you have any idea what time it is?" I asked. I began groping around on the nightstand for the alarm clock. When I finally picked it up, I showed it to Sam. It read 2:17 am.
" I know, Jack. I need you to get up and get dressed." Sam whispered.
I could feel my mouth hanging open.
" Where the hell do you think we're going at two in the morning?!" I snapped, " Why can't you go by yourself?"
I could feel his dark brown eyes staring at me in the dark.
" I don't want to go alone, Jack." He mumbled.
I let out a frustrated sigh and got up. Sam was my best friend and he sounded pretty distraught. I couldn't let him go alone. He would have guilted me into it anyway. I got dressed, found my truck keys, and we headed for the parking garage.
As we got into my truck, I began to scrutinize Sam. His hair was rumpled and tangled, and there were dark circles around his eyes; which were darting from car to car, then down to an envelope wadded up in his hands. Every few seconds he would turn it over then shake his head.
" Are you at least going to tell me where we're going?" I asked.
" I'll give you directions as we go." He said, sounding very distant.
Sam and I drove in complete silence for fifteen minutes across Brooklyn. I was worried; Sam had a truly rough childhood. Orphaned as a child, he was bounced from foster home to foster home- seventeen to be exact. In his adolescent years, he was constantly in trouble. Theft, robbery, vandalism: you name it, Sam had done it. My father was the Chief of Police in the 67th precinct of Brooklyn, and he became Sam's mentor. Sam got his grades up and graduated from high school. After that, we went to college then to the Police Academy together.
No matter how bad life got for Sam, he always managed to keep a smile on his face. Sam was always happy and optimistic and said that he wasn't scared of anything… Now, he was scaring me.
" Turn left here, then make a right." Sam mumbled, snapping me out of my trance.
I made the turns. We were driving down a dark side street.
Sam looked at me with a sidelong glance, " Pull over up here."
I pulled over and took off my seat belt. We were parked in front of the biggest Catholic Church in Brooklyn.
As long as I'd known Sam, he'd been an atheist. He always said that if there really were a God, he wouldn't have taken his parents from him and left him with no one. Sam said that if there were a " God," he wouldn't have let him bounce from home to home. If there were a " God," he wouldn't have let Sam be sexually abused in his first three foster homes.
" Jack, you can either stay here of come in with me. It's up to you," Sam said, getting out of the truck.
I scrambled across the seat after him, falling out the door and onto the ground.
" Sam…What are we doing here?" I asked.
He stopped with his back to me. He was staring at his feet.
" I'm dying Jack."
He pushed through the font doors of the cathedral. I jumped up and jogged after him.
I found him wandering through the hallways. He must have heard me coming,
" Leukosis B… I've been infected for nearly three years. Once you've had it that long, its always fatal."
I shook my head, " Why didn't you tell me?"
There was a long silence between us. He never answered my question, so I said,
" They have that machine at NYU that treats Leukosis B."
He handed me the crumpled letter.
" NYU denied me treatment this session… I'll be dead by the time the next session starts" Sam answered.
I tried to speak, but couldn't find the words. My best friend was dying and there was nothing that I could do to stop it. When I looked up, Sam was gone. He had gone into one of the confessionals that stood before me. The silence was deafening, but after a few moments I could hear faint voices.
" Bless me father, for I have sinned…It has been twenty years since my last confession."
" Twenty years my son? Why so long?"
" I lost my faith in God when I was only seven."
" Then why have you come before myself and God to confess your sins?"
Sam took a shaky breath, and began to cry, " I've come because I'm dying, Father. Leukosis B."
" Do not cry, my son… Tell me, what is it that you seek?"
" Father, I have sinned many times in my life. Many of those sins have been horrible things. Above all, I have lost my very faith and have denied God… I fear that because of these things, God will deny me salvation. I don't want to burn in Hell for all eternity. I beg your forgiveness, Father."
" My son, only God can forgive you. But, remember that the Bible says 'ask and you shall receive.' God denies no one."
" Thank you, Father…Thank you."
The confessional door swung open, almost hitting me. Sam stared at me, his face wet with tears.
" Are you ready to go home?" I asked softly.
He shook his head, " There's somewhere that I need to go."
I followed Sam down the hall and into a large sanctuary. Soft candlelight burned all around us. I stopped and sat down in a pew toward the back. I watched as Sam knelt before the altar of the Virgin Mary, and pulled a rosary from his pocket. He crossed himself and began whispering softly.
After a few minutes, Sam rose and walked past me without a word. His face was still wet with tears. I followed him back to the truck and we left for home.
The next morning we got up and got ready for work. Sam never said a word about what happened. He just got up and put on his uniform. He ate breakfast and we joked around. He was the same old Sam. But after his 2 am confession, Sam never missed a Sunday Mass. He went to confession every Saturday and became a good Catholic. I hope that it helped. I pray every night that God forgave Sam.
Three months later, on December 24, 2003, a letter came to the apartment. It was hand delivered by the Director of the NYU Medical Board. They wanted to offer Sam a spot on the next round of treatment. The letter came at 5:03 p.m. They were eight and half-hours too late, Sam had passed away at 8:35 that morning…
Sam's funeral was today. It was a big deal. Bagpipes, hundreds of cops, his friends, all coming to pay their respects. There was a huge memorial in Sam's honor. It was the most miserable day of my life.
Now, I'm sitting at the desk in the apartment. There is a picture of Sam and me at our graduation from the Police Academy on a shelf in front of me. I miss him so much…
There is a crumpled envelope in my hands.
Dear Officer Phoenix,
The results of your yearly medical exam have come back. The lab technicians found an anomaly in your blood work. The results of that blood work were sent here, to the NYU Medical Center
We regret to inform you that you carry the defective gene for Leukosis B. You have been diagnosed with the disease, and have probably been infected for at least six months. You probably contracted the disease through exposure to your partner, Sam Davey's blood.
Due to the recent death of Officer Davey, there is a spot on the list for treatment. The next session starts on January 1, 2004. Hope to hear from you soon.
Board of Directors
NYU Medical Center
Director Paula M. Mason