CANCER

ben wuest

CHARACTERS:

Me: No specific details.

You: Must look unhealthy in some fashion (pale-skinned, obese, thinned hair, sunken eyes, etc.), but no other specific details.

Luke: Early-teenaged boy, no other specific details.

SETTING:

Hospital room. You begins, lying in the bed, with Me sitting to You's side. The rest of the details are up to your imagination.

You:So, I am to die then?

Me:(pauses, then bows head) Yes.

You:Why? What have they told you?

Me: Same thing they told you, I guess, except I didn't fall out of consciousness when they told me.

You: I see.

Me: I figured you would.

You: Yeah, well, (reaches to bedside table and lifts a cigarette and a lighter) you always did know me best, didn't you? (places cigarette between lips and lights it)

Me: You shouldn't be doing that.

You: Doing what?

Me: Smoking.

You: (chuckles) What's the worst that'll happen? I'll die?

Me: (looks to feet, then up again at You) You're taking this better than I figured you would. You always were kind of hard with bad news.

You: (finally looks to Me, smirking) I can't say that it's news much at all.

Me: What do you mean?

You: (takes Me's hand in You's own, running fingers up and down the back, taking slow breaths with the occassional drag on the cigarette) I've known for some time now that I wasn't going to be lasting for too much longer.

Me: Was it…?

You: The Angel. (nods) Yes, she's been very good to me these last few years; always telling me the bad news one step ahead of everyone else.

Me: (smiles and shakes head) You just won't let that one go, will you?

You: (takes another drag) Yeah, I guess you're right. Time to let sleeping dogs lie. (turns back to Me, running fingers through Me's hair) How much more time do I have to be with you?

Me: A long time, sweetheart. Don't think about that now.

You lays flat in the bed, holding only the cigarette and lost in thought. Moments pass between the two.

Me: Things are going to be different without you. (pauses, glancing up at You) I don't know how I'm going to…

You: (rolls agilly onto side, glaring hard at Me and scolds) How dare you even begin to think like that! I've been with you for damn near seventeen years and never once have I heard such words from your lips! What would your father say if he heard what you'd just said?

Me: (bows head again) I don't know... (looks back into You's eyes) You're right.

You: You're damn right I'm right. (lays flat again and takes another drag) You're just going to have to be strong without me, you know? We've faced harder times than these. I mean, hell, we lived under the roof with Rebecca LaMont – that so-called family psychologist – for a week! Anyone who can understand her quote-unquote logic ought to be able to make it through a nuclear explosion!

They both laugh gently.

Me: (calmly) What about Luke? What do you want me to tell him?

You: They're old enough to understand the meaning of death. I'm sure you'll find a nice way to break the news to them. (takes Me's hand again) Just tell them what they want to hear; tell them that I died a happy person, and that I love them so much, and that they're going to grow into the most beautiful beings that ever lived. (pauses) Could you tell them that, for me?

Me: (kisses You's cheek) Of course, sweetheart.

You: (smiles dimly) Thank you. (looks out window across the room, at the stars) You've been so good to me. It is I that doesn't know what I'd do without you.

Me: (rolls eyes) Now you're just trying to get me to cry, aren't you?

They smile, hand in hand as they gaze into each other's eyes.

You: Where are you going to go tonight?

Me: Probably back home.

You: Are you going to sell the house?

Me: Most likely. I'll wait until the school year's out so that Luke won't have to leave mid-year.

You: Then where too?

Me: I'll follow with exactly what we discussed; we'll leave the state, possibly the country, depending on how the press handles your death. We'll start over again, like we did before, and we'll try to continue on without you. Just as we discussed.

The two rest again, thinking.

You:Will you marry?

Me:I have once before.

You: I know, but will you again?

Me:Not that I know of, yet I suppose I've been surprised many times before, huh?

You:(smiles, looking at the I.V. needles in the hand holding You's cigarette) Once or twice.

Me:(pause) Do you want me to?

You:I want you to be happy. If you ever find someone, do the right thing for yourself. (takes another drag and breathes out the smoke to the side) But I guess this is a conversation for a different day. A happier one.

Me:I'm going to miss those once you're gone.

You:(calmly throughout) Miss what? Happy days? You'll see more. You should know by now that life's road is nothing without a red stoplight every now and then; you'll be driving again soon enough.

Me:There'll be one less passenger, though.

You:Yet there will be more hitchhikers along the way, I guarantee it. Eventually Luke will grow up and you'll have to drive with their spouses and their offspring and eventually your car will run out of gas, just as mine has, and you'll join me again someday. (You smiles so gently, running fingers across Me's cheekbones to rid Me's face of two fresh tears) We can have parfaits; all the strawberries and chocolate and almonds you can choke down.

Me:You know I don't care for almonds.

You:(smiles wider) More for me then.

They laugh gently again, savoring their precious time together.

Enter Luke, not coming into the room entirely, but, more-or-less, peeking in through the door.

Luke:(shyly) Sorry for interrupting, but the doctor wanted me to tell you that you only have ten more minutes until we have to leave.

Me:Thank you, Luke. I'll be out in just a bit, then you can say good night and we'll go out for some ice cream, how's that sound?

Luke:(to You) Is everything going to be ok with you?

You:(smiles softly, tears welling up, but remaining calm) Everything's going to be just fine, Luke. We just need to talk alone a bit longer. Be a good man and wait outside for us, won't you? (Luke nods) Thank you, Luke. I love you.

Luke:(as he closes door behind him) I love you, too. See you in a bit.

The door closes and the two look back at each other.

You:He's grown-up so much, so quickly.

Me:He's a boy; he's got to.

You:It's going to be tough on him.

Me:It's going to be tough on everyone.

You:(distantly) Yes… (takes a drag, then looks back at Me) Do you remember how I want to be buried?

Me:(no hesitation) Cremated; ashes spread evenly in three different locations: some in the olive garden of your birthplace, being your favorite sanctuary as you grew up; some Sydney, where we met; the rest will be scattered into the Pacific Ocean, so that you may always be with your favorite colors.

You:(nods, voice fading almost to a whisper) This is all too much for me.

Me:I know. (takes You's hand into Me's) I know.

You:(hand still in Me's, staring now up at the ceiling fan) How much longer? Tell me the truth, please.

Me:Minutes. I can't say for sure, though.

You:(finally puts out cigarette) And how much time do you have left, until they beg you to leave me?

Me:Eight or nine.

You:Time sure is moving slower, then, isn't it?

Me:A watched clock will not tick.

A brief pause.

You:May I ask you a favor?

Me:Anything, sweetheart; anything at all, for you.

You:Walk me to the window. I wish to see the moon before I fade.

Me:But you can't…

You:Can't what? (rolls to upright position, feet hanging off edge of bed, and rips I.V. needles from wrist) Can't walk? What's the worst that will happen?

Me:But your body is too weak now! You'll surely die before they have me leave!

You:(touches toes to floor) Then let it be the way I want to die. Now then, help me stand.

Me shakes head and decides to do what is asked. Me holds You by the waist and helps You to You's feet, with You collapsing into Me's arms a bit, laughing a bit to cover the pain of a numbed body coming into contact with exerted pressure once again.

You:(laughs painfully, breathing harder now, the heart monitor beside the bed beeping faster now) It's ok. I think I can hold myself now.

Me:(holding You's hip from across You's back) I'll hold you anyway. Come here, I'll walk you to the window.

You:(slightly dragging feet beneath You while limply holding on to Me's shoulder) I love you.

Me:I love you, too. (reaches window) Here you are.

You:Sit, please.

Me sits on ledge just beside the large, open window, allowing the city glow and moonlight to fall on them. You lays against Me, cradling You's upper torso in Me's arms.

You:(ever so softly) Sing to me my favorite song. I feel that I truly am running out of time.

Me:I love you.

You: I love you, too. Please, though… sing for me.

Me:(while running fingers across You's face and hair)

(singing) Turn away, if you couldn't get me a drink

Of water because my lips are chapped and faded.

Call my Aunt Marie, help her gather all my things

And bury me in all my favorite colors,

My sisters and my brothers, still

I will not kiss you,

Because the hardest part of this

Is leaving you.

Turn away, because I'm awful just to see

Because all my hair's abandoned on my body

Oh, my agony!

Know that I will never marry

Baby, I'm just soggy from the chemo

But counting down the days to go.

It just ain't living, and I just hope you know

That if you say goodbye today

I'd ask you to be true.

Because the hardest part of this

Is leaving you.

Because the hardest part of this

Is leaving you.

You:(eyes flutter shut) As Perfect as ever. Thank you, love.

Me:Anything for you, sweetheart. Anything at all.

The heart monitor slows in its beeping in the background.

You:I'm sorry to have done this to you.

Me:(voice so near to a whisper, as is You's) How dare you even begin to think like that… I've been with you for seventeen years and never once have I heard such words from you. What would your father say?

You:(smiles softly, eyes still closed) Touche. (reaches up and wraps fingers around the back of Me's neck. words come out in quick gasps now) Kiss me one more time?

Me:(tears fall silently, but in multitudes) I'd kiss you a thousand more. (hesitates) Be my Angel, sweetheart. Be my Angel and don't let me fall.

You:You got it.

They kiss. Soon after, You falls limp in Me's arms. Lights fade.

Fin.