PART IV OF V
IWhen he asks how you are, you tell Sam you’re happy. Like, sickly happy. Like, the kind of happy you know can’t last because you’re you and you aren’t dealing with other shit, but right now, you don’t care. You should care.
IIWaking up in a hospital bed in Lake Oswego with no memory of the night before is vastly different from waking up in a stranger’s hotel bed in Downtown Portland. Your eyes are still glued shut, your head is still throbbing, your mouth is still dry and bitter-tasting, but the pain is so exaggerated that it seems like a caricature of itself. You feel naked, but you’re covered by a hospital gown, and you don’t have any bruises from a faceless man you slept with - no hickeys along your neck and collarbone, no handprints on your hips. You do, however, have a cannula pumping oxygen into your nostrils and a catheter draining urine from your bladder. You have another cannula in your left arm that’s attached to an IV line. Your left index finger is clamped into a pulse oximeter, and the sound you wake up to is not the sound of your phone vibrating, but rather that of your heartbeat being monitored by an EKG beep, beep, beeping like a metronome in the otherwise silent, white room that slowly comes into focus as you force your eyes open. What have you done to yourself? The boy you love is sleeping next to you, although not in the way you want him to be. He’s sitting in a chair beside your bed, his body contorted uncomfortably so that he can put his head down on the stiff mattress beside you, cradled in his arms atop a sea of sterile sheets and a blanket that’s too thin. His mess of blond hair is obscuring most of his face, but you can see that his eyes are closed, and you can hear him breathing deeply in between your heartbeats. You know someone with a medical degree must have told him you’d be alright, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to sleep no matter how tired he was - if not because he loves you back, then because of his anxiety. He could be on the other end of a panic attack for all you know. You asshole. What have you done to him? He wakes when the fingers of your right hand close around his arm, and he sits up, staring at you with eyes red from exhaustion - from crying, too, maybe. When he reaches for your hand, his is slick with stress sweat, but you take it without hesitation, sliding your fingers into the spaces between his, where they fit so effortlessly. You care more about reassuring him than you do about the state you’re in. You would have moved mountains for that sweaty palm. Finally, his voice interrupts the EKG’s beeping with a heartbreaking quiver. “Hey,” he says. “Hey,” you say. You sound as shitty as you look. Milo tells you that Alex found you in a stupor at the party you went to last night, barely breathing, and called for help. Pushed you into the recovery position. Covered you with her jacket. Rode with you in the ambulance. Called him from your cell phone because he’s the only number in your Favorites and stayed at the hospital until he got there. Stayed at the hospital for some time afterward, actually. At first, you don’t know who he’s talking about, but when he describes her to you, you realize that Alex must be what Berry Seltzer Girl’s real name is. You should’ve let her introduce herself. Better, you should’ve remembered what her name was. You blacked out at two on Saturday morning and it’s ten now. It’s been eight hours and you still aren’t completely sober.
IIIThe doctor tells you that your blood alcohol level was 0.38 when you were brought into the emergency room. That’s approximately a pint of hard liquor circulating in your blood at one time, and there’s no sugar-coating it: you should be dead. You would be dead if Berry Seltzer Girl hadn’t intervened. You know it even without someone with a medical degree having to tell you, and the worst part is that Milo knows, too. Though he would never demand one - at least, not while you’re lying in a hospital bed recovering from alcohol poisoning - Milo looks at you with silent expectation, wordlessly asking you for an explanation you’re unable to give him. You’ve never seen him look more scared, and you’ve never hated yourself more than you do in this moment, right now. You want to hold him tight in your arms and give him the answers he’s searching for, the answers he deserves, but you have none. All you can do is look back at him and apologize. You’re sorry. You’re so, so sorry. You didn’t mean for this to happen. You’ve lived most of your life wanting to hurt yourself, you’ve treated your mortality like the punchline of a joke for as long as you can remember, but you’ve never wanted to die. Not… really. Not like this, anyway. Of course, intention doesn’t count for much when you’ve nearly killed yourself regardless, does it?