At the Hospital -- flash fiction by Daniel Boyko
At the hospital, it is lonely. Not all the time, of course, especially when John at the front desk says hi to me, or when Katie, the security officer, asks how I did on the bio test, but often. There are days when I forget who it is I am seeing. The life has left your face so dry, so gray, that for a moment—only a moment, never more—I forget who you are, who you were. These are the bad days.
There are good days, too, but they’re rare. I’ll bring you a small malted chocolate shake from the local ice cream shop, and you’ll ask why I didn’t bring the large. “What? This isn’t Weight Watchers,” you’ll say, grinning. You’ll ask for me to stroll you around the back of the hospital, where they have a small rose garden. On these days, I sometimes forget why you’re even in the hospital, why you’re not back home gardening your flowers.
Up above I lied. The bad days are bad, but there are worse days, and those, we both know, are really the bad days. You’ll recognize my face and who I am, even if I don’t recognize you, and that’s what hurts. “Go home,” you’ll say softly but sternly. “You don’t want to see me die. It’s not a pretty sight. It’s not a pretty smell.”
Today is a good day. When I look at your face, it’s exactly that: your face, full of life. The gray already gone. You’re laughing about something—what, I don’t know, but I keep laughing, too.
Tomorrow will be a bad day. Maybe a worse day. I can already feel it. When I think about it, deeply think about it, the room starts to enclose around me. The ceiling caves in. The slanted windows press close. The tiled ground trembles. But for now, I keep laughing with you, and the room turns back to normal.
Daniel Boyko is a writer from New Jersey. His work appears or is forthcoming in SOFTBLOW, Nanoism, Blue Marble Review, and The Aurora Journal, among others. He serves as Editor-in-Chief of Polyphony Lit. Wherever his dog is, he can’t be far behind.