I wish I could say I understood her. The way she arrives with a smile on her face and a spring in her step confuses me. I’ve never been able to understand why she asks me for a nickel for the bus when she knows I’m dead broke; or why she says that’s okay, and then with the next breath, I love you. What have I ever done to be loved? I sit here day after day, begging for food, water, and a little sunlight, and after I get those necessities of life, I go back to ignoring her. I have tubes down my arms and down my throat. I can’t piss on my own. A tube does it for me. She persists — telling me she loves me, as if I’m paying attention. As if I care. She says she has hope I’ll get better, but I think hope is best served cut into pieces and deep-fried. There is no hope left for me.
One morning she didn’t show up on time. I waited and waited, wondering if there had been an accident. Was she now like me? Was she stuck in an iron prison with handlebars sticking out of the back like I was? Was she trapped under her car, unable to get out, like I was last June? Did her back snap in half in the wrong place? Were we now the same? When she finally showed, she apologized. Had to go to the doctor, she said. Forgot to tell me she was going to be late. It was cancer, she said. An inoperable tumor. I found myself comforting her as the tears flowed down her face, imitating the saline flowing into my arm. I fed her a bit of my uneaten hope and assured her I had enough for the both of us.
Kristin Lea Berry is a graduate of The Ohio State University’s creative writing program. She has a passion for writing fiction and poetry, the stranger the better.