He said it so confidently, so seriously, I almost believed him.
And then he told me how she just had to break it off with her husband who was in room 3B. But the man in 3B wasn’t going to let her go without a fight and that’s what all the commotion was about. Why everyone was crying and yelling.
He said it was a love triangle and then he added… the man at the end of the hall would be fine with a threesome, but he’d never admit it to the woman. I shake my head remembering how he said it, baiting me and waiting for a response I didn’t give him.
Each time someone would walk past his room, he’d create a dialogue on what they thought of the adulteress and the sordid affair that never took place. Some of his comments made me genuinely laugh.
The first time I let the smile show on my face, he laughed and then I with him.
He would break up the time with stories that didn’t matter, stories you could get lost in. I let myself get lost in them too, because the man in 3B was always angry due to having Alzheimer’s and not knowing why he was there. And the man at the end of the hall was violent because he wanted to end it all and we had to strap him down to keep him from doing just that. All over a job he’d lost. It was just a job and just an income. But the debt was too much for him to bear.
Real life didn’t matter in Marky’s stories though, and amid the chaos, the rounds of delivering pills and checking on patients, Marky’s stories made some horrific days tolerable.
No matter how bad the days got though, going home I felt accomplished, needed, and like the chaos was worth it.
The man at the end of the hall found a way out of the hole he’d dug himself with bankruptcy. The man in 3B remembered some of the best times of his life when his family came and they’d just come two weeks ago before I was told to go on leave; it made all the difference for him.
I still don’t know about the woman who just came in. She’s not from around here and we were told to keep her “attendance” – as they called it – private.
I wasn’t even given her full name, only initials.
I miss the chaos, I miss Marky’s stories, I even miss my boss and the bullshit rotating schedule. I miss my mind being occupied.
Right now, in the quietness of Jase’s bedroom, I’d prefer to be in the halls of the Rockford Center, wondering what everyone else’s story is and helping them with their tales, rather than having to face my own.
A creak in the hall catches my attention. A sputtering in my chest echoes to the pit of my stomach. “Jase?” I call out when the door doesn’t open.
It’s his own bedroom, so if he wanted to come in, surely he would.
But the door doesn’t open and I’m left staring at a doorknob I haven’t dared touch and wondering what the fuck I’m doing.
Neither of us spoke last night really. Which is for the best. I don’t trust the words coming out of my mouth when he’s near me.
So we didn’t speak, apart from the necessary details.
Half a bottle of zinfandel, a full dish of chicken parmesan, and a soft pillow in a quiet house, with the firm chest at my back of a man who says he’ll keep me safe… and I fell asleep. A deep sleep, one where you don’t move and you don’t dream, because your body sleeps just as heavily as your mind.
That’s the kind of sleep I had and then I woke up to a note from Jase, letting me know that he’d be back later tonight and to “make myself comfortable.”
I’ve been torn and now I’m breaking down. If I were at work right now, visitors might think I should be in one of the rooms, rather than in my scrubs holding a tray of medication to dish out.
Do I love Jase? I don’t know. It’s easy to want love when you’re hurting. It’s easy to hold on to anything that could fill the void pain has caused. I don’t know what’s real, and what’s the product of coping.
Does Jase Cross love me? No. He doesn’t. Not at all.
I think he feels bad for me. It’s all sympathy. The way he looked at me tonight said it all. He feels sorry for me.
It’s such bullshit. But at least I’m safe. All I need to be, right now, is safe.
And that’s the dichotomy I’m supposed to make myself comfortable in.
He left me two rules on the slip of paper as well:
If the door is locked, stay out.