I spend the next two days in the hospital, sweating and hallucinating. Well, in between, Matthew and I sing made up songs and play endless games of Madlibs. But I’m feeling weak and I can stay awake for short periods of time. I’m not allowed to eat or drink anything–other than water and those tiny plastic cups of juice–because I’m being given some sort of serious medication for my liver. I’ve been moved out of intensive care to another ward where everyone–myself included–wears little portable heart monitors. Matthew goes to my apartment to get me a bra–the one I was wearing was cut off in the emergency room and I feel really weird just hanging out (no pun intended) without one–and my bathrobe.
No one knows I am here, at least I’m assuming this. Nate is unlikely to broadcast this information. And Matthew has barely left my side, because he knows I’m scared, sick, and sad.
And then the phone next to bed rings. Matthew and I look at one another like, “Huh?” He answers with a tentative greeting. He makes a disgusted face and says, “I don’t think it would be appropriate for you to talk to her right now.”
The person on the other end is insistent. Matthew holds his ground. There is some more back and forth.
“Well, if we’re going to be casting blame on anyone, then you—”
I cut him off by grabbing the phone.
It’s Ryan. And he goes in a tirade that begins with “Well, I guess you’re not dead” and ends with “Why are you so fucked up? You are so FUCKED UP!”
I am willing to admit that he is right. I AM fucked up. I’m in bed in a completely ghetto hospital just off of Division and Western, sweating out an ill-advised overdose while also coping with moderate heroin withdrawal. I can feel my bones trying to push through my skin. A little demon is relentlessly tugging on the back of my head. This IS fucked up. I am supposed to be traveling the world while feeling glamorously carefree.
“I’m sorry, Ryan. I can’t lie: my head has been fucked up for a while, and the drugs are only making it worse. I can’t even describe how terrible and ashamed I feel right now.”
This does nothing to diffuse his anger. He continues to shout a series of obscenities and threats. Matthew takes the phone from me and returns it to the cradle.
“Great, thanks. Now he’s going to think I hung up on him.”
(How did he know where I was? He must have called the house. In fact, when I get home from hospital, Nate will angrily retell the conversation. “I picked up the phone and that fucking little asshole said, ‘Oh, hello Nate. I was just calling to check on Amanda because she seemed a little crazy on the phone last night. And she hasn’t called me since, which is weird well, because you know how she is.’ And then I told him that you were in the intensive care unit and that he had better never, ever call or visit our apartment again. In fact, he should just steer clear of the entire 1800 block of Paulina.” Upon hearing this story, I decide that I will NEVER AGAIN call any boy more than once without a return call, lest I someone can ever again say ‘”because you know how she is.” I’m still sticking to this policy.)
I drift off into a murky sleep. When I open my eyes, Ryan is standing at the end of my bed. But he looks different. All of his colors are greyed down. He turns to look at me, and I see that his eyes are empty. He’s dead.
I wake up screaming. Matthew jumps to attention and calls for the nurse. She touches my forehead, frowns, and pulls out her electronic thermometer. 103.5 degrees. “I’m sorry, honey but we can’t give you anything to help you with this. Your liver just can’t handle it.”
Another nurse comes in with ice packs, which are placed on my forehead and under my arms.
Matthew turns on a PBS program about animals. He’s saying things like, “Oh, will you look at that zebra? You love zebras, right?” And I’m just trying not thrash around, even though I can feel each of my teeth vibrating. I’m afraid they are going to jump out and run away if I open my mouth the slightest bit. I’ve got to concentrate on keeping my jaw locked.
Meanwhile, the phone is ringing and ringing. Matthew unplugs the receiver. The animal show turns into a a series about a family living in an 18th century house, as if it actually were the 18th century. Everyone is cranky, tired, and cold.
The next morning, I feel a lot better. We joke about Ryan calling the switchboard over and over again, attempting to disguise his voice and providing fake names, all so he could try to get through to me. I find myself wishing it were true.