It’s a funny thing, realizing you might be an awful person. Seems like something that usually happens on your death bed. Maybe I should be thankful I’m getting it out of the way early. I can just revel in it now. Maybe I’ll steal candy from a baby on my way home. As soon as I get out of this goddamn hospital.
I woke up this morning with almost a hundred missed calls and unopened text messages. Liam crashed his car. Did you hear about the accident? Hey Cass, just making sure you’re okay. You’re Liam’s girlfriend, right? Liam’s in the hospital. Are you and Liam Brennan still together? I’m so sorry about Liam! He’s in the hospital on Pembroke Av.—St. August’s or whatever. Liam crashed his car. Liam crashed his car. Liam crashed his car.
So now I’m standing over a sleeping Liam Brennan, a good catholic boy in a good catholic hospital with five broken ribs, and an insidious little part of me is just wondering how long I should wait to break up with him now.
His mom is pacing the floor; she looks like she’s aged ten years in a day.
“Well, at least his face is okay.” I say, trying to lighten the mood. His mother does not laugh. Or acknowledge that I’ve said anything, really, “…I think I’m going to go sit in the waiting room.”
“I’ll let you know when he wakes up.” She says, what she probably means is ‘Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’
An old woman gives me a pitying look in the hallway, probably because I look like I’m about to be sick. I’d been rehearsing that break-up conversation in my head for two weeks. I think we should see other people. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not ready for something serious. Your parents hate my guts. You’re a great person, Liam, it’s not about that. It’s just not working out. I think we should see other people. I think we should see other people. I think we should see other people.
The totally empty waiting room would’ve been much better, if not for the 4-foot-tall painting of Jesus on one wall. Every chair is facing it. Every single one. Or maybe they are supposed to be facing the TV, which is also on that wall, but the Jesus painting is what commands my full attention. Maybe it’s because I’m just not used to that sort of thing. I come from a family of what I would call ‘cultural Christians,’ we celebrated all the holidays and ignored all the commitment. I try to focus on the wallpaper instead: old, floral, peeling in one corner but mostly intact. These chairs must’ve been carefully picked to match up to those flowers, because they’re the same color exactly.
A horrible wailing breaks the silence and my eyes instinctually dart over to the painting as if it might be the source of the cry. Realizing it’s probably coming from the emergency ward is almost enough to make my skin stop crawling. Not Liam. Sounded like a lady. I think the painting’s eyes are following me.
“It was an airbag, not a freight train. He’ll be fine.” Sometimes saying shit like that out loud helps. Not this time.
I want to leave. I want to get out of here right now. The smell of antiseptic is burning my nose and Jesus won’t stop looking at me and—
The door to the waiting room screeches open and Liam’s mother pokes her head inside.
“He’s awake, if you want to come see him.”
Photo from Chronicle Live