Narrator: Faruq Kadir-Nayak (Adam)
We entered the double doors, so much lighter than they looked. The Emergency sector was bustling: babies crying, people sleeping and asking questions impatiently. No one came in laughing and talking casually – except for Leslie.
“Gosh, CJ’s expression was priceless! I think, for a moment, he actually wanted to fuck you,” She said, as I gave a weak smile in response.
The two of us headed toward the front desk, Leslie’s face carrying an amused smile. The nurse looked up from her pile of papers, and seemed taken aback by Leslie’s bright pink hair. She quickly turned to me, as though she couldn’t stand the hair and therefore couldn’t possibly talk to her.
“Yes, can I help you?” She asked politely.
“We’re looking for Lawrence... Leslie?” His last name was unknown to me and she was the one who should have been doing this. Her future depended on this man’s life, and still she is thinking of witty innuendos.
“Huh?” I raised my eyebrows at her, and she understood. “Stafford.”
“Lawrence Stafford,” I clarified.
“One sec.” The nurse typed impatiently at the keyboard, and turned back to us. “If you could just go to the sixth floor, coronary – just follow the signs. Dr. Ramirez will be able to attend to you there soon.” She dismissed us without a word or glance, and Leslie and I headed for the elevator.
The elevator smelled of disinfectant and lavender – squeaky clean. A rather muscular, and perhaps handsome male doctor followed us in. He acknowledged us with a nod, and stood right in front of the doors, head held high. That – That is what my father dreams I will one day become. I scoffed, and Leslie looked at me quizzically. The man took no notice; I’m supposing if he had a hearing problem he would have fixed it – he is supposed to be a doctor, so my best guess is that he heard. And what he chose to make of it was a scoff of jealousy. His chin went even further up in the air.
“How much do you think that son of a bitch makes in a year?” Leslie asked, scanning him from top to bottom.
“Considering the gold watch on his hand, I’d say four times more than what my parents make.”
“That would be six times more than what Lawrence makes.” Or soon to be – made.
All three of us got off at the same floor, and again, we conversed with another reluctant lady at the front desk and sat down on the blue couch. There weren’t many there: a couple, an old man and a lady with a sleeping child. This was the dreaded waiting room. At least people were doing things in the ER, keeping themselves busy. Here, people read Reader’s Digest to pass the time soaking in no information about “a healthy diet” or “the most stressful jobs in America”. They drank that disgusting vending machine coffee, unsure of whether that cup is their second or third. They were waiting.
A Latino middle-aged lady in a white coat approached the front desk. I read the nurse’s lip, saying “the girl with the pink hair, next to the African boy.” I would normally laugh if someone misread me as an African, but not then. I wondered if anyone cared about anyone else around here. Pink haired girl and African boy – cold.
I stood up, and beckoned Leslie to too as the doctor approached us, her heels clicking and her face giving nothing away.
“Leslie Defiere? I’m Dr. Ana Ramirez and I was attending to Mr. Lawrence Stafford. He is your stepfather, I believe?” She wasn’t thrown by Leslie’s pink hair and totally ignored me as she spoke.
Leslie took a while till she worked up her simple response, “Yes.”
“I’m extremely sorry to inform you that he did not make it.” Pause. “A cocaine overdose triggered the heart attack. I am very sorry for your loss,” She told Leslie with a sympathetic frown.
“Um, well thank you – for trying, I mean. I knew this would happen some day…” Leslie rolled her eyes. Dr. Ramirez’s expression showed some surprise at her reaction, one I also did not expect. He’s dead Leslie! He’s gone. You never knew this was going to happen.
“Is there anything else you’d like me to inform you about?” Dr. Ramirez asked coolly.
“No. That’s fine, thanks. I pretty much get the picture. Thanks anyway.”
“Well, Nurse Crandell,” she pointed to the reception, “will have the documents ready soon, with all the information in detail. You’ll have to fill out some forms as well, and there are some people you will have to meet. So please stay in the hospital grounds – there is much to sort out. I have an operation to proceed to now, so I’m afraid I must be going. And again, my deepest condolences for your loss.” She nodded to us both, and walked back through the corridor she had come in.
Leslie began to laugh. Just like before, in the shower. Except that time, it was appropriate, but this time she was laughing about the death of the person who was the closest she had to a father. And despite barely knowing the man, there was nothing right about her laughing. She didn’t have to cry, scream in anguish or pray on her knees – she could’ve kept silent for all I care, but no.
“I told him to get off crack. He never listened. Good for you, Lawrence! You got what you wanted! Say hi to Mom for me while you’re up there,” She hollered, facing the ceiling. Her gaze was now on me, “I’m sure he missed her tits. I think that was his favorite thing about her,” She whispered to me playfully, like an eight-year-old would tell her best friend about her crush at the playground.
“Leslie!” I shook her. I stopped and her eyes were frozen, locked on mine. I didn’t know what to say after that. We sat there silent, until she came back to her senses.
“What the fuck is your problem, Adam?!” People stared at us, some disapprovingly and others sympathetically. I grabbed her arm and dragged her to a quieter area, near the emergency exit.
“What do you mean, what’s my fucking problem? Your stepfather just passed away, Leslie! And you’re laughing!” I felt like CJ, all of a sudden, but to be honest, I… liked it. I was doing something right, and when I say right, I don’t mean touching the girl where she likes it best.
“I thought you didn’t care about all that! All you ever want is girls, sex, and booze. Since when are you interested in honoring the dead?” Leslie’s face was red now. Definitely no longer laughing.
“Since when? You barely know me, Leslie! You met me to-day. And I’m not saying honor the dead, I’m saying stop laughing and think about it.”
“You want me to cry about it?” Leslie asked.
“Yes, for fuck’s sake, I want you to cry about it, okay?! Cry and then we can have make up sex or mourning sex after. Just…” She was already crying. In my arms, and crying.