“I gotta quit doing fucked up shit,” Cheney grogged. Her voice was whispery, and she looked like how I feel when I take Nyquil and don’t get a full eight-hours sleep.
“People have one-nighters all the time,” I assured her while moving my eyes around her hospital room. She had a private room that was probably four-stars by hospital Zagat’s standards. Her adjustable bed looked comfortable, as she reached up to turn off the fluorescent light attached to the wall above her head. There was a caramel colored couch underneath the almost floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the Crosstown. A blue accent wall opposite her bed had a three-tier bookshelf against it that was empty until I put the flowers I brought her on it.
“I think the nurses at that desk outside thought I was your irresponsible condom-less boyfriend.” I sat down on the desk chair next to her bed and propped my cap toe shoes on the foot of her bed.
Cheney half-smiled, “He was condom-less and irresponsible alright, but not my boyfriend…just a bartender who looked really cute one night, and he had nice teeth. But I guess I’m just as irresponsible for not taking my pill every day,” she shrugged.
“Did he at least pay for the procedure? Or help pay for it?”
“He’s a bartender who still has roommates,” she said while looking at me and raising one eyebrow. I assumed that answer was supposed to indirectly tell me that he didn’t have the money to pay.
“How’s work going?” she asked to change the subject.
“It’s going well,” I said. “I had lunch last week in the downtown Barnes & Noble. I was eating my over-priced Panini in a window seat while a homeless woman sat on the sidewalk leaning against a streetlight with an empty collection cup next to her. Our eyes met a couple of times. I felt guilty.”
Telling someone who just had a living being ripped from inside her that you feel guilty about something, anything, is preposterous…borderline ignorant. I apologetically raised my eyebrows and gave a half-smile realizing my mistake. Cheney did the exact same thing back…apology accepted.
“You survived Amanda’s wedding day? I thought about you.”
“This is the worst thing I’ve ever done,” she interrupted while staring at the small flat screen hanging from the ceiling in the corner. It was as if she made the confession to the bald dude from Ghost Hunters, who was talking to the camera bathed in night vision.
I’ve spent plenty of drinks listening to Cheney tell me about her days as a club kid in Manhattan…the LSD lollipops, glow sticking, lesbian makeouts and 3-day sleep binges. She moved to the Midwest to get away from all that and just write. She landed in Minneapolis with a trust fund and a Blackberry filled with the names of a dozen editors in New York who agreed to accept her stuff on spec. When she told me those stories, it was with a strange sense of accomplishment and never any regret.
But this was different. This was all regret and nothing else. It was hard for me to comfort her, and she doesn’t have any close girlfriends to offer female empathy. I imagine some night in the near or distant future, while the two of us are having one of our all night drinking and music listening marathons, she will discuss the guilt and what-ifs of this whole situation. But not now.
“Are you keeping this from your parents?”
“Fuck. Yeah,” she took her eyes off the cute girl from Ghost Hunters with glasses whose breasts got mysteriously larger since season one. “The administrator of my trust promised me she would list this as something else on the monthly accounting…like a urinary tract infection or something, I don’t know. My parents rarely look at those accountings anyway.”
“What time are they releasing you tomorrow?”
“The nurse said I could leave as early as 6 a.m.”
“Okay. I’ll be back tomorrow to pick you up at six.”