The first time you see him, he looks likes an alien. He’s red in the face, no bigger than the stuffed bear grasped tightly in your palm and crying so loud you think you’ll be deaf for three days. You understand why he’s crying, though (if everyone was crowding you like that you’d scream too). You still don’t understand what the big deal was about a tiny little thing that screams so hard he turns purple.
You tug the coat of the person next to you, hoping they can make sense of this strange event. You hate to admit it, but you’re too curious—you need answers (and you’re very impatient). The person next to you reaches down to grab your hand and smiles, pulling you towards the bed. You see your mother like you’ve never seen her before—red eyes, crazy hair, crying and laughing. You’re told you kept asking if the alien was contagious. Your mother laughs softly through her tears and reaches to pull you up on to the bed. As you climb next to her, the alien ceases his screeching, looking about as curious as you feel. He reaches his small hand towards you, and you reach back, for reasons you can’t explain. The alien’s hands feel soft against your own—sweaty, warm, alive—as they gently grip yours, you know you have fallen in love with this bizarre creature.
The last time you see him, he looks like an alien. This…man before you has no resemblance to the man you once knew. With tubes coming out of parts of his body, and bandages covering the rest, he is like a foreign object. You sit beside him on the bed, stroking your thumb over the only part of his hand not trapped by the white cloths. You whisper your prayers to him; afraid if you spoke to loudly he would hear.
[Someone has to be listening…right?]
The hand you’ve been stroking shifts as he softly clenches your fingers between his weakened ones. He turns his head to smile at you, and you remember holding your breath. He exhales dramatically, and the relief you feel is enough to make you sag and drop your head lightly unto his chest. He tells you to stop worrying so much, that this was the best place for him to be now. He tells you all that worrying will give you gray hair. You tearfully laugh, telling him you’d rock that style, and that it would allow you to finally become a street-suave rapper named GrimStone. You both laugh at the stupid joke, and some of the tension eases. You remember talking about anything and everything, so long as it kept him talking with you. He tells you he’ll be okay, that what is meant to happen will. You scoff, not wanting to hear such bullshit philosophy when all you can think about is all that could go wrong.
A woman in blue tells you to clear the room, “it’s time to go”. You remember watching his goofy grin disappear behind the double doors. In that moment, you believe what is meant to happen will, just like he said.
You remember the days—or was it hours? —that pass. You think the room could use a new paint job; the white walls were really beginning to hurt your eyes. You remember picking up the crying girl, smiling mournfully as she clutches that same stuffed bear you once held. Hand me downs are meant to be kept the family, he once said. And all you can see are his eyes tearfully staring back at you, because she looks so much like him. The two of you wait for what seems like forever, until the double doors open again. Your heart swells with hope.
You remember the anguished cry torn from your throat and the feel of the cold floor against your fists. “What was meant to be will happen,” he had said, “everything will be okay,” he told you. You remember thinking that he had never lied to you before.
He sure picked a hell of a time to start.