Unbecoming.

 

“I don’t want to become that guy. I don’t.”

“Which guy?”

“Sick guy.”

“I don’t follow.”

“It’s a beautiful day today. I’m glad you moved us outside.”

“You seem to have more energy.”

“I think the new medicine is good. I have a window in the afternoons when I feel as good as I ever did. But then I crash.” He stretched his legs the length of the barren patch in front of the park bench.

“A couple of weeks ago you struggled to talk.”

“True. I wouldn’t mind it so much if this is my future. But the P.A kept telling me the medicine is toxic. That’s the word she chose. Toxic.”

“What did she mean?”

“I haven’t a clue. But I’ll tell you something, she was hot. We have official confirmation that my heart is strong enough for the blood to flow below my waist.”

“Mark …”

“Oh come on Padre. I told you I don’t want to be that guy.”

“Explain that.”

“Sick guy.” He stood up and stared at the trees across the park. “You know what no one ever talks about? How exhausting it is to be around the sick guy.” He turned around and looked at the priest on the bench. “See someone you love gets sick. Really sick. And you care. Because you love them. And the sick becomes everything. Every conversation. Every reference.  Every yard stick.  And then the sick person starts getting sicker and is scared and weaker and starts to vanish. And what you have left is like um,” he struggled for the word until he saw the unraked park, “a fragile leaf left over from the fall. And so you press them into this memory … book … and you suppress how you really feel. And you don’t love them anymore because they aren’t who they were. They’ve been replaced. They’re this vulnerable and usually bitter shell. And you resent the shell because it stole the person you loved and just sort of marks the spot where he was. And the guilt. Well you feel guilty for not loving this living … corpse …like you did. So you chastise yourself for being a dick. But the truth is the person you loved is dead. He died the first time you looked at him and saw he’d been replaced. And all that’s left is guilt and responsibility and burden. And that’s the truth. I’m not saying you don’t still love them but you love the was.” He turned away and faced the swing set across the park. “I’m not becoming sick guy.”

“That’s not entirely true. Love evolves but love is still present.”

“Well, we’ve just have to disagree. Because I’ve obviously thought about this a lot. The other day I noticed I’m becoming sick guy. I’m watching my death.  I’m fucking dying every day. I will not be sick guy. Do you know I’m dying every Goddamned day? Mark the biker. Dead. I started to walk to the corner the other day and I couldn’t. I’m too tired. Remember how I used to walk all the time? Mark the walker is dead. You know how fast I talked. I can’t. Mark the talker is dead. Dead. Even I don’t know what I am anymore. But I know I can’t allow myself to get bitter.”

“You’re not bitter. I’d say you’re …”

He interrupted, “sad. I’m sad.”

“Sadness is a valid emotion.”

He returned and looked him in his eyes. “Good thing because sad’s where I’ve landed.”

He walked beside his friend and held his hand while they watched the ducks waddle along the shore.

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