Updates on T.J.'s Condition
Every other day our phones Ding! and we receive an update on T.J.'s condition. He is in the billion-dollar hospital, on one of the highest floors. We don't always have time to visit him in person. We have small children, we have careers, and the hospital is not close to where we live. But we love T.J. and knew him back in the day, and are glad to get updates.
T.J. is feeling much better today.
T.J.'s sodium level is normal.
The doctor says T.J. will be out any day now.
The sounds on our phones keep us informed about and connected to our old comrade as we drive our kids to ballet class and swimming lessons, as we tackle work projects, as we drink and illicitly touch our colleagues' legs under the tables on hazy nights when the city is foggy and our hearts beat fast and our blood pumps.
But after a while things take a turn for the worse.
T.J. has bad nausea today.
The transplant didn't go as expected.
T.J.'s white blood cells are nearly gone.
We drive our kids to ballet class and swimming lessons feeling dread and obligation. We no longer feel like touching illicitly under tables. We are too sad about T.J. But what can we do? The people in our lives—husbands, girlfriends, kids—they ask us who T. J. is to us. It is hard to explain, we say. You weren't there back then.
And then one day…
Come quick come quick!
So we drop our routines and rush to the hospital. We tell the front desk where we want to go but are told the elevator system is broken. A team of technicians will be by to fix it in a few hours if we'd like to wait. We ask if there is another way to the top floor, like stairs maybe. The woman at the front desk says the elevator is the only way up, and it just broke an hour ago. If we had visited yesterday, or the day before, there would be no problems. But now we'd have to wait for the technicians to arrive.
So we wait in the marble lobby, watching the doors of the elevator. We soak in our worry and guilt. We should have come yesterday!
We remember the old days when T.J. was healthy and we were all in one place together. When T.J. would bite beer cans at parties. When some of us thought we might paint or sing for a living. But how long ago that was!
Every once and a while one of us points to the elevator doors and says Ding! as if to predict its arrival, or to magically command that it be fixed.
Every few minutes to break the silence:
But the doors do not open.
Nick Story is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington, and his fiction has appeared in The Tusk.