“I wanted you to be the first to know,” Rowan tentatively confided in me. “Even if the glaciers don’t melt and drown us all, there would still be plain old death.”
Rowan lay there in the hospital bed, he had been there three-weeks. The bed had switches, buttons and motors that move the bed so care-givers could get at Rowan’s body and take care of him. The switches, buttons and motors didn’t get used much.
Rowan had bedsores all over his backside.
One of those plastic tables with wheels, the kind with the aluminum thing off to the side with the fake brown formica wood tables attached so it could be rolled over the bed mattress so Rowan had a table to eat off and have a place to put those Styrofoam cups they give you with ice-chips; one of those things was next to the bed.
There weren’t enough tables like that for all the beds in the room. I stole the one by Rowan’s bed from the guy next to him. The guy in the bed there didn’t seem to notice. Nobody was there to notice for him.
“You want some ice-chips Rowan?”
Rowan didn’t answer. He had taken to not answering questions lately. In fact, he didn’t say much of anything these days. Just a pearl of wisdom every now and again.
The pearl of wisdom that just came out Rowan’s mouth was better than most. Sometimes they were real clinkers.
“Rowan, I’m going to put some ice-chips on your lips, okay?”
Rowans lips were dry and cracked. If I put ice-chips on them every now and then the ice-chips would melt and get his lips wet. Rowan didn’t seem to care one way or the other about dry lips, bothered the shit out of me though.
I took the plastic spoon there on the tray and picked up the Styrofoam cup. The ice-chips had half melted. I fished out a few ice-chips from the cup with the spoon, raised Rowan’s head and put them on his lips till they melted, then I dabbed the water off his chin where it’d run off.
“I brought a box of pictures from your place for you Rowan.”
The owner of the apartment building Rowan lived in, the same building as me, across the hall from me, had rented his room. Someone had put all Rowans stuff in boxes. They were hauling most of it to the curb. I took one of the boxes of things somebody had left outside Rowan’s apartment door. Now It sat there on the floor by Rowan’s bed. There was no place to set the box or the pictures on. I just set the box there on the floor.
There were a few picture frames with pictures of people in them in the box. I didn’t ever meet the people in the picture, Rowan told me who a few of them were when we would talk and watch TV in his apartment.
I set one of the pictures from the box on the Formica table by Rowan’s bed. It was a picture of Rowan with his wife. It was an old picture. Rowan’s wife died. Rowan told me the one kid they had got killed in Iraq. The kid was in the picture standing in his graduation cap and gown between Rowan and his wife. He was about 17.
The cars in the driveway in the picture looked from the 90’s. Rowan looked about 39. They were all smiling.
The apartment owners must have figured out Rowan’s check was going to the re-hab center, not them. Time for Rowan’s stuff to hit the curb I guess.
I didn’t think anybody was coming for the rest of Rowan’s boxes. I picked out the one I think I would want if I were Rowan.
I came to see Rowan when I could, which was pretty much every day after work. I’d bitch at the people sitting at the nurses’ station about doing their job. Nobody else came to his bedside, sometimes someone working at the re-hab did. They came because it was a paycheck. They didn’t get paid much. But it was the best place Rowan could get into.
I heard it that when you die, you get a few minutes in the end where it gets clear. I heard some people get up right before they die and walk around the room, even if they hadn’t walked in days, or weeks. Like the walking dead.
When my brother died I knew he was dead because he pissed the bed.
Rowan didn’t get up and walk around, but he turned his head when I finished dabbing the drips from his chin.
Rowan looked my way, eyes as clear as I had ever seen. Like he was looking through me, out the window. Then he tilted his head to one side, like he had realized something.
“They made me afraid. That’s how they did it. They made me hate everybody that wasn’t like me, they told me it was the other side’s fault. And I believed it for some reason.
“They told me I had to sacrifice. Sacrifice for the good of it. Then they took things. They took music, they took books, they took schools. They made it easy to take from me. Take from most everybody. I believed them. We all believed them.
“They made us afraid to live without fear, that’s how they get away with it. They told us doing without was the best they could do, the best anybody could do. There isn’t enough money. We believed it.
“But they have things. They have what they want. That’s how I know the difference. We are all sleeping, living the dream they want us to have. Funny thing, we see it happening all along the way. Hell, we talk about it.
They’ve convinced us they are right. We follow them. We believe them.
“And if you wake up, you realize the nightmare.”
That was the last thing Rowan said. Then he pissed the bed.