In a world that is home to billions, does my existence make a difference?
I had never given much thought to life or death until now.
"So, you're saying that I have a malignant brain tumor that is incurable and may recur even if I have surgery?"
Lyle, a neuro-oncologist and my high school senior, glanced at my reports one more time with a defeated sigh. "It's early-onset, and you've neglected the symptoms for too long. I don't think it's operable, but we could try shrinking the size of the tumor. I'd like to get you on a treatment plan right away if that's okay with you -"
I need to get out of here before I develop nosocomephobia. "No."
"Kelsey, there are more options than you think."
I absently picked at my hangnail. "Both my grandparents and one of my closest friends died from cancer, despite going through a hell lot of treatment and pain. I won't go through the same thing only to drag out the time I have left."
With a skeptical look, he nodded. "You're not the first patient to refuse treatment, but could you at least drop by once in a while so I can check on you?"
"Don't count on it." I reached for the door with a stick-on smile. "See you around, Lyle."
We live in the kind of world where I can't even tell anyone that I'm dying in a year without being pitied or comforted. Not that I have anyone to tell anyway.
I wish I could drop dead right now.
As soon as I stepped out of the building, my head collided with a rock-hard chest. I looked up, and for a split second, it felt as if the Earth had stopped revolving. I was never the type to care about looks, but holy heavens, he resembles a Greek God. Hermes, or more like a male version of Aphrodite. There is just something about him.
"Are you okay?" He stepped back to make sure. "I'm sorry, I was on the phone."
"I was looking at my phone, sorry," I said at the same time. It's one of my unusual habits to look down at my phone with earbuds plugged in when I'm outside. That way, I can avoid making eye contact and tune everything else out. Nonetheless, I'm sociable when I do my job.
I'm still an ambivert, aren't I?
Just as I walked past him, his fingers wrapped around my wrist. I could see the sharp outline of his jaw as he tilted his head to meet my eyes. "I'm Hayden."
We appear to be the same height, judging by the fact that I'm not craning my neck or standing on my toes to stare him down. "I'm Kelsey. Now, if we're done introducing ourselves, take your hand off me before I twist your arm."
His hand slid down to mine instead for a light squeeze. "I hope to see you around. There's something about you."
Did he hear my thoughts, or did I speak them out loud? More importantly, who says that to someone you just met?
He left with a flirtatious smile, and my world started spinning again as reality finally dawned on me.
I have grade IV glioblastoma.
Brushing off the mini-encounter, I headed to the one place that could protect me from everything.
Living alone is good. Or maybe I'm just used to it, considering I have lived by myself for the past ten years.
I peeked outside my window at the cozy streets and snowflakes falling like crystals. The sole reason I chose to live in Maine is because of the lasting winters (and the live-work space I call home now).
I wished for this to happen countless times. I would live till the day I die; that was my plan until today. With death knocking on my door with a time frame, I don't know what to make out of it.
Aren't people usually grateful when they're aware of the time they have left? They can do what they want to do without regrets, say goodbyes, and choose how to spend their final moments.
It's not the same for me, though. All I have is myself, and all I can leave behind are the things bought with money. There will be no one to remember or forget me.
Should I blame this on her?
"Don't ask for a doctor every time you're hurt. Save some money, will you?"
"If you can't bear even a tiny amount of pain, how are you going to survive anything?"
Because she gave me the go-by every time, I had to get knee surgery on top of mycosis and a root canal. If I hadn't ignored all those headaches thinking back to her words, could I have been diagnosed earlier?
Maybe it's a good thing that glioblastoma rarely spreads to other parts of the body. I can still do things. Should I start ticking off my bucket list?
What is the first thing that people do when they find out that they have a terminal illness?
Tell their loved ones?
Plan their funeral?
Shave their head?
My head hurts. I might as well become a brainless zombie.
I opened Netflix and took out a box of Kleenex, telling myself, "Pick a binge-watchable tearjerker, order outrageous amounts of food and drinks, and cry all day, Kelsey."
It's going to be one long afternoon.
"Why did I even give birth to you? Your brother is younger but way better than you."
"You are an imperfection and a burden in my life."
"Why do you cry for every little thing? I didn't raise you to be weak and sensitive."
"You are mine. I gave you this body, this pathetic life you're living. You don't get to choose what to do with it. I do."
I jolted awake and looked around frantically. That woman is not here anymore, but her words torment me every day, and I can still feel the invisible scars she left on me.
I looked at the night skyline with hooded eyes. When did I fall asleep?
The clock read ten past ten, so I went downtown. The one thing I can find solace in is music. Anytime I am reminded of the painful memories I left behind, I try to forget with karaoke and happy hour food. That's how I live my nights.
"Howdy, Kel!" Leon slammed a beer pitcher and a lobster roll on the bar top. "Been a while, eh?"
"Any vacant booths?"
"The last one's yours." He said with a wink. "Eat and drink up, and sing away."
Solo karaoke booths are better than live music or private boxes. It's soundproof, and I can be carefree without being mindful of others. And just like that, I lost myself in the lyrics relating to my life until someone knocked on the see-through wall. I opened my eyes to a pair of blue diamonds shining brighter than the karaoke lights look at me with an amused smile. "Wanna sing a duet together?"
Meet the same person twice on the same day? Either he is shadowing me like Joe Goldberg, or I must have saved the world in my past life.
Thank you for reading!
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