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Monet - Palmer Owyoung

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I used to be a professional and I once had this regular who was a doctor. He worked at UCLA Medical Center and he had this terminal patient, a 15-year-old boy who was dying of Leukemia. Despite years of chemotherapy, experimental treatments, opinions, observations, poking and prodding from specialists and experts the boy was going to die. He knew this from the beginning, but his parent had a lot of money and understandably they did anything they could to keep him alive. He faced enormous odds bravely and graciously. He’d lost all of his hair and couldn’t have weighed more than 105 lbs. When wet.

The most serious problem that the majority of boys his age had to contend with are broken hearts and pimples yet he seldom complained.

I know all of this about him because one day my regular asked me to visit him. He explained to me that the cancer had entered its last phases and that he wouldn’t have much time to live, a few days maybe a week at the most, all that they could do a that point was to ease his pain. One night he’d had a long and candid conversation with his doctor about all of the things that he would never get to do in life, all of the things that he would never get to see. Although through the Make a Wish Foundation he had gotten to meet his favorite rock band, U2, there was still one thing that he still hadn’t done that he felt he had to do before he left.

Some of the nurses and other staff that had gotten to know him just fell in love with him. So they all chipped in to pay for me. The problem was that he had grown up in a strict Methodist family and they knew that his parents would never approve of such a thing. Not to mention the fact that it was against hospital policy. So the nurses pretended to give him a medication that made him sleep throughout the day and evening hoping that the parents would leave a little bit early. It worked and they left at about 6pm that night, so they snuck me in after visiting hours were over. Although he was extremely weak he had been resting all day in order to prepare for me.

When I’d arrived the nurses had taken him out of his hospital gown and had dressed him in a pair of new jeans and a sweater. He was even wearing cologne. He had a Dodgers cap on to cover his baldhead and his clothes hung off of him like they were four sizes too big. Despite his gaunt appearance I could see how handsome his face was. He had these beautiful blue eyes and a brilliant white smile. He would have gotten to be a handsome man.” Monet took a breath and sighed. She was visibly shaking as she told the story.

The doctor brought me in. He introduced us and then left. This was the first time I’d ever done anything like this before. I had done outcalls to people’s houses before, but never a dying kid in a hospital.

“What’s your name, I said?”

“Charles,” he said barely above a whisper. He was nervous, he sat on the bed and his hands were folded in his lap, and he kept fidgeting with them. His eyes were averted downward, and he couldn’t even look at me.

“Do you like the Dodgers” I said smiling

“Yeah they’re my favorite,” he said finally looking up.

“I saw Nomo pitch last weekend against the Giants, he was amazing.”

“The Tornado, really, you saw him pitch?” He said with excitement.

“Yep box seats.”

“Wow, I watched that game on television, that guy must throw the ball at 100 miles per hour.”

“They clocked him at 105.” “Did you see Piazza hit that ball into the stands in the 9th inning?”

“Yep, Leiter was pitching and I was watching him and I thought he was going to cry or throw up when he saw it go into the stands.”

“Ha ha, wow I would have given anything to be there.”

“Maybe we could go to a game sometime?”

“ Yeah, I’d like that.”

“Okay, when I get out of here we’ll go to a game.”

I just smiled, he knew that he would never leave this room, but still he spoke about the future. We spent almost four hours talking that night about baseball, his favorite players, girls, what he’d wanted to be when he grew up, a pilot; he’d even started to get his private license before he’d gotten sick. All the places that he wanted to go in the world all the things that he wanted to see. He was so smart, he knew about Angor Watt in Cambodia, Macchu Picchu in Peru, Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. He knew about places that I’d never even heard of before, and the whole time that we were talking he had this big boyish grin on his face, even though that I knew he was in pain. The doctor told me that Charles had insisted that they lower his medication so that he would be clearheaded when he saw me. He was in pain, but he never let on for a minute we just kept talking and for a while it seemed like he’d forgotten that he was sick and dying, that he only had a few days, maybe a few weeks left. That night he just seemed like a young man on the verge of life and I couldn’t help but smile at him. On some level we just connected and I lay there in bed with him, his skinny arms wrapped around my body. He kept smelling my hair; he said that it smelled like strawberries.

I’ve seen a lot of things in my twenty-six years on this planet, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen anyone as courageous as that boy was at facing death. He never once talked about how unfair it was, or cursed god for doing this to him.

We were talking and he said, “I’m not afraid of it you know? I’m not afraid of dying. I like you because you don’t treat me like everyone else around here. Like I’m something fragile, breakable. I can talk to you like a normal person. Everyone walks around me like they’re walking on eggshells or something. My friends came to see me a few weeks ago and they wouldn’t touch me, wouldn’t come close to something or me like I was contagious. When they first told me that I had the disease I was terrified of dying, but now I understand it, I accept it. I just feel bad for my parent’s; I know that they’ll miss me a lot. They’re well meaning, not bad people, but I think that they just take life too seriously sometimes. “

I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t angry, because I was getting pissed off at how unbelievably unfair this was just talking and listening to him. How could a just God do this to such a sweet, kind and innocent young man? When you think of all the assholes in the world that he could have given leukemia to I just kept thinking why this kid? That’s the night I became an Atheist. Until someone can offer me definitive proof of a God I don’t believe that one indeed exists anymore, if there is one that kills fifteen-year-old boys like Charles, I sure as hell don’t want to believe in him.

He was getting tired, so I let him take off my clothes. I thought that his eyes were going to pop out of their sockets, his mouth was wide open and he had an ear-to-ear grin on his face. He’d never seen a grown naked woman before, other than the ‘Playboys’ or ‘Penthouses’ that he’d borrowed from his father’s collection. His body was full of bruises and sores so he didn’t want to take his sweater off so he only removed his pants, revealing the skinniest pair of legs that I’d ever seen, he laid on top of me and we did it. He cried afterwards and I held him, he was so exhausted that he could barely move. He fell asleep soon afterwards and for a while I just laid there in the darkness holding him, listening to him breathe. I got dressed, kissed Charles on the cheek and I left. The doctor had given me the money they’d collected before I went into the room, but I gave it back to one of the nurses as I was running out of the hospital. I cried the whole way to my car and just felt an unbearable sadness. He died two days later. I will never forget that kid and how brave he was for as long as I live.


Palmer Owyoung is an American from San Francisco who is living and working in Singapore.


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