My signature was shaky and messy on the Leave Against Medical Advice form. Despite myself - and how sure I was I wanted out of the hospital - I still couldn't help but be a little bit unsure sealing the deal. I stared down at the scrawling signature on the page after I'd finished, biting my lips.
"You know that if you leave today you'll have maybe one week to change your mind and come back? Once the toxins have entered your blood stream there won't be much we can do for you. You'll have two to three months to live." The doctor was staring at me with concern in his eyes as he swiveled his eyes over the top of his glasses frames uncertainly.
"Once the toxins enter your system there will be nothing we can do to sustain your life at that time," he said. "At that point, even if you get a new liver the toxins wold simply destroy it, too. You'll be removed from the donor list."
I nodded again.
"And nobody is pressuring you to sign this affidavit?" he asked lowly, glancing in Brian and Meira's direction.
"No sir," I replied.
It was his turn to nod.
I turned the document around and pushed it toward him to the very edge of the table. He put his palms down on the page an he stared at it for a long moment. Then he took a deep breath. "Okay, then I will go begin the discharge paperwork for you," he said. He stood up and took the page from the table and walked out of the room.
There was no going back now.
I looked over at Brian and Meira. "Well," I said, and I forced a laugh, "I guess you guys better be right about this or I'm gonna be pushin' daisies." I smiled even though my nerves were doing anything but smiling on the inside. Inside, I was having a more-than-slight panic attack as my survival instincts started kicking in. What had I done? I'd essentially signed my own death sentence, I realized. When we got up to Kentucky and Brian's friend Chip or Chunky or Carlton or whatever the fuck his name was turned out to be a crackpot and there was no time machine to transport me to the future of healing then what?
But if there was no time machine then where the hell had that magazine come from?
It was like every time I made up my mind what I thought about the whole thing something bubbled up in my head that made me think the other thing. But I really didn't want to believe it because I'd been so adamant to Meira about not changing my mind...
It took awhile for the discharge papers and everything to get finalized, but once it was done the nurses came pretty quick to help me out. Brian rushed ahead to get his car up to the door while a nurse helped me get onto my feet and into a wheel chair and Meira rolled me down the hallway to the elevator. It felt strange to be away from bed, and my excitement level rose the further and further we went from the room. I realized it'd been since before Christmas that I'd left the hospital.
The nurse was babbling on about instructions for me to follow with my medication they were prescribing me, but I was barely listening. As the wheel chair rolled through the doors of the hospital I breathed in the great outside air - cold and harsh and raw in my nose - I felt invigorated and I got up out of the wheel chair. I felt wobbly on my feet and stumbled a couple steps. The nurse caught me just before I went back down. "We have you in the chair for a reason, you're gonna be a little wobbly on your feet at first," she said in a scolding tone.
I didn't care. I was outside, I was vertical. That's all that mattered to me at that moment. When she released my arms, I stumbled toward Brian's car, Meira rushing after me carrying my duffle bag. Brian got out and came around to open the passenger side door and he and Meira helped me climb in as the nurse hovered holding the last of my paperwork. She held it out to me before Brian closed the door and I thanked her and Meira and Brian got into the car... I glanced back only once as Brian drove away.
At least I'm not gonna die in a hospital, I told myself.
I leaned into the car seat and closed my eyes and enjoyed the feeling of the warm sunshine heating my skin through the window. It felt so nice.
When Brian's car rolled into my driveway, I stared up at the house, at the Christmas lights that had never been taken down, at the empty trash bin standing sentinel at the end of the driveway, like a soldier guarding the property, and I felt this ache in my gut. Meira leaned forward from the back seat to stare up at it, too, her jaw slack, eyes aglow with excitement.
We climbed out of the car, me still wobbly on my feet, and Brian helped me up the walkway as Meira practically danced up it herself. She reached into her pocket and produced a ring of keys I'd never seen before in my life and unlocked my front door. "What the fuck--" I started to say, but Brian glanced at me and I said, "Well she has a key to my front door, I'm not gonna hold back the obscenity, Frick."
"She lives here in the future probably," he said calmly.
How in hell was he soooo okay with this whole time travel bit? I wondered. He was acting like it was common for chicks to appear from the future with keys to your house.
Hint: It's not.
Meira was already beyond the foyer when Brian and I walked in after navigating the steps up to my porch. I breathed in the smell of home and pressed my palms against the familiar walls, greeting the house. "Welcome home," Brian said.
I choked back singing a the next line of his song. He hated it when I did that. I think he thought I was making fun of him when I did, but I didn't mean it like that. It's just that the phrase welcome home always was followed by you - I know you by name - how do you do? in my head.
"It's so different in here!" Meira's voice echoed through the house from the living room. I walked toward it, followed by Brian. She was standing between the couch and the dining room, looking around.
"Different?" I asked.
"Yeah," she spun and came back around the couch, "Everything's so different. What the hell were you thinking buying these curtains?" she asked, flapping one of them in my direction. "They have fucking sailboats on them."
"I like fucking sailboats," I said.
Brian mumbled, "That's what she said."
I raised my eyebrows in surprise as Meira's laugh crashed over us from the curtains. Brian's cheeks were flushed from his accomplishment of a dirty joke and his eyes twinkled. I felt like pointing out that he wouldn't have had the balls to crack the same joke in front of his wife, but I decided to let it go. Things so far were going pretty good between Brian and I for the first time in awhile, I didn't need to go bringing up my issues with Leighanne to set it off again.
Besides that, Meira had moved on to the assortment of keyboards and soundboards and music stuff that cluttered the wall of the dining room. "Nick, what the hell? Why isn't this stuff in your studio where it belongs instead of messing up the dining room?"
"I don't have a studio," I replied.
Meira turned around, "Oh. Well. You will." She fluttered off to the kitchen.
I looked at Brian. "She's insane. In-fucking-sane, Brian."
He smiled. "You've always gone for the crazy ones."
"I'm not going for her, she just showed up. She's forcing herself on me. That doesn't count as going after someone."
Brian headed toward the kitchen after Meira, and I hurried after him as quick as I dared to, still being all wobbly and all.
She was standing in the kitchen when I came around the corner, holding up a pan. "Well." She said, "Don't tell future you I said this but you totally win the fight about whose pan this originally was." She put it back down on the stove top.
"We fight about pans?" I said, raising an eyebrow.
"I threatened to move out once," she replied, "And I started packing pans and you grabbed this one out of my hand and said it was yours and we fought about it and by the time we were done fighting..." a smile spread across her face. "Well, let's just say I didn't exactly move out." She danced away.
I looked at Brian, he was laughing.
"This isn't the least bit messed up in your eyes?" I asked. "You don't find the fact that she's frolicking around telling stories that haven't even happened yet just the tiniest bit weird?"
Brian patted me on the back. "Nick, I think you found yourself a keeper," he replied.
"Again with the I didn't find her," I said.
"Well, whoever found the other first did a really good job of it," he answered.
I watched as Brian followed Meira on through the house and I sat in one of the stools by the breakfast bar and let out a low sigh, lowering my head down on the counter top. I took a couple of low, deep breaths. I was exhausted from just the short drive home from the hospital. I closed my eyes and just felt the coolness of the tile counter against my cheek, thankful for something solid to lean against.
I could hear my heart pounding in my head, like a drumline.
Suddenly there were hands on my shoulders. "It's going to be okay," she whispered in my ear. She kissed soft part of my neck. "I know you're hurting, but it's going to be okay someday. Someday really soon, I promise, Nick." She rubbed my shoulders, kneading the balled nerves.
"Where'd Brian go?" I asked, my face still on the tile, eyes still closed.
"Bathroom," she answered. "Aw, you're so tense... these muscles..."
Her hands were experts at the knots in my neck. She knew exactly how to do it. It wa like heaven im the form of perfectly kneaded pressure points. "Hmm," I hummed in approval as she kept on massaging me. "God you're good."
"Amazing what a few years of practice will do," she replied huskily. I could've fallen asleep with her rubbing my shoulders like that. And maybe I did because she was suddenly whispering in my ear again, "Let's at least get you up to bed, sweetie."
"Okay," I mumbled.
And she led me up the stairs to my bedroom, navigating me perfectly down the hallway to be room. I crawled, clothes and all, right onto the bed. It was another bed, sure, but this one had my pillows and my blankets and it didn't smell like hospital bleach and it didn't crinkle like hospital beds do and I sank into the pillow-top mattress like it was a cloud. "Oh Jeeesus, yes," I moaned as I dropped my weight down.
"Get comfy," Meira directed, "It's gonna be okay. You'll feel better soon... so very soon." I had no objections when she climbed up next to me and continued rubbing my back - all up an down my spine and across my shoulders - until I fell asleep.