CHAPTER SIX - DEPRESSION
Kevin sat nervously across town in his kitchen sipping at a steamy mug of chicory-laced black coffee. He cupped it in his hands, having the heat warm his fingers. The steam erupted from the mug and slowly dissolved around his face almost making him sweat. He took a sip and it lashed at his tongue making him wince unpleasureably. He hated the stuff but it was the only thing keeping him awake lately.
It was seeping well into the last month of Brian's life and Kevin was constantly at the edge of his seat silently waiting for him to go. Any day now-a heart attack could easily take him. But Brian suddenly slipped into a phase of depression. He didn't care about anything and regardless of what Kevin and the guys did his spirits refused to be lifted.
Kevin had slipped into a stage of depression as well, his inner sprit dying and it showed radiantly on the outside.
Lately he'd been slightly unkempt. The lack of sleep had given him thin layers of dark folds under his eyes-his gorgeous green eyes-the windows to his soul were cold and empty. The dyed brown tips of his dark hair had faded to a sandy blonde hue. Eating barely nothing for the past weeks had given him a slightly skinny physique and his clothing was simple-jeans, t-shirts, and thick jackets.
He glanced at his watch-7:30 a.m. Sighing deeply he pulled on his jacket that lay over the back of his chair and arose.
Pouring the remains of the coffee into the sink he grabbed his keys off the kitchen counter and headed for the door.
Outside it was extremely nippy, the dead wind stinging at his lips and ears. He scoffed. Perhaps the coffee had done him good. But the coffee would be no match for the upcoming challenge that awaited his arrival at Brian's house; it would be the beginning of the end. Clear across town Brian shot his eyes open to the familiar buzz that erupted through the room. 7:30, his alarm clock had been a constant reminder to him of that time for the past few weeks. He stared up at the ceiling until he was able to blink the heavy film of sleep away and turned his head slightly to look at the clock.
He concentrated on lifting his hand to hit it-but it didn't move. Distressed, he tried to move his other arm only to get the same results, remaining in its position at his side.
"Oh my Lord…" he felt the arch in his spine as he tried to sit up but his body remained still. His entire body had shut down on him, like his muscles had deflated, not one working. He panicked, he suddenly couldn't hear the annoying buzz of the alarm clock. He felt the strain at his neck as he tried to force himself to flip over.
"No! Oh no this isn't happening! Help! Someone help me, help!!" he cried, but no one could hear him.
Tired of straining, he remained in the position that he woke in, unable to move, rendered helpless.
Kevin arrived at Brian's house about an hour later, standing at his front door with his jacket zipped up. It was getting colder, early November and people already had decorations up but somehow the excitement of the holiday season wasn't with him. He felt like he was watching a movie-and in it, it was the holiday season for the characters onscreen and he was off screen experiencing nothing. He wondered for a minute if Brian would even live to see Thanksgiving, but it quickly faded away when he exhaled and watched his breath dissolve. Quietly he unlocked Brian's front door and stepped inside where it was much warmer. Freeing himself of his jacket, he regarded the quietness of the house suspiciously. He listened intently at the soft buzzing coming from upstairs.
"Brian?" he called softly.
There came no answer.
Curiously he started upstairs two at a time and found himself in Brian's room, looking at him dead.
"Damn, Brain!" he screamed, running over to his bedside.
The blood had already rushed from Kevin's face.
"Shhh!" Brian warned, turning to look at him.
Kevin sighed relieved and reached over to shut off the alarm.
"Look, Kevin, I- I can't move..."
"What?" Kevin returned, giving him an absent look.
"I can't move, I tried, but-but I won't budge…"
"Why not?" he asked, looking him over.
Brian tightened his lips. He was losing patience. "I dunno, I feel weak."
Kevin rose to his feet and begun to back out from the room.
"Wait, I'll go call the hospital, okay?"
"Kevin NO!" Brian protested, flinching a bit. "I'm sick of them, you do something."
"Like what!? I dunno what to do!" Kevin yelled, trying to remain logic but angering himself because of confusion.
"Dammit Brian, I can't take care of you!"
At that, Brian flushed red with anger at Kevin, standing in the doorway of his room. "Then get out! I don't need your help. Is that what you intended to do? Hand me over when I got too sick because you didn't want me around? Too much trouble for you to put up with me?"
Kevin sighed heavily trying to calm himself. "Do you want me to call the hospital Brian?" he asked through his clenched teeth.
"Got-dammit Kevin, ANSWER ME!" he yelled, voice trembling. "IS that what you intended to do? Kevin?!"
"Shut-up! Shut-up! Shut-up!" Kevin yelled, face twisted with anger, fists clenched.
He stared at Brian lying helplessly on the bed fighting tears and instantly he hated himself for lashing out at him.
"Oh God…" he ran his hands through his hair and backed out of Brian's room quickly. Once outside he rested his back on the wall just outside the door and slid down. He tucked his knees under his chest and raked his hands through his hair again but stopped them halfway through and kept it there.
Scanning his heart for the right thing to do, he didn't know what bothered him so. Was it the truth? Was he truthfully going to hand down Brian when he couldn't take care of him? Brian didn't want him to call the hospital but what could he do? Call the hospital and hand him down or take care of him himself?
There he sat sceptically, listening to the faint sobs from Brian in the room behind him.
"How's he doin'?" AJ asked, sitting next to Kevin on the couch.
He cracked open a can of Pepsi and stared patiently at Kevin for an answer, who sat by the phone with his sweaty hands under his chin, looking troubled.
"I dunno, he said abruptly, cutting him off.
AJ nodded acceptingly at his response and swallowed back on his Pepsi. Kevin indeed sat distraught, and as he thought about what he did earlier his troubled expression suddenly modulated into an expression of trepidation and disgust.
"Dammit," he thought. "I handed him down."
Brian had been at the hospital since this morning, it was nearly eight o'clock. Howie and Nick had been at the hospital with Brian and to his knowledge there they remained. Surprisingly, AJ had stopped over the minute he heard the news and had uninvitingly made himself at home.
What the hell was he doing here? He ought to be at the hospital like the others.
"Kevin, you're a coward," he thought to himself. The notion came and left so quickly it appeared he hadn't even thought of it.
Next to him AJ cleared his throat but he didn't say anything.
What the hell had he done? He'd let Brian down, - the situation couldn't have been that bad…so bad that he had to call the hospital…but he couldn't move!
Sitting there contradicting with himself was worthless, he concluded, and picked up the phone to call the hospital.
Outside, faintly he heard car doors slam and shuffling feet hurriedly approached his door. AJ curiously approached the picture window soda in hand and peeped out the window. It was Howie. Before he could bring that to Kevin's attention, the front door swung open and Howie stormed into the living room, Nick a pace behind him.
"How could you?!" Howie growled, looking down at Kevin.
AJ narrowed his brows disconcerted and asked, "What's goin' on?"
Howie ignored him completely. "How could you Kevin? He didn't even want to be there!" Howie lectured.
Kevin calmly replaced the phone on the hook and rose warily only to tower over Howie. The last thing he wanted right now was someone yelling at him, he knew what he did.
"Look man, it's not that easy..." he mumbled, trying to avoid eye contact.
"You should've seen him," Nick piped up.
Kevin danced his eyes past Howie to look at Nick.
"What'd he say?" he asked, almost in a sigh.
Hospital fumes radiated from Howie' s clothes and made his stomach hitch, but nevertheless he remained stolid.
Nick narrowed his brows angrily at him. "He doesn't want to see you again," he hissed.
Kevin had a look of shock on his face. The words alone hit him close to home.
"You let him down Kevin, you failed him!"
"Shut up Nick!" he snapped, clenching his fists into angry balls of hate.
AJ looked on at him surprised by his outburst.
"How easy do you think this is? It's useless getting up every morning to help someone you know is going to die anyway! Useless!"
"Kevin, how can you say that?!" Howie interrupted.
"YOU take care of him then!" he yelled, shoving Howie away, as if he had just passed all the responsibility onto him. "'Cause I don't want to."
He moved passed Howie and started for the stairs.
"I will then!" he called back.
"No, let me," Nick volunteered, "I promised."
Kevin rested his foot on the bottom of the stair but jerked it back at Nick's words. Anger swelled up in his throat almost strangling him and his nostrils burned. How easy did they think this was? They couldn't possibly replace him.
"Get the hell outta my house, all of you!" he growled angrily.
Howie bit his bottom lip to keep from saying anything he'd regret later.
"Fine," AJ mumbled, gladly grabbing his jacket from off the couch.
He slammed his half empty soda on the magazine table and stormed out.
"Fuck this," were his parting words as the door slammed heavily behind him.
"You're nothing but a coward Kevin," Nick stated boldly.
Kevin glared at him. Without a word, he begun his decent up the stairs again.
Nick opened the door to leave but turned his head to look at him again.
"A coward Kevin, a coward," he taunted, standing between the door.
Kevin looked back down again in animosity and suddenly lunged down the stairs.
"I am not a coward!" he snarled, almost muffled by his clenched teeth.
In his fit of rage, he grabbed Nick and shoved him outside. In defense and fear, Nick swung back and before it was known the two were actually fighting.
"Stop it! Stop!" Howie screamed, coming between the two.
He whipped his head to his left to stare at Kevin, surprise and alarm written all over him.
"What the hell is your problem Kevin?" Howie asked, searching his eyes for an answer. He got none.
Nick licked blood from his bottom lip and looked up apologetically at Kevin and fretted, "I'm sorry Kevin…"
Kevin spat the taste to blood from his mouth. Without a second glance he broke free of Howie's hold and darted upstairs. In seconds his bedroom door slammed and there was silence.
Howie shook his head sadly and dropped hold of Nick's shirt.
"Let's get outta here," he said, holding the door open for him.
Upstairs, Kevin sat at the edge of his bed lighter in hand. His right hand shook rapidly as he brought up a picture of Brian to the window so he could see it better. In it, Brian was spinning a basketball on his finger, loose tie, smiling. Kevin scoffed, he'd always loved basketball. Cold heartedly, as cold as the weather outside, he placed the lighter under the picture and set it ablaze.
Reluctantly he stood up and walked over to an empty trash bin by his dresser and let it flutter into it. The orange blaze hissed and popped as it slowly dissolved the picture, leaving ashes behind in its place.
He shoved his hand deep into his pockets and stared down at it, letting the black fumes rise to his nose, tears streaming his face. As far as he was concerned, Brian was already dead.
The responsibility Howie and Nick had bestowed upon themselves was beyond what they had ever imagined. It wasn't easy to take care of Brian and it wasn't easy to neglect him either. And it certainly wouldn't be easy to let him go.
Howie and Nick failed to realize that Brian was going to die soon, which meant he would be getting sicker, weaker. Kevin was willing to the responsibility, but he just couldn't handle it. Physically it was tiring, emotionally it was tormenting, and mentally it was vexatious. Because Kevin was no longer there to know the condition and situation of Brian, it was a mental challenge to figure what the matter was. But the guys wouldn't even speak with him. Were they cut out for the job? To be with him when he needed help, walk with him when he took steps, and oh god, be with him in case he should go into cardiac arrest. It was an ease on his mind when he was there, but now, he wasn't. And for Kevin now, being peace of mind was damn to near an impossible feat.
Nick ripped open his eyes in alarm only to stare into still darkness. He glanced over at Brian's alarm clock, 9:50 p.m. He lifted his head from the pillow he was resting on and a string of drool followed.
"God dammit!" he mumbled, sitting up straight.
He wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand and pushed the pillow aside. Nick was sitting in a chair besides Brian's bedside watching close eye over him but he had apparently fallen asleep and crashed over onto the bed; hadn't even noticed. Vigilantly, he got up and looked over Brian quickly and stumbled out of his room.
Putridly fatigued, he padded downstairs into the kitchen where Howie was brewing a pot of coffee. Nick pulled a chair out from under the table and slouched in it, wail of exhaustion escaping his lips. He sniffed the air twice and sat up.
"Coffee?" he said questionably.
"Since Brian," Howie shot back quickly. "Want some?" he offered, pulling a mug from the cupboard.
Nick shook his head and drew back the sweaty strands of hair from his forehead.
"Nah, I need something cold, I'm about to go home," he requested, struggling to smile.
Howie popped open a can of soda from the fridge and slid it into Nick's awaiting hand.
"Thanks. Damn, I dunno how you can work the night shift man," he said, putting the can to his lips.
Howie shrugged and pulled out a chair across from him, pouring himself a steamy mug of black coffee, so dark and flavourless it seemed to churn into the endless depths of the abyss known as the mug. Nick turned up his nose in disgust and turned away from it.
Howie scoffed. "Kevin won't do it."
Nick grinned stupidly.
"That bastard," he said between gulps. "You called and cancelled Brian's Heart Med., right?"
Howie nodded shamefully. Why did he have to do the dirty work? In any way it was no use to continue with it if he was going to die by deadline and despite that it was so damned expensive. But still, who was he to cancel it? He wasn't any family of his and if anything went wrong he would be the first one Kevin would point the finger of blame at. It was quite sad actually, Brian was so sick he didn't even realise that they had done it, he never asked for his nurse, he didn't even remember he was on it.
Howie rubbed his eyes adding to the redness that already stained it and for a moment, there was silence between the two, Nick watching him trace the rim of the mug with his fingers. Nick laughed sarcastically.
Howie looked up at him, the emotional crackpot. The emotional crack pot because inside he was nothing but a fester of emotions ready to lay down beside Brian, his best friend, and die with him.
"Eighteen more days man, eighteen more days..." he started, dragging the Pepsi can further from himself.
Howie didn't respond.
"Howie...I get up every morning, every morning man, wanting nothing more than to come over here and take care of Brian… He just don't care any more D…I gotta shave him like he's some kind of a little kid 'cause sometimes he's just too weak to do it himself…just the other day I was cutting his fingernails…"
He got quiet, taking in a precarious breath. He continued, "That's all man…and you're telling me Kevin couldn't handle it?"
There was clear detection of sarcasm in his voice.
"Getting up to take care of him and he's gonna die anyway? Just die on me?! DAMN YOU KEVIN! DAMN YOU!" he screamed, banging the can of soda against the tabletop spilling it everywhere.
"Get a grip Nick…" Howie warned.
Nick buried his head in his folded arms and sat there silently, but when he brought his face up it was soaked with tears.
"I don't want him to die Howie…why does he have to die? …He's only twenty-four years old…"
Howie sighed deeply and turned away. It wasn't that he was insensitive, he just didn't know what to do, whether to accept it, or to be like everyone else and not accept it. Nick brought back his head to his arms, a little upset with Howie's pacific behavior.
"Why does anyone have to die Nick?" he said finally, staring blankly at him.
Nick brought up his head scowled at him. "Fuck you man," he hissed.