THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
The doctors are 96% sure of it. They even have a time-line.
Seven months. They give him seven months, tops.
I try to hold on to hope, but 4% is a weak reed to cling to while you’re thrashing to keep your head above water.
I caught Jesse crying one morning when he thought I was sleeping. Gwen, his mom, lets me stay over because he’s afraid to be alone. He doesn’t want to die alone.
I sleep in his old locker bed. It’s on a low to the ground iron frame with wheels. He sleeps in his new hospital bed. It’s high from the ground, with thick silver bars on the sides and fake wood paneling on the headboard. It’s ugly and depressing, but sometimes he’s in a lot of pain, and he can move his bed into different positions to get more comfortable.
That morning, I woke to the sound of his bed whirring. Then came the slight scrape on metal as he slid the plastic pot off the edge of his locker bedside table.
He heaved. He heaves a decent amount from all the chemo crap they put him through.
Then he gargled with the water Maria, the housekeeper, leaves next to the pot every night.
All of a sudden he made this kind of wounded noise and I thought he was gonna heave again, but he was sobbing.
You can’t blame him. One minute he was the star baseball player in high school, class president and the first junior to be editor of the school newspaper. All down the rows of slamming lockers at Midland Prep you could always hear the name Jesse Parker. Girls wanted to date him. Guys wanted to hang with him to get the excess girls.
The next minute, he was being radiated like Hiroshima, even though the doctors said he was probably gonna die anyway.
They’re torturing my best friend.
I cracked my eyes open. The sun shined in through his window, right on his shelves of trophies and awards on the wall facing us. A beautiful Saturday morning. Jesse should have been buttoning his blue and yellow pinstriped uniform, pushing his cap with the navy “M” on it over his curly black hair, lacing his cleats, grabbing his bat and heading into the park. Instead, the uniform and cap hung at the back of his closet, the cleats were tossed who knew where, the bat leaned in the far corner, and Jess lay in bed, some days barely able to walk.
He probably won’t make it to eighteen. He’ll never even get to vote.
I didn’t know whether I should open my eyes fully or not. He might get embarrassed. Or maybe he wanted me to wake up.
I decided to do it.