Now that I’m able to sit up they have given me a pen. This is so that I can write what I am feeling, or rather what their psychological textbooks suggest that I should be feeling. After the doctors have finished shining their torches into the backs of my eyes they search my face, their foreheads furrowed. I know what they are looking for – a flicker of madness, some trace of the rage bubbling up inside of me.
I keep telling them that I feel none of these emotions when I think of you. How could I? You gave me so much to be thankful for…
First, thankyou for arranging it so that I missed my midterm maths exam. I’ll level with you; I hadn’t put in the work for it. Too many late nights playing video games. Too little time for messrs sine, cosine, and Pi. You really bailed me out there. This whole situation has also been golden as far as P.E. notes go. Once I get out of here, no teacher is questioning whether I’ve faked my mum’s signature on the excusal letter. Not with these tubes. Not with this chair.
The blue badge was a nice touch as well, man. When I’m old enough to get a licence, there’ll be no back-of-the-car-park nonsense for me. I’ll be screeching into the disabled bays next to the club, bass rattling the pennies on the ground and bouncers rushing to open the door for me. Muchas gracias.
It’s easy to be glib, though. What I really need to thank you for are the things less tangible.
That night at the cinema was a test run for me. Not everyone gets a practice shot – I realise that, and I won’t waste mine. I know what real fight-or-flight is now and next time I experience it I’ll be able to act accordingly. I’ll be ready for the next you. My mind will be calm, my reactions quick, and it’s all down to the training that you gave me. Not many people take that kind of time and I sure appreciate it. I survived a live shooter event; can you believe that? Not everyone did. You didn’t, and you were the one holding the gun.
Thanks for showing me just how much emotional baggage I can hold. I’m a teenage boy. I’ve got hormones screaming around my veins, girl problems, and my family can be a real drag. I’m still holding onto all of that weight, but now I’m carrying yours as well. It would have been nice if you’d have asked before heaving your sadness, your insecurity, your loneliness, and your desperation onto my skinny shoulders, but that’s cool, man. Turns out I can handle it. I’m kinda like a Sherpa, except one who outdistances his client and makes it to the top alone.
Finally, thanks for showing me what real empathy is. Look at me. LOOK at me. I’ll not be at the forefront of anyone’s must-date list. I’ll certainly never walk again. I feel sorry for you though, so lonely and desperate that this was what you felt was your only way out. Imagine that. Think, for a second, about someone other than yourself. Can you conceive of someone who can empathise with another whilst lying here in the bleach-soaked ward amidst the blinking lights and the hissing canisters and the bone-clawed pain in the side of my head?
I’m something. I really am. It’s down to you my friend. I’ve a lot to be grateful for.
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order