She walks out with him through the automatic doors of the hospital.
“It’s really good to feel sunshine,” he says to her.
“No, I swear. You know I have zero self-control. So, I actually mean it. It feels good to be outside right now.”
“Ok…so like I’ve only got 17% self-control.”
She laughs. His arbitrary assignment of numbers to value different aspects of life had always amused her. They make their way to the hospital’s parking garage. After buckling their seat belts in her white sedan, she tries hard not to look at his ER hospitalization bracelet.
“Yeah, so…wanna go hang out at my apartment?” She knows she sounds awkward but she’s struggling to speak casually. What does a person say to their best friend after springing them from a three-day suicide watch in the psych ward?
“Ah ha. I gotcha. You wanna…keep an eye on me and stuff.”
“It’s not exactly like that–”
“I know, I know. Just drive.”
He belches. She grabs another slice of pizza and leans back in the recliner. Neither of them are really watching the Netflix in the background, but chatting instead. “If you could compare yourself to any famous figure, who would it be?” she asks him.
“What? Isn’t that the dude from The Secret Garden?”
“Yep, that’s the one.”
“The kid who was convinced he was chronically sick when he really wasn’t and just sat in his bedroom with the curtains closed all day?”
“Yes,” he says, and then is overtaken by the type of laugh that is so hard that no sound comes out.”
“That is wildly accurate,” she jokes. It’s one of her favorite things about their friendship, the way they can find humor in their own faults and difficulties.
“I know, right!” Both of them laugh hard. It feels good to laugh after the emotional turmoil of the last several days.
The laughing dies and he begins crying. Sobbing. She wonders whether she is clean out of comforting reassuring words to offer him.
“I don’t want to actually die,” he says, voice shaking. “I just want some shit to end for once. I just can’t deal…”
“Ok, shhh, don’t worry. Relax.” She pulls her cell phone from her pocket. “Lemme show you something.” She quickly comes up with something to distract him and brings up a picture on her phone. “Lookit. Do you know what that is?”
“Uh, a biodome?”
“Yeah, exactly. Scientists are obsessed with the idea of creating their own mini Earth. But when they first made these biodomes, they found a lot of the trees they planted were toppling over right as they matured.”
“Well, there was no wind in the domes. The trees had no reason to develop rigidity in their trunks and shit.”
“Oh…I know what you’re doing. You’re saying I need something to blow and push against me every once in a while to make me tougher.”
“Yeah! I couldn’t have said it better.”
He wipes the last of his tears and blows his nose in a tissue. “Hey…thanks girl.”
“No prob,” she says reflexively.
“But seriously. You know what? You are truth sieved into a person.”
“Uh…I really am not sure what that even means, but it sounds like the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
“Ok, we’re getting too Canadian.” He stands up and claps his hands. “Alright, that’s enough feeling sorry for myself. I have a plan. Big news. I’ve been putting money in a secret drawer and I’m labeling it ‘runaway fund’.”
“I mean, is it really a secret if it’s labeled so blatantly?”
They both laugh.
Neither of them speaks for a few minutes.
“What if it comes back?” he blurts. “This feeling. This feeling that I just want to die.”
“If It comes back?”
“Then we’ll come back. Swear it. If It ever comes back. We come back here,” she says, stifling a smirk.
“Oh. M. G. You literally just quoted IT. B-B-Billy boy.”
“Yup, sure did.”
Both the friends laugh loudly for a long while.