My head smashed against the hard bathroom floor, causing blood to erupt from my pounding head. My head ached, like swords being stabbed into my skull. My breathing was rapid. I let out a scream in agony, as if in an imploral beg, before going into a stupor. The ringing in my ears grew louder and louder as my father ran in, a fearful and bewildered look on his face. “Peter!” My dad yelled as he fell to the floor and cradled my head, his panicked breathing making his chest rise and fall abnormally fast. He hugged me close as he told the AI system in our house to call an ambulance. Dad muttered something that I couldn't hear and he picked me up bridal style. He rushed me outside as an ambulance pulled up. The EMTs strapped me into a stretcher and we pulled off of the curb. Dad held my arm with a bleak and distant look on his face, but his soft eyes were rueful and sad. After about 15 minutes, we arrived at the hospital. They pulled me into the hospital and into a white room. After the nurses stuck needles into my arms and inspected my body, they left my dad and I alone. I looked over at my usually gallant father, who had tears streaking his face. I felt awful, not because I was in pain, but because I made my father heartbroken. I never wanted him to feel this pain.
After about three hours of sleeping, I finally was able to open my eyes. I looked over and saw my dad, slumped over in a chair, sleeping. I touched my dad's hand lightly and he shot up from his slumber, making me jump a bit. Once he realized it was me who had touched him, he pulled me in tight for a hug. We sat there for a few minutes, not saying anything, just taking it all in. “I’m so sorry…” my father whispered sympathetically, tears running down his face and onto my shoulder. Just then a doctor walked in with a clipboard. “Hello, I’m Dr. Stephen. How are you feeling?” he said in a deep voice. “I’m fine” I whispered, looking down at my legs.
“What happened to my son?” my dad burst out, tears brimming his eyes. The doctor took in a deep breath, his crystal blue eyes seeming to darken. “I’m afraid that your son has brain cancer. A brain tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the tissues of the brain. Brain tumors can be benign, with no cancer cells, or malignant, with cancer cells that grow quickly. Some are primary brain tumors, which start in the brain. Others are metastatic, and they start somewhere else in the body and move to the brain.” He looked down. “But we can't cure him… I’m so sorry.” My dad fell back into his seat, his head in his hands. “Nonononono” He whispered with an incredulous tone, his voice cracking slightly. “How high is the survival rate?” Dad whispered. “He has a 15% chance of survival.” the doctor sighed. “How much time does he have left?” dad blurted out. The doctor sighed before whispering, “4 months, at most. He has a very serious case, and it would be very risky to give him surgery. If you would like to take him home with you we can give him the medicine and you can leave tomorrow so you can spend time together.” The doctor said, almost nonchalantly. “Okay.” My father replied, with a numbness to his voice.
You could tell that he thought that me dying was unfathomable. He looked at me with a sad glance and broke down into a tired sob. He held me close. I finally broke down too and cried into his shoulder. This was going to kill my father more than it was going to kill me.
I woke up the next morning in the hospital room with Peter in the hospital bed, snoring lightly. I studied him, looking at every beautiful feature of his face. 4 months, less than half a year, 122 days, until I would have to say goodbye to the only thing that I truly loved and cared for. I would have to say goodbye to my happy, bright, child. I remember the day I adopted him. It was an eerily quiet day, the shade of the buildings giving me a slight chill. I was walking to my meeting in Queens, down 42nd street. Then I heard screams. Ear-piercing, terrified screams. I started running down the street, and as I turned the corner, I saw it. A burning brick building, an orphanage.
Children, screaming and crying heard from the inside. I looked to my left and saw a crowd and a middle-aged woman, crying with 5 children at her side. Before I knew it, my instincts had kicked in and I was running into the building, grabbing children that were old enough and pointed them down the stairs, taking younger children with them. After getting what I thought was all of the children out of the building, I ran up to the top floor. Black smoke limited my vision, but I heard a baby’s imploring cries. I followed the sobs and found the small child only about three months old. I picked him up and held him close to my chest as I stumbled down the stairs, coughing vigorously. I finally made it down and out of the building, and I fell to my knees, panting and hacking up a lung. Firemen picked me up by the arms and took the young child from me. I was pulled over to an ambulance where they gave me an oxygen mask and a blanket.
The police officers asked me question after question, but I couldn't focus. I could only think of the screaming child I had held close to my chest. There was something about it, something delicate and yet so influential on me. I thought about that baby’s big, beautiful brown eyes. His soft cry into my suit. His soft but messy brown hair. There was something about it I couldn’t shake. After about 15 minutes of sitting with the bright orange blanket around me, I finally got up to check on the children that I sent down the stairs while I was searching for others in the building. I found the woman who I had seen earlier outside of the building, hugging the children and consoling them of their worries. I stood in front of her and she shot up, thanking me for saving the children. She wore long flowy pants and a black undershirt, her wavy brown hair covering most of it. She had a small child in a sling across her chest. The child I had carried out of the building. “Yeah, yeah, no problem.” I cut her short of her thanks. “What’s his name?” I said, pointing down to the child. “Oh, this is Peter! He’s only 3 months. His parents died in a car crash on the car ride over to the hospital to deliver him. They were so lucky to save him!” She said the last part in a cheery voice. I thought about what the woman had said. Did I really want to take on the responsibility of an actual child? But before I knew it, I had stammered out, “I-is he up for adoption?” She grinned and yelped, “Yes! Yes, he is! Would you like to make him your child?” I let out a soft smile. “Yes.” And after that moment, it was only happiness. I was able to pick Peter up from a brand new orphanage (that I funded) a month later, and I loved him more than anything.
I watched him grow up, celebrate birthdays, laugh, cry. I saw everything, and I loved it all. I’m brought back to reality by the slow movements of Peter and his soft groans. He slowly sat up and looked at me, his usually dancing eyes still for once. He let out a sigh and asked, “Ready to go?” I nodded quietly and we packed up all of his things and walked into the waiting room to pick up his pain medicine. The nurse smiled at us and handed us the bottle. How could anybody be happy? How could anybody smile? I felt tears sting the back of my eyes, but I didn't let them fall. I didn't want Peter to see me upset. I put my arm around him and walked him over to the car. We got in and I looked over at Pete. He was looking straight ahead, but I could still see his eyes, for the most part. They looked glossed over, bleak. I broke my gaze when he finally glanced over. “C-can we maybe go home? I kinda want to go to my room…” he mumbled. “Are you sure? We can go out to eat or something, go get some shawarma?” I babbled, clearly just trying to fill the space with something. “I’m sure.” He whispered, looking down at his lap. “Okay,” I whispered as I started the car. “Alright.”
The car ride home was silent. I looked straight ahead, watching, waiting for something to happen. But nothing ever happens when I look hard enough. It’s always when I get distracted. Then somebody gets hurt. Then I’m too late. Now it’s dad who is hurt, and no matter how hard I try, I can't heal him. I glance over at him. I can see his broken eyes, seemingly emotionless, but you can tell he’s aching. You could tell yesterday, by his mournful sobs, and now, by his slouched posture. Nobody expected for this to happen. Nobody but me. I knew it was coming, with the headaches, the dizziness, the blurry vision. They were all signs I had learned about in my health class. We would discuss the types of cancers there were, and brain cancer happened to be one of them. My dad would make the occasional comment, about the heavy bags under my eyes, or how I had lost about 15 pounds in the past month. He would ask with a slight wince in his voice, but you could tell he wasn't too worried about it. He had other things to worry about, I not being one of them. I would have nights where I would vomit up anything I had eaten all day, which usually was very little, but I wouldn't tell him. I didn't want to scare dad. I didn't want to stress him out even more, his job was already taking a real toll on him. He always comes back after his longer trips and spends countless days in his lab, never sleeping and only occasionally coming up for food. I would wait around, cooking for myself, walking myself to school. I didn't want to go through those lonely days again, so I kept quiet. But I knew it was only a matter of time until he would find out…
I woke up to my dad shaking my arm a little bit. I woke up with a start, flying up from my resting position. “Shhh, shhh. You’re okay, don't worry. We’re home.” Dad almost whispered. I let out a breath I didn't know I had been holding in. “Okay.” I mumbled as I stepped out into the blinding sunlight. I walked into the lobby, my head hanging low and my back in a slouch. As I stumbled through the room, I could feel watching, people staring at me. My dad threw his arm over me and sped walked me over to the elevator, to avert me from the eyes of others. We got in, and dad jabbed his finger at the button marked with a “93”. We were silent as the elevator rose, making a soft wiring sound. We stared straight ahead, as if our eyes had been glued to the door. After what felt like hours, the elevator made a “ding” to signify that we were home. The doors slid open and I stumbled out, making a break for my room. All I wanted to do was escape my dad. I heard him yell my name as I flew around a corner. I felt heavy tears stream down my face as I slammed and locked my door. I crippled to the floor and started sobbing. “W-why is this happening to m-me? This c-can't be happen-ning to me!” I whispered through shuttered sobs. At least I thought I had whispered it until dad responded from behind the door. “I don't know kid,” he whispered with a shudder. “I don't know. Just please come out. Please?” I took a deep breath. “I… I need some time.” I could hear my dad sniffle. “Okay. Take your time. I love you... ”
“I love you too,” I whispered, as I heard dad’s footsteps get quieter and quieter. “Goodbye...”
I stumble my way down to my lab, tears threatening to spill. I ran my pale hands through my chestnut tinted hair. My chest burnt with hopelessness and sorrow. I could have saved him. I could have asked him how he was doing instead of spending days at work. I sat down on the wheelchair at my desk and took out something else to work on. I took out a beer and some different sized screwdrivers. I stumbled over to the record player and started playing my “Ratiohead” album at almost full volume. I began working on a new invention, an alarm system that would keep close watch over houses all over America. It felt good. That’s an understatement. It felt amazing. I felt relief, like I didn't have to think about anything anymore. It gave me something new to focus on. Then I heard a door slam, and Peter came around the corner, his face laced with hatred and tears streaming down his heated cheeks. “Is this what you’re going to do? Sit down here for the next few days while I wait for you to come up? Huh? Do you know what I’m going through?! Do you realize how much it pains me to wait upstairs for you? I’m constantly trying to keep you happy, and now this happens!” He gestured to his head. “Do you even care about me?! Do you care about what I’m going through! Who am I kidding, you wouldn’t spend all day in this stupid lab if you did!”
Peter yelled at me. He’s never done that. I was caught off guard by his outburst, but instead of apologizing, I got angry by his tone. I could feel my face heating up with rage, and I yelled, “How dare you use that tone with me, young man! You have no right to manipulate me like this! Go to your room, and stay there!” Peter stood there for a second, confused, scared, and angry. “NOW.” I spat. “I hate you!” he screamed, as he made a dash off to his room, but it looked more like a stumble. I froze. He hates me? HE HATES ME?! After all I had given him, this is what I get in return?! I spun around a punched a hole in the wall, with a yell. I fell to the floor and started crying. “I'm sorry Pete. I’m sorry…” I whispered.
I ran back to my room, tears blurring my vision. I slammed the door and flopped onto my bed. I let my sobs hit the blanket, making the soft cotton become damp. I lay there for a second, just thinking about nothing and everything at the same time. I felt my body become numb with sorrow as I looked up at the white, bleak ceiling. I would be gone soon. I would be a part of that white. I would fade into a soft, painless space. Dad would become less stressed. He wouldn’t have to come up from his lab, he wouldn’t need to spend money on insurance for me. It would be fine. Without me. I smiled. Dad would be happy. After 10 more minutes of thinking, I stood up. I cautiously made my way over to the door, trying not to make a sound. I opened my door slowly and made my way to the elevator. I got in and pressed the button marked with a ‘1’ and a star next to it. As I ascended, I started making a plan for what I would do. I just need to get out. I just need to get out. I just need some fresh air. I’ll take a walk around a few blocks and I’ll go home. I’ll go home.
I stepped out of the lobby and onto the street. I started walking, wide and shaky strides carrying me away from the tower. It felt good, the cold wind chilling my nose and fingertips. I felt free. Free from stress, free from pain, free from the fury of my father. I checked my phone. The screen read 9:00. I have some time… at 10 I’ll start walking home. After about 45 minutes of walking, I turned down a street I had never been down before. It had eerily low lighted lights, and the ground was littered with cigarette butts. I slowed my pace. My vision seemed to blur. My head started pounding. I started to stumble, as my legs struggled to hold myself up. I fell to the ground, sliding a bit on impact. I was able to prop myself up against a brick wall and pull out my phone. My phone was flooded with missed calls and worried texts from dad. I pressed the ‘call back’ button on my phone with the last ounces of strength I had in me and put him on speaker phone. I heard him yell out my name through the phone. I was able to mumble his name just before the street went black…
20 Minutes Earlier
I lay on the couch. I didn't know what to think. I didn't know what to feel. I felt empty. Not hungry. Just emotionally drained, of everything in my life. What would I do? What would I do when he’s gone? The house would be quiet. I would cry for days until I couldn't cry anymore. I wouldn't eat. I would tinker in my lab until my calloused and bleeding hands wouldn't work for me anymore. But for now, I’m only on the couch. Only on the couch. I sit up. My head pounds, screaming for Advil™ and a glass of water. I slump over, my head in my hands. I felt the heavy eyebags that had been growing on my face. I sighed and stood up. I just needed to talk to Peter. Let him know I’m sorry. I’m sorry for getting mad at you. I’m sorry for staying in my lab so much. I’m sorry for seeing signs of your health declining and I’m sorry for not taking action. I’m sorry.
I started walking to his room, as I prepared my speech in my head. I made it to his room and stood in front of the tall, white door. I knocked two, slow knocks on his door. No response. I looked down. “Peter… Peter, I’m sorry. I was being insensitive and only thinking about myself. I don't need you to go through that, and I really don't want you to worry about me. We have some things to work through these next four months,” I took a deep breath. “but we can do it. Together. I know it. I love you, kid. I’m sorry.” No response. “Pete, you don't have to accept my apology, but please let me know that you will think about it.” Still no response. I was starting to get a little frustrated, but I kept my cool. “Peter…” I whined. I took a deep breath after a long silence. “Okay, I’m coming in, whether you like it or not.” I slowly twisted the handle of the door and pushed in. I looked around the room and let out a sigh. Maybe he’s not in here? I mean, the house is pretty big, so he could be anywhere. I started walking around the house, yelling his name. I called his phone multiple times but he wouldn’t pick up. I was starting to get really frustrated after about 20 minutes of searching, and he wasn't responding to my texts.
I started to panic. Where could he be? Is he hurt? Ohmygodohmygodohmygod-
But in an instant, my panicking was interrupted by the sound of my phone ringing. I looked down and Peter’s name was written at the top of the screen. I quickly accepted the call and yelled out his name. I heard him mumble something and he went silent. My stomach dropped. “Pete, where are you, kid, I need to know!” He was silent, but I could hear cars driving by and the loud noises of the city. He’s outside? What am I going to do? How will I find him?! Then I remembered something. Find my iPhone! Of course! I quickly signed in and the application was able to find him. He was… all the way in Harlem? How could that be? How long ago did he leave? I didn’t let the distracting thoughts fog my brain, and I got into my car. I followed the directions on Find my iPhone until it said that I had arrived. I looked around and I felt my stomach drop when I looked down at the sidewalk. Peter was on the floor, propped up by a brick wall. I jumped out of the car and rushed to his side. I shook him a bit, and he slowly woke up. “H-hey, dad.” He whispered weakly. He seemed to remember what had happened because he quickly tried to stand up. I held him down as I tried to calm him. “Shhh, shhh. It’s okay. You’re okay. I’m sorry I got mad at you. You were right. I should have been there for you. I’m sorry. We’re going to get through this. I promise.” We just sat there hugging and crying. After about 5 minutes, I brought him home to sleep.
The last months with Peter flew by. We went to 7 different doctors after the fight, but they all said the same thing. That we were too late. He didn’t seem to be upset after the 5th doctor. He seemed to accept his fate, although I never did. Peter stopped going to school 2 months after the first diagnosis. He stayed in bed most of the time, struggling to make it to his bathroom. I was always at his side, ready to help him with anything. Peter’s medicine would make him lose weight and make him very tired so he would sleep most of the day. His ivory skin seemingly became even paler with time, and his eye bags grew larger. But he kept smiling. Somehow. I didn’t understand at first. I mean, he was dying. I asked him one day, and he responded weakly with, “I’m upset. I truly am. There is so much I’m missing out on. College, friends, growing up in general. But I look back on the life you gave me, and I’m happy that I was able to experience that. I wish I could stay longer, but if this was how I am supposed to go, then I have to let it happen. But please,” he grabbed my hand. “please don’t be upset. You did the best you could do. I want you to take some time off work for mourning, and then I want you to meet someone. Someone who you can connect with. I want you to love them so much, that you want to start a family, whether you adopt like you did with me or not.” Peter let out a small yawn “Is it okay if I rest for a bit? I’m just, you know, like super tired.” He laughed. “Okay. I love you.” I whispered. He smiled. “I love you too.”
Peter spent his last month in a wheelchair. It seemed to make it easier for him, as he would move around a lot more, but it would always be a struggle getting it down the stairs. He would talk about how his head would pound, and how it would hurt to walk. It hurt his eyes when he was in a bright room, and he felt nauseous all the time, but he would always love to go to the park. It was calming for both of us. I would sit on the end of a bench and he would sit next to me. We would talk; about my future, our pasts. We would watch the birds fly by and the trees sway in the breeze.
Finally one day it ended. He was laying in bed, in so much pain, and he just fell asleep. He never woke up. I was with him for his final moments. He had tears streaming down his face from the agony of it. He knew what was happening. We both did. “Dad…” He whispered. I rushed to his side. His soft brown eyes were glazed over. “I-i think it's time… I’m so sorry.” He started bawling. I held him close, soft tears running down my face as his soaked my shirt. “Shhh, shh. It’s okay. You can let go. Do you want me to do anything for you?” I sniffled.
“Can you...” he hesitated and took a breath. “Can you maybe play that song we used to listen to when I was younger? I think it’s called ‘Creep’. We used to make breakfast and listen to it. I liked when we did that” He let out a long breath as I took one in. “Sure.” I whispered, and I commanded the AI system to play the song at a low volume so it wouldn't hurt his ears. The music started playing and Peter looked up at me.
When you were here before
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry
Tears rolled down Peter’s pale cheeks.
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
And I wish I was special
You're so frickin' special
“I love you, dad. I wish I could stay longer…”
But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here.
“But I can’t. I just can’t.”
I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
“It hurts too much. My head, my everything.”
I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so frickin' special
I wish I was special
“I really did try, but I’m just too tired.”
But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo.
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here.
“Thank you for everything you have given me.”
She's running out again,
She's running out
She's run run run run
“I love you so much.”
Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so frickin' special
I wish I was special
His eyes started to shut. I hugged him close, tears falling hard.
But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo,
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here.
I don't belong here.
“I’ll see you soon kid. Soon.” I whispered. He was gone. Really gone.
After Peter died, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I took time off work, as he told me to do, to cry and think. I would look through photos of when he was young and happy. Surprisingly enough, I didn't go into my lab. I would go to his grave every morning and just sit with him. I would talk, about everything that was going on. I would bring a flower each day until the tombstone was crowded with red roses. After three months of mourning I was finally able to get up and out of the house. I walked down to a pub close to the tower and sat down on a green-leathered barstool. I ordered a beer, something that wouldn’t be too rough on me. I started thinking about what Peter had said he wanted me to do. Finding someone that I loved so much I wanted to start a family with would be hard, considering I don't really connect with women that easily. As I was sitting on the stool, hunched over my drink, a tall, strong man sat down next to me. “Hey. My name’s Stephen. Have we met before?”