The nurse inserted the butterfly needle into my arms. It took her about forty-five seconds to set up the IV. A somberness engulfed my body and a broke out into a cold sweat. I hated sitting in the maroon chair and I equally hated the feeling I was going to have in about forty-five minutes. There was a stale stench in the air. It lingered in my nostrils for the duration of my visit. A coldness embraced my arm. It was part of the cocktail. The desire to tear the syringe from my arm intensified. “Don’t tense your arm up, otherwise you’ll go numb.” The raspy voice was standing next to the IV pole with a smile from ear to ear. “Do you mind if I shared this room with you?” I shook my head and with my right arm I invited her to the seat next to me.
I quickly inspected her as she slowly walked from the door to the seat. Her figure lanky and emaciated. Her head with a few noticeable strands of hair encircling her scalp. Her strides impeded by a gape, her posture hunched over. She dragged her IV pole alongside her. A knot formed in the pit of my stomach. As she walked passed me she graced me with her smile. I was now certain of the existence of evil forces in the world. “I’ve been meaning to speak with you for some time,” she said. “I noticed you several weeks ago and you always seem to be alone.”
“I’d rather do this alone.” My tone was unintentionally cold and distant. “I’m not one for pity.”
“Who’s pitying you?” Pity - hearing the words revealed the heft of it on my ears as if her tongue emitted lead. It was my own word, yet it felt so heavy. A knot began forming in my stomach.
“I’m sorry. I’m not used to conversation while all this is going on.”
“It’s alright. I’ve been doing this for a while. The only thing I think about doing the entire time is talking.”
“I’m all ears,” I said invitingly. “How old are you?”
“It’s never polite to ask a woman her age, you know.”
“You mistake me for the polite type.”
“I’m thirteen,” she said. “Do I look older?”
“You sound older,” I said, astonished. I diverted my gaze from the floor to her face. There was a paucity of life in her face. Her eyes were full of vigor and met mine with such zeal.
“Do you always sit alone? Isn’t there always a tall guy with brown cropped hair with you when you come?”
I looked at the ceiling and squinted at the florescence. “Yes, there is.”
“Why doesn’t he stay?”
“I never invite him to stay.”
“I’m not in the habit of imposing this on anyone.” I felt her eyes burning my face, but I avoided her gaze. It was difficult to meet it without the knot in my stomach going to my head.
“It wouldn’t be an imposition. Besides, he’s hot!” I quickly my head to her and challenged her eyes with mine, her grin as wide as when she walked in. “He would be something nice to look at while all this is going on,” she says giggling. “So, what are you in for?”
“I’m rotting away from the inside” I say with a smirk on my face.
“You are? You look quite healthy. I’m rotting from the inside out, too. They’re pumping me up with medication, but it isn’t really doing anything. I just take it one day at a time.”
My head body begins to weigh down. A chill travels from my arm and through my body. My bones begin to ache. I turn my gaze away from her and toward the window in front of us. “You’re ravaged by time, yet you look so happy. Why?”
“Jeez, I don’t know how to answer you. Hmm. Do you believe in God?”
“As much as I believe in boogiemen and spaghetti monsters. Why do you ask? Is that why you’re happy?”
“Not exactly. I’m just happy for each day I’m able to get up and walk around.” She places her legs underneath her and looks toward the window. I feel a sense of relief. “I just feel happy that I get to spend one more day walking around and talking to people. That makes me feel happy, that I still get to meet more people. I don’t care who they are, but as long as I’m able to talk to them I’m happy. When I wake up again, I feel like a pig that sees a puddle of mud. Do you feel happy when you wake up to another day?”
“Can’t say happy, but grateful.”
“Would you be happier if you were dead?”
“I don’t think I’d have emotions when I’m dead.”
“How about that one moment before you die? Wouldn’t you feel so sad that you’re leaving everyone?”
“Hopefully it’s instantaneous so I wouldn’t have to feel sad.”
“You don’t like feeling anything, do you?”
“No, feelings are too much right now.” I turned to look at her. Her eyes were still fixed to the window. I didn’t know what to say to her. I didn’t know the answer to that question. “Perhaps I feel happy I’m talking to you,” I finally said.
She quickly turns her body. “Really?! I made you happier? Is that sarcasm?”
“It’s not, I promise.” The knot in my stomach grew in intensity. Whether it was the girl or the poison coursing through my veins, I didn’t know. “Are you a spy for a shrink?”
“No, I promise I’m not a spy for a shrink.”
“Why did you come to my room?”
“You’re always alone. You never have anyone at your side and you’re always spaced out as if you’re thinking about something. I want to know what that something is that you’re always thinking about. Are you thinking about that guy?”
“You sure you’re not a shrink?”
“I swear I’m not a shrink. So what do you think about?”
“I’m thinking about why I’m sitting here. I’m thinking about why all this is happening to me. I’m thinking about why this is happening to you. Just why?”
“So, you don’t think about that guy?”
“I don’t only think about him, but I think about everyone around me. I wonder what they must be feeling having to be in a place like this.” There was a pause in the room. I welcomed it. “Do you have a crush on that guy or something?”
“Are you a shrink? What if I do?”
“Perhaps I’m a matchmaker. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.” I had a feeling the jingle was lost to my audience. “Find me a find, catch me a catch,” I continued.
“Do you do that for a living? Matchmaking, I mean. You can’t possibly be a singer.”
“I have the success rate of Dolly Levi,” I said chuckling. “Don’t avoid my question. Do you have some sort of crush on that guy.”
“Oh, he wouldn’t be interested in me. But he sure is good eye candy.” We laughed together. But I was persistent.
“How about I set a date for you? You can talk to him and find out all about him?”
“Really? Would you do that?” she asks, nearly spinning in her seat. Her face lit up as much as it could.
“Sure. How about next week?”
“I’ll be here! I’ll get my hair done, put a dress on, and some cha-cha heels.” There was so much love in her sarcasm. She resumed peering out the window. I wanted to know her thoughts. What was she going through? How is she feeling? What did she know about cha-cha heels? These were among the thoughts I ruminated.
“What’s your name?”
She turns back to me and extends her arm. “Carol-Ann, but you can call me Carol.” We shake hands.
“I’m Luis. Matchmaker.”
I stopped by build-a-bear. Apparently children love build-a-bear. That and candy. Okay, I really know nothing about children, but this was a special occasion. I had never “built a bear” before and I was determined to build one. I brought along Max, the object of Carol’s awe and affection, with me for moral support. It reminded me of the stuffed animal section at FAO Shwarz. There were children with their parents in every inch of the store, or so it seemed. I felt out of place and out of my element. Max seemed to sense this and put his hand on my shoulder. “So, how do you build a bear in this place?”
“You’re supposed to pick your bear first and take it from there,” said Max. I had a feeling this was going to be a daunting task. There are bears of all colors and other animals. I was lost.
“Finding everything okay?” I woman in red suspenders stands there with the biggest grin on her face.
“I want to build a bear,” I said.
“Do you know which bear you want built?”
“No, not yet. I’m building it for someone.” I hopelessly take a look around.
Max suddenly points. “Look!” There it was. I hit jackpot. It was a marvelous sight.
“I think I found what I’m looking for,” I say to the woman. Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Applejack, Pinkie Pie...They were all there. “This is sick,” I exclaim. “Truly sickening.” I turn to look at the woman and read her name tag. “Charlotte, do you happen to have Princess Celestia?”
“Is that the one with wings?”
“Yes,” I said rather excitedly. “The one with wings and a crown!”
Charlotte points “that one?” There she was, lost in a see of ponies. The ruler of Equestria among her subjects. I felt the excitement take over. If anyone who knew me saw me it would be all over.
I regathered my composure. “Yes, that one,” I said. “I’ll take that one.”
Charlotte smiles and walks me over to the center of the store. “Take a heart,” she says ecstatically.
“A heart?” I was lost.
“Can we have two?” asks Max. I look at him, still lost as to what was going on. He gestures with his head over at a pile of felt shaped like hearts.
“Sure,” says Charlotte. “Is it for someone special?”
“Okay, then. Grab two.” Max and I grab a heart. Charlotte motions us over to a computer nearby. There was a monitor with a pulsating heart in the middle “Put your hearts inside of the heart in the middle.” We placed our hearts inside of the heart and the screen comes alive. “Okay guys, name your pony.”
“Name the pony?” I asked perturbed.
“You’re supposed to name your pony,” said Max. “It’s for ID purposes. You’ll see later.” I didn’t know what to name the pony. In my world her name was Princess Celestia, ruler of Equestria. The one responsible for the rising sun. “What’s her name?”
“Celestia,” I replied.
“Not the pony. The girl.”
“Oh. It’s Carol.” Max takes over the computer and types in the name Carol into the screen. The heart pulsates and an array of positive adjectives flood the screen.
“Okay, now we have to pick her attributes.” I began to get the gist of things. Adventurous. Brave. Jolly. Strong. Good. Strong. They all went into the heart. Next we went over to a machine full of stuffing with a paddle wheel spinning inside. It was enchanting. Charlotte made small talk with Max, while I stood watching the wheel spin. So much was jumbled in my head. I simply couldn’t wait for Friday to come. It wasn’t something a normal person wouldn’t look forward to. Nausea, cramps, headaches, lightheadedness. But there was something else to look forward to: Carol. “Step on the peddle.” The machine was giving life to Celestia, or rather Carol. It began to take shape and look like a stuffed animal.
“Okay guys, now time to get that heartbeat going,” exclaimed Charlotte. I, once again, was lost. “Rub your heart between your hands to warm it up.” I did as I was told. “Okay get your heart beating by gently tapping on it, boop boop boop! Okay shake it in the air to wake it up! Rub it on your heart so it’s always full of love! Rub it on your cheek so they’re always smiling! Okay, now put it on your nose, close your eyes, and make a really big wish!” I don’t know what Max wished for, but I wished a really big wish: for life. Carol’s life. I wanted her to get better and for there to be an end in sight. “Now give your hearts a kiss so your heart doesn’t fly away!” I gave the heart a kiss and we inserted our hearts inside the pony. After it was all said and done, we had ourselves a “built bear.” All that was left was for Friday to come.
“I’m going to marry you off,” I jokingly said to Max on the elevator. It was Friday. I never looked forward to going to chemo as much as this session. “She’s going to have her hair done and cha-cha heels on just for you.” We both chuckled. The elevator arrived at the seventh floor. It was busy with nurses and doctors walking throughout the floor. I had the pony in my hand and looked around for Carol.
“Luis?” The head nurse walked up to me. “Are you ready for today?”
“Yes,” I said. I gestured over to Max “He’s with me today.” She smiles and leads us across the floor and into my usual spot. “By the way, where is Carol? I was hoping to see her before all this starts.”
“Yes, the thirteen year old girl who is usually walking around here.”
“Oh, Carol-Ann.” The nurse pauses for a second and puts her hand on my shoulder. The expression on her face changes from upbeat and optimistic to sadness. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but Carol-Ann has passed away. She died yesterday.” The sound of people talking goes mute and everything around me turns hazy. I didn’t know whether the nurse was still standing there talking. I didn’t know whether Max was still at my side. Everything seemed to pause. I felt numb. Like Garbo in that movie, I wanted to be alone. I wanted everyone around me to disappear. I wanted to know why this happens, but I was incapable of any coherent thoughts. After what seemed like an eternity, I came to and felt my t-shirt drenched. My eyes felt heavy and sore. “Looks like I won’t be matchmaking today,” I said, my voice breaking through each word. I felt an embrace. I was present, yet absent. I closed my eyes and listened to the people walking by. I listened to Max’s heartbeat. I listened to his breathing. I wanted to vanish, but I was reminded of Carol and how she was there. I could not imagine what she must have been going through, but somehow she managed to be there. I remembered she was always in room 704, sitting with a friend of hers. I began making my way to room 704. I noticed an incredible heft upon me while walking there. I peered in. There was a young girl, sitting in one of the maroon chairs, looking out of the window. She was with a man and a woman. I assume they are her family. “Hey,” I let out. They turned to look at me.
“Yes?” the woman answered.
“You knew Carol, right?”
“Yes,” said the girl. I held out the stuffed Celestia Max and I had built.
“Carol would have wanted you to have this.” She took it and placed it on her lap. She smiled and inspected it. “There are two wishes that come with it. If you wish hard enough, keeping it within your thoughts, they will come true.”
“Really?” She lifted it to within eye level and closed her eyes. She might have been making her wish at that moment. I began to make my way out of the room when I heard her ask “wanna stay here?” I looked to Max and received a nod.
“Sure.” Max and I took the seats across from her. Her name was Callie. She will go down as the second person I sat with in my chemo chronicles.