“Are you sure you don’t want me to go in with you?” Jaime asked Monte while looking at the small blue house that was surrounded by weeds. The deformed plants were desperately trying to be flowers and she wondered who owned this house and if the weed jungle was a conscious decision.
Monte let out a breath, “Yes, I need to do this alone. Also, someone needs to watch the car, I’m not entirely sure we can park here.” Monte looked around the nearly vacant street for signs that prohibited parking there; they saw none.
Monte pushed the car door open and began to get out when Jaime spoke, “Wait but what do I do if like a cop comes saying to move the car?”
“You have the keys, circle the block.”
“But I don’t know how to drive!” Jaime exclaimed.
“The keys are in the ignition and you have a smartphone, you’re a smart girl. I think you can figure it out.” Jaime tried to stop Monte but to no avail. “I won’t be long I promise!” The car door shut with a pleasing sound and Monte made their way across the street. They walked the pavement that lead to the door of Mitchell, a two month long fling that was as toxic as a soda-a-day. Behind Monte, the sky was a clear blue but the sky beyond Mitchell’s house held dark clouds that were slowly getting closer.
Monte had walked this path countless times in the months of October and November. Early mornings and late nights, hot afternoons and cool evenings. Monte’s feet were familiar to the flat concrete riddled with overgrown weeds and cigarette butts. It was the first steps they were taking towards healing self inflicted wounds.
Monte knocked on the white door of the pastel blue house and waited to hear the door unlock. There was no sound but Monte’s uneven breathing. They knocked again but this time the door slightly opened on it’s own revealing a piece of paper folded in half. Monte stuck their head in and looked around the quaint house and saw no one occupying it. Monte picked up the piece of paper and saw what was printed on it. A blown up middle finger with text that read ‘It took you this long fuckers? Wow, I’d be slightly more depressed, if that were possible. Sayonara. x Mitch’
What the fuck? Monte thought to their self and then the wires in their head connected and the paper fell from their hands and back onto the floor. Did Mitchell kill himself? Am I the one finding the body? Fuck. Monte pushed the door open wider and made their way into the house. The house was dirty but the kind you accepted because it was quirky and presumably a style choice. There wasn’t trash on the floor but it surely hadn’t been kept up by anyone.
“Mitchell! Mitchell!?” Monte bellowed down the various hallways in the house and into one of the rooms that used to be Mitchells but now appears to be a storage room. Monte made their way into the living room and found Mitchell with his back to Monte, sitting on a chair facing a window overlooking the backyard. Like the front yard, it too was unkempt; overgrown with weeds and littered with cigarette butts. Monte began to speak while walking closer to Mitchell, “Oh, thank god I thought you were d-”
“Dead?” Mitchell interrupted. He turned around in his chair to reveal blood shot eyes, dried tears on his face, and a gun in his hand. Monte felt the sudden urge to puke and take a shit. “Nah, but I’m working on it.”
“Alright..alright Mitchell, put the gun down.” Monte put their hands up, palms facing Mitchell like they saw in countless crime shows.
“Relax Mo, I’m not going to shoot myself.”
Monte sighed, “Then what’s the gun for?”
“Dramatic effect”, Monte rolled their eyes in response, “and in case the pills don’t work.” Mitchell pointed with his gun still in his hands towards the empty pill bottles that peeked out from behind the couch.
“Oh my god! Mitchell!” Monte bent down to pick up the bottles and read the labels. Monte read numerous words they couldn’t comprehend but one stuck out in particular ‘Hydrocodone’. Monte used to get these when they had terrible toothaches. “What did you take? How long ago?”
“It was a mix of stuff I found around the house. I had to break into Josh’s bathroom. I wrote him an apology letter. He’s cool, it’s cool.”
“Okay, we have to get you to the hospital, right now. Put the gun down.”
Mitchell snapped in anger, “No!” He waved the gun around as he yelled at Monte, “I’m done. I did what I did and I’m ready for the consequences.”
Monte took a quick breath before they began to speak, “Look, Mitchell, I don’t want to tell you what you want but I’m fairly sure you don’t actually want to kill yourself. I know shit’s hard and life can be fucked but you-”
“How would you know Monte?! You don’t know a damn thing about me! The sex stopped between us, shit got serious, and you left real quick.”
“Is this...are you doing this because of me?”
Mitchell threw his hands in the air and scoffed, “Oh, Jesus, get over yourself Mo.”
“Then what is it Mitchell? Talk to me! There’s a better way to get through this then killing yourself.”
“My parents died.” There was a silence that filled the room immediately. The two ex lovers held each other's gaze and pondered what to say next. Neither of them expected the words that were spoken and they both stood in a daze. Mitchell knew he was lying about his parents being dead. They were actually on a second honeymoon in Prague, living pretty greatly. He didn’t know exactly why he said they were dead. Maybe it was because he felt saying ‘I’m just sad all the time and can’t bring myself up’ wouldn’t be enough to express the level of depression he was going through. Maybe he wanted them to die because they too couldn’t understand his plight. For whatever reason the words were said, Mitchell did not take them back.
Monte felt the tears begin their descent from his eyes and tried to hold them back. Monte imagined their own parents dying and what that would do to their world. How it would shake every fiber of their being so rapidly that maybe they too would end up at the bottom of a pill bottle. Monte reached for Mitchell's hand that held the gun and removed it from his possession but not letting go of Mitchell’s hand. Mitchell allowed this to happen and when Monte pulled him into a hug; he felt something. It was either the pills beginning effects or maybe some light in his otherwise dark world. That’s when the two sat down on the couch and calmed each other's emotions.
Monte spoke first, “Mitchell, why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you try to reach out?”
Mitchell squinted his eyes at Monte, “Why would I Mo? I started opening up to you, tried to move the relationship past the physical and you pulled away. You never gave any sign that you wanted to ever talk after we broke up.”
Monte didn’t know what to say, Mitchell was right in every way. He was an asshole to this guy. “I know and I’m sorry. That’s actually why I’m here today, to atone for the shitty way I treated you.” Mitchell’s face showed confusion and Monte remembered the countless pills swirling in Mitchell’s stomach.
Monte spoke in a hurry, “and I will apologize but I’m taking you to the hospital right now. You are not dying today, I’m sorry.”
Mitchell went limp and fell back against the armrest on the couch dramatically, “No! Just leave me to die with Carl!”
“Who is Carl?”
“My fish!” Mitchell pointed with his limp hand hanging over the back of the couch to a fish bowl on a dresser.
Monte looked at the fish bowl containing a singular fish, presumably Carl. Carl was dead. Monte stood up and hauled Mitchell off of the couch. The two made their way out of the living room, grabbing the fish bowl containing the deceased Carl and rushed out of the house.
Monte opened the back door of their car and let Mitchell get in with his fish bowl. Closing the car door, Monte realized Jaime was in the driver’s seat.
Jaime rolled the window down excitedly, “I just parked the car! Like I drove around the block!”
Monte’s face scrunched up at the thought of Jaime driving, “Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it.” Monte joked.
“No, I’m serious!”
“Okay, Jaime, move over. We’ve gotta get this guy to the hospital!” Monte gestured towards Mitchell in the backseat who seemed to be feeling several effects of several different pills.
On cue, Mitchell interjected, “Hi!” He exclaimed. “I’m Carl! And this is Mitchell!” Mitchell held up his fish bowl to Jaime and pointed to the dead fish inside.
“H..hi…” Jaime said awkwardly while sliding over the gear shift into the passenger seat. She raised an eyebrow at Monte as to say ‘What the fuck is this guy on?’
“Long story.” Said Monte who had just put their hand on the gear shift when Mitchell yelled loudly.
“Wait!” Everyone paused. “I forgot my phone. Brb.” Before Monte or Jaime could stop him, Mitchell bolted out of the car and back into the pastel blue house. Monte and Jaime both got out of the car and stared at the house, waiting for Mitchell to come back out.
Two minutes passed and Monte remembered the gun they left on the couch. “Jaime, wait here.” Monte began to run towards the house but when they got to the sidewalk, Mitchell burst out of the front door like a bat out of hell.
In his hand were his phone and a small chest. He also had a back-pack slung lazily over his shoulder just barely zipped closed. “Back to the car! Back to the car and to the hospital!” Mitchell exclaimed while pulling Monte by the arm across the street and back to his car.
When all three passengers were in the car, Monte spoke, “What’s all that stuff, Mitchell?”
“Just some stuff that I...couldn’t let go of.” Mitchell stroked his backpack affectionately.
“Wait, I thought your name was Carl?” Jaime spoke softly but neither Monte or Mitchell acknowledged the question.
Monte spoke to Mitchell, “We could’ve just come back for those after the hospital Mitchell.”
“Yeah,” Mitchell let out a sigh, “about that….” he trailed off and looked longingly at the house across the street.
Monte and Jaime both looked in the same direction Mitchell peered at and as if all three had some unknown divine power that existed in their stares, the house exploded. At first, two windows on either side of the house blew out with flames and then black smoke followed. Before the group could react, another explosion filled the air. This time originating from the front of the house and blowing out the windows nearest the front door. It was like a movie Monte thought. Only it was real and happening just two-hundred feet away from them. Not on a movie screen. Not contained but real and burning.
“What the fuck?!” Jaime exclaimed loudly.
“How did that happen!?” Monte yelled out, at no one in particular. Jaime and Monte both turned around to look at Mitchell who was holding the fish bowl close to his chest and looking out the window at his burning house. “What did you do Mitchell?” Mitchell was silent as he watched through the window.
Jaime grabbed Monte by the shoulder, “Monte, what the fuck did you get us into? Explain.”Monte didn’t know where to begin. Start with suicide note, or the gun, or the pills?
As Monte searched for a beginning to this mess of an afternoon, Mitchell called from the back seat but not as happily as before, “Hey Mo...we should probably get to that hospital soon. I’m not feeling too well.” Instinctively, Monte started the car and pulled out of the cul de sac. Before Monte turned onto the main street, Mitchell yelled out, “Oh my god!” Monte and Jaime looked back at him, wondering what surprise was next. “Carls dead you guys!” Mitchell began to cry. Jaime looked more confused than ever.
Monte pulled onto the main street and sped to the hospital.
‘Hospital gowns never fit like they should’, the lyric from a Lumineers song came to Jaime’s mind as Monte parked the car across the street from the emergency room. Jaime read on a sign just a few feet away from the car that parking was free for emergency room guests for up two hours. After that, it would need to be moved to the parking garage around the back. What would happen to the car of someone who drove themselves to the hospital and then died? If someone I knew died, my first thought isn’t to find their car. Who gets the towed car of a dead man? As Jaime thought to herself in the passenger seat she noticed Monte struggling to get Mitchell out of the car and got out to help.
The trio stumbled into the emergency room of the hospital with Mitchell being held up on either side by Monte and Jaime. The bright fluorescents contrasted with the rain storm beginning outside and it took the three a moment to adjust to the new setting. The experience wasn’t the same for Mitchell for he could only see what was directly in front of him and it was hard for him to keep his eyes open longer than five seconds. Every muscle in his body felt like it was trying to relax but his brain was screaming for them to move, for them to do their job as normal. It was then that Mitchell could understand what was happening; he was dying. Or at least blacking out.
The three of them approached the nurses desk, fumbling about, not exactly sure what to say or how to say it. Jaime turned to Monte and bulged her eyes, trying to push her friend to speak to the large woman staring at them. Her eyes were fixated on the trio but that’s about all they were seeing. For a receptionist nurse she wasn’t very attentive, it was like she had just happened to look in the direction of the distressed trio during her routine scan of the room.
It was clear Monte couldn’t exactly hold up most of Mitchell’s weight and explain their current situation, so Jaime took charge, “Hi m’am, uhm Jeanine, is it? Okay, I don’t know if you can tell but our...friend here is sort of dying at the moment. Maybe you could find some time to call someone who can help?” Jaime wasn’t trying to be rude or even slightly snarky; she just knew no other way to express the urgency the situation needed.
The woman moved slightly faster than before; pulling up a tab on her computer she spoke, “Name?”
Monte spoke quickly, “Mitchell Hughes, seven thirteen ninety-five.” Monte started to reach into Mitchell’s pocket for his wallet.
“Social Security Number?”
Jaime whipped her head at the nurse, eyes blared, “Are you kidding me? This guy can barely fucking speak! Call a doctor lady!”
“Nurses are just as qualified for situations like these.” The lady retorted to Jaime's outburst.
Jaime pulled back in shock and spoke calmly, “Really? Right now, you’re choosing to do this, right now? Okay, you loo-” Jaime was cut short by the weight of Mitchell coming down on her. Monte had let go of the now ominously quiet Mitchell and was running towards a woman in a white coat who was walking towards a restricted door.
Jeanine, the receptionist nurse screamed after Monte but they didn’t stop. They caught the doctor just before she was about to swipe an ID card to open a set of large grey doors. Jaime hoisted Mitchell’s weight onto her and with her right hand pressed her middle finger firmly on the bulletproof glass that separated her and the nurse. The nurse rolled her eyes while pushing away from the desk and disappearing behind blue surgical curtains.
Jaime was able to walk about three steps before the doctor and Monte made it back to Mitchell and her. The woman looked to be in her mid-thirties, probably in the tail end of her Residency at this hospital, Jaime thought to herself. That was about the extent of medical knowledge her brief stint with Grey’s Anatomy in Freshman year could offer her in the moment. Beyond the obvious assessment that taking a ‘fuck-ton of pills’, a direct quote from Mitchell, was probably killing him, Jaime was useless in this situation. A feeling Jaime has hated since she was a child seemed to always find its way in her adult life.
The doctor leaned down to get face-to-face with Mitchell. Jaime tried to help by moving the silent boy closer in the doctor's direction. It didn’t work out as intended and Mitchell’s head collided into the doctor with a loud thump.
“Oh fuck.” Jaime muttered under her breath. Monte shot a look in her direction.
The doctor turned to Jaime, “Keep him steady for me, okay?” The doctor said calmly. Jaime nodded her head in agreement. The doctor continued to examine Mitchell, starting with pulling out a mini-flashlight and shining it in his eyes.
Mitchell spoke in a haze, “Did you just...hit on me?” Mitchell managed to wink at the doctor before losing consciousness. His body went more limp than before. The doctor yelled behind her for help and and about five seconds late there were three nurses lifting Mitchell’s limp body onto a stretcher.
Monte got in front of the doctor before she sped away with Mitchell in tow, “Where are you taking him?”
The doctor continued walking forward while Monte walked backwards in the same direction, their hand stayed clutching Mitchell’s, “We’re taking him to the ICU, his stomach needs to be pumped immediately. After that, we’ll see what else we can do.”
“I’m coming with.” Monte stated firmly.
The doctor stopped and placed her hand on Monte’s shoulder affectionately, “He’s in good hands, I’ll have my nurses keep you updated. Let me do my job and try to save your friend.”
Monte didn’t try to hold the tears back while leaning over Mitchell’s face, he spoke, “Don’t you die on me you idiot. You hear me? Don’t even think about it.” Monte pulled away from the stretcher and the doctor disappeared with Mitchell behind closed doors.
Besides Monte and Jaime, the emergency room was empty. The nurse behind the glass screen had returned and Monte approached her with Mitchell’s wallet. Someone had to give his information to the hospital and it for sure couldn’t be Jaime.
Jaime looked around the small room, examining her options for seats but her eyes pulled her back to the front doors she and Monte stumbled through just a few minutes ago. The rain outside sounded almost like a hurricane and Jaime was drawn to it. She stood just at the edge of the cover from the metal awning and felt the slightest of water splash against her face. It was calming to her and she felt her heart finally slow back to a normal beat for the first time since the house exploded. With a new found clarity, Jaime started to recall the events of her day; starting with how she was woken up.
Jaime woke up the way John Green says you fall in love; slowly and then all at once. Her eyes opened to black and for a moment she thought she was blind but then quickly lifted the blankets from her head. There was banging coming from her living room but when she got out of bed, the noise stopped and the silence made the hair on her neck stand up.
Instinctively, Jaime grabbed a tiny bat next to her bed that was given as a gift from her little brother. She held it up close to her head, clutching the small handle made for ten year olds, she creeped into her hallway that would lead to her living room. She stood just in front of the doorway that opened up to her living room which then flowed into her kitchen and front door. At this point, Jaime could hear scurrying in her kitchen and specifically hear the refrigerator open. Jaime decided this was as good as time as any to surprise who ever broke into her apartment.
Jaime burst through the doorway with her bat held high and her voice even higher, “Square up, bitch!” Jaime closed the distance between the intruder and herself just as they pulled their head out from inside the refrigerator.
Monte recoiled from Jaime’s scream and switched their gaze between the bat in her hands and her cramped face. It wasn’t long until Monte started to laugh at the frightened Jaime.
Jaime lowered her bat when she realized who had broken into her apartment, “Monte...what the fuck? Oh my god, you scared the shit out of me.”
“And your instinct was to assault me with…”, Monte pursed their lips while reaching for the bat still in Jaime’s hands, “with a T-Ball bat?”
Jaime jerked the bat away from Monte and held it to her chest, “I don’t keep my gun loaded or you’d have a hole in you.”
“Oh Jaime, please don’t start with the foreplay so soon..” Monte walked around Jaime and picked up two reusable grocery bags that sat next to the front door.
“What's inside the bags?” Jaime asked as she tossed the bat onto her couch just behind her.
Monte placed the grocery bags on the countertop in the kitchen, “I came over to make breakfast with you.” Jaime squinted her eyes angrily at Monte, “For you, I mean. I came to make breakfast for you.”
“You could have called, Monte.”
“Jaime, I did. I was also knocking for thirty minutes but then I remembered the spare key you keep above the door frame so I let myself in.” Jaime made an audible gasp and laughed, her annoyance was starting to subside. “Plus, this,” Monte pulled out a bong from one of the bags on the countertop, “isn’t something I would want your neighbors to catch me with.”
Jaime’s face lit up and any bit of sleepiness that lingered, immediately left, “In the five minutes that you’ve been here Mo, you’ve shown me why you’re single and why you should immediately be married.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Monte said.
Jaime grabbed the bong from the counter along with the grocery bag it was in and went to the living room. It had been weeks since her and Monte had time to relax and smoke a few bowls. Sure, she thought, they broke into her apartment but they also brought weed and are making food. Jaime let go of her annoyance and fell into the motions of loading a bowl while Monte got to work in the kitchen. The bong, which wasn’t even technically a bong more like an overgrown bubbler that had a nice grip, was freshly cleaned. Which is almost impossible for Monte seeing as how they smoke 24/7 and clean maybe 7/7?
Jaime got up from the couch with bong in tow when music from her surround sound speakers placed sporadically around her apartment began to play. Monte had just set down their phone and began cracking eggs into a yellow bowl. The music was up-tempo and unfamiliar to Jaime but Monte was moving to the beat while cooking. She recalled countless times cooking with them and how they always got lost in the music and motions of making a meal. Jaime observed the ingredients on her countertop: bacon, eggs, chili peppers, onions, a bowl full of an off white liquid in plastic wrap, and various other spices and greens.
Monte was mixing a splash of milk with the eggs in a bowl when they noticed Jaime standing at the edge of the kitchen with their bong, a dazed look on her face, “Damn girl, you already high?” Monte laughed as they scrambled the eggs.
Jaime snapped out of her mind and laughed, “Not yet.” She took a hit and set the bong down. “How can I help?”
“Oh, no you don’t have to! I got it.”
“I want to. We haven’t cooked together in a while.”
“Awww, stop, you’re gonna make me cry.” Jaime went to wash her hands, “You can cut up some bananas and put them in the pancake mix. It’s in the green bowl, the bananas are in the bag.”
The two worked in unison like a well oiled machine. Trading off stations so the other could take a hit, each playing their favorite songs and singing along loudly. Monte loaded another bowl while jaime served the food. What started out as a violent morning, made its way to such a chill time that Jaime almost forgot about how she was woken up. Almost.
Jaime put both plates down and went back for the drinks, “So, what brought all this on Mo?”
Monte let out a huge puff of smoke, “I wanted to have a nice day with my friend.” Monte stated in between coughs.
Jaime raised her eyebrow at him, “And?” She drew out the ‘a’ while grabbing the bong and lighter from Monte.
“It’s true! I wanted to spend the day with you because I miss you, friend!.”
“I repeat...and?” Jaime laughed.
“And,” Monte started cutting their pancakes into pieces loudly against their plate, “I need your help.”
“Why is this like pulling teeth Monte?” Jaime laughed again, “just tell me what it is you need help with.”
“Okay.” Monte put down their fork and began explaining how last night went for them. How they stood at the edge of the new club but instead of feeling elation, they were filled with anxiety. Monte told Jaime about how they stayed up most of the night making a list of who they had hurt and how they can fix things. Jaime listened and took in her friend's explanation. She could hear the raw and scared feelings in Monte’s voice and when they finished talking she was quiet for a moment that felt like forever to Monte.
Jaime cleared her throat, “Alright. So what do you need me to do?”
Monte smiled the biggest they had in a long time.
Monte approached Jaime who stood dramatically at the edge of the awning in front of the hospital, just out of reach of the rain. “So, that was something wasn’t it?” Monte laughed and scratched their head.
Jaimed nodded her head in agreement, she turned towards Monte, “What happen in that house, Monte?”
“God, what didn’t?” Monte took a deep breath before recalling the events that took place in the now, surely burned house, “I got to the front door which was already open and there was a piece of paper on the floor. It was a suicide note! Mitchell was planning on killing himself. If we had shown up twenty minutes later…we would have found a dead body.”
“Oh my god, what did you do? When you went inside, I mean.”
“I searched all the rooms in the house starting with his but the place was trashed. I found Mitchell in the living room with a gun. Apparently he had taken a bunch of pills just before we got there. I started talking to him, trying to get him to calm down and give me the gun.”
Jaime was stunned but slightly relieved she hadn’t gone inside with Monte. She wouldn’t have been able to handle such a situation. “Did he say why he was going to...kill himself?”
Monte took a deep breath before he spoke again, “His parents died.” Jaime gasped and covered her mouth. “That was the only real family he had left.” For the next minute, jaime interchanged ‘oh my god’s’ with ‘wow’. She was speechless. “I know, I know, that was my reaction too.”
“Did you know?” Jaime asked Monte.
“No, we hadn’t talked since last November. I kind of just disappeared on him. I think it happened a little after that...I should’ve been there.” Monte let his head hang as the tears came back. They wished they were standing in the rain, Monte hated crying in front of people.
Jaime put her hands on both of Monte’s shoulders, forcing them to look at her, “Monte, this is not your fault. You can’t blame yourself.” Monte sniffled and the tears kept coming as Jaime pulled them into a tight hug. She spoke soothingly into their ear, “It’s going to be okay, Mo. He’s safe now. Mitchell’s going to live.”
The two went back into the emergency room and waited.