He stared into the white porcelain bowl. Momentarily, he was thankful that the dry heaves ceased to rack his body, but he knew within seconds the chills and sweats would overcome him again. He stood up, flushed the toilet, and dragged his tired body back to the warmth of the bed. He pulled the navy, down comforter snugly around him and prayed that sleep would overtake his body. His brown hair clung to the sweat on his forehead. His room was dark and humid. He could smell the scent of vomit and sweat on the air. It had been four days since he felt good. At least, good in the sense of being able to move without nausea and dizziness.
“Hello,” he said weakly into the receiver.
“John, I’m worried about you. It isn’t
like you to be this sick . . . for this long,” Kerry said with great
“It’s just the flu. I promise I will
be back to work soon. If I need anything, I have the number for the
front desk sitting right next to the telephone. But I’m positive I
just need some sleep,” John replied trying to feign only being mildly
ill. He could hear Mark talking in the background . . . probably asking
Kerry if he was okay.
“Let me stop over tonight and make sure
you are all right. I’ll bring over some Tylenol elixir and some soup.
I’ll check you over, then leave you alone,” Kerry pleaded. She knew
how much he had to deal with over the last year and feared a serious
infection might impede his progress.
“If it will make everyone feel better,
be my guest, but you cannot have someone call every day to check on
me. Dr. Weaver, you sure seem to know when I am trying to fall asleep,”
John replied. He choked back another wave of nausea. A small smile
formed on his lips knowing that Mark and Kerry were so concerned. Everyone
knew that the ER staff was his family. They always managed to remember
his birthday and always tried to include him in holiday celebrations.
While living with Kerry, she confided in him that the holiday celebrations
started when he was in medical school. She more or less hinted that
it was the staff’s way of giving him someone to celebrate with . . .
to show him that they all cared.
“I’m off in about an hour. Do you need
me to pick up anything for you at the store?” Kerry knew that he had
probably not eaten since he had gotten ill. John was horrible in the
kitchen. While he rented from her, he broke numerous glasses and burnt
“Dr. Weaver, I have everything I need
on the bedside table. I’m fine,” he said mildly frustrated with her
interrogation. All he wanted was sleep and now he was wide-awake again.
“I will see you soon, John,” Kerry said
along with a string of polite good-byes.
John hung up the telephone and shifted
to find a comfortable place in the bed. He was tempted to shower and
change to make himself look better than he felt, but nausea rendered
him unable to move. He looked around the room for something to take
his mind off his illness. He mindlessly flipped through the channels
trying to find something interesting, but daytime soaps and talk shows
“I pay for 107 channels and this is what
I get . . . myriad of soaps and four golf channels,” John muttered to
himself as he pushed a few strands of wet hair from his forehead. He
made a mental note to change his cable package next time the bill arrived.
“Violence in our hospitals is becoming
a greater problem in our society. Over the last year, Chicago and its
suburban areas has seen the murder of a medical student, a serious stabbing
incident involving a medical resident, several gang shootings, and fist
fights that have injured doctors and nurses. How can you ensure that
your family will be safe next time you go to the hospital?” a thin,
blonde reporter on the television said.
John shuttered at the mention of his
accident and the murder . . . only to become feel the stomach acid rise
him his throat as pictures of a bloody Curtain 3 flashed across the
screen. He felt his stomach churn. He dashed to the bathroom, where
he hung his head over the porcelain bowl and emptied the little stomach
acid in his stomach into the bowl. He leaned against the wall and let
the beads of sweat trickle down his face. Right now, he felt so helpless.
After a year’s worth of shrinks and doctors, he still felt guilty.
The physical pain was a daily reminder of the emotional pain that he
felt every time he saw a medical student bumbling through a simple procedure
or every time he tried to remember her smile. He couldn’t remember
her smile . . . all he could remember was a body ravaged with a knife
. . . blood spilling out of her throat . . . her trachea slashed in
“I can’t do this anymore,” he said to
himself as he tried to forget the images that haunted his mind. John
stood up and wiped his face with a wet wash cloth. He stumbled back
into the bedroom and gathered a fresh pair of sweatpants and a fleece
pullover. He returned to the bathroom and peeled the sweaty clothes
away from his skin. He used the wash cloth to remove some of the sweat
that clung to his chest and neck. He quickly dressed and made his way
to the living room to wait for Kerry.
Kerry stood in front of John’s door.
She clutched the bag of groceries that she had purchased for John praying
that she could maneuver her crutch and maintain her balance. Mark thought
that she was going overboard worrying about Carter. He kept trying
to tell her that Carter was a grown man and that he could take care
of himself . . . sick or not. Kerry wanted to believe Mark, but the
last time that they allowed Carter to take care of himself he ended
up injecting narcotics into his wrist and overdosing on pain medication.
As his boss, his former landlady, and his friend, it was her duty to
make sure that his situation would never get that out of control again.
Kerry quietly knocked on the door hoping
that John would be awake and waiting for her. She could hear him trying
to make his way to the door. She could faintly hear what she believe
to be wheezing from inside. Kerry mentally made a list of what illness
he might have . . . influenza, pneumonia, among a list of other more
serious and very improbable illnesses.
“Dr. Weaver, what did you do?” John said
with a slight smile when he saw the bag of groceries and medical equipment
that she more than likely “borrowed” from the supply room. He stepped
forward to take the bag of groceries from her, but was stopped by warning
pat against the legs delivered by the shaft of her crutch.
“I know how wonderful you are in the
kitchen, so I thought I would bring over some microwaveable food to
tide you over until you are better or learn how to cook,” Kerry said.
She carefully looked him over. He was pale and soaked in sweat. He
was obviously thinner and weaker. He was also obviously trying to over
it up. She pushed passed him and made her way into the kitchen.
The kitchen was myriad of dirty dishes
and half-eaten TV dinners. She no longer wondered why he was so sick
. . . his kitchen was a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. It
was a very lush breeding ground. She made a mental note to clean this
mess up once she put John to bed.
“Dr. Weaver, this really isn’t necessary.
Look, I am fine. The kitchen is a mess, but I am fine,” John said as
he returned to the couch to relax. He started to wheeze and cough.
John desperately tried to stifle his coughs, but Kerry promptly appeared
from the kitchen to check on him.
“John, have you listened to your lungs?”
Kerry asked as she sat next to him and begun to dig in her bag for her
“Yesterday, they were both wet with crackles
at the base,” John replied with a sigh. He knew he was defeated. Kerry
mothered him while they lived together. He thought she enjoyed having
someone rely on her, and he was not one to complain. No one, besides
the maid, ever bothered to check on him when he was sick. As a child,
Bobby always came first. John could lie in bed burning up, dehydrated,
and vomiting and no one would venture into his room until it was time
for him to leave for school or come down for dinner. Barbara tried
to help, but she was afraid of illness. Bobby made her afraid of illness.
Kerry pressed the cool diaphragm of the
stethoscope against his back. John knew the routine and took deep breaths
each time she moved the stethoscope. Kerry’s hands felt cool against
his sweaty back. He sighed deeply when Kerry began to lightly massage
his shoulders with her free hand. Her skin was so soft against his
neck. A smile formed on his lips. This was the first time in four
days that he felt safe and relaxed. It was occasionally nice to have
someone else worry for him, and he knew Kerry would more than do enough
worrying for the two of them. The same way she worried the entire time
he was in Atlanta.
“John, your lungs sound like hell. Why
don’t we go to County for a quick chest film?” Kerry said with obvious
worry written across her face.
“Isn’t a quick chest film an oxymoron?”
“I’m serious, John. As your boss and
friend, I think it is the best idea.”
“Just give me a few loading doses of
zithromax and let me sleep. If the congestion does not lessen in a
few days, then I’ll go in. I’ll even call you to drive me there,” John
Kerry could never refuse John’s eyes
when he did that thing. She could never even describe that thing to
anyone . . . even her journal. His glance would drift to the floor,
then slowly make their way back to eye contact. His eyes were so beautiful.
They were a creamy, milk chocolate brown with little gold flecks scattered
throughout the iris. His lips were just as beautiful . . . full and
always stained a light pink, probably from his tendency to chew his
lower lip. She often fantasized about John. He was so tempting, while
he rented her basement.
“Kerry, are you okay?”
“Yes, sorry. Let me make you some soup,
then I’ll go.”
John smiled at the obviously flustered
Kerry. He watched her auburn hair swirl around her face as she made
her way to the kitchen. Kerry’s hair always turned him on. It was
the same color as a girl’s he had dated in college. She was just as
intense as Kerry and just as demanding. He reasoned that was why they
only dated a few times, but her controlling nature was a turn on. John
often times found himself wondering if Kerry had that same intensity
. . . that same liveliness that he found so attractive. If only he
was a braver man, he would march into the kitchen and kiss her with
the intensity he longed for . . . hoping that he would receive that
same intensity in return.
John laid back onto the hard cushions
of his overstuffed couch. It was the same navy as the comforter . .
. and the rest of the accessories in his apartment. Navy blue seemed
to match his mood lately. He was solemn and often times overcome with
guilt and depression, but that had decreased greatly since he returned
“John, your kitchen is hideous. Didn’t
I teach you anything while you lived with me?” Kerry called out loudly.
She was upset that she had to wash the dishes in order to produce a
clean bowl and spoon for the soup, but she expected that he didn’t feel
the need to take care of himself the way he used to.
“Dr. Weaver, I’ve been sick for four
days. I haven’t felt much like cleaning or tidying up,” John replied
with a slight chuckle. Kerry was so beautiful when she was mad.
“Four days, I understand, but this kitchen
is production of weeks of neglect.”
A wave of nausea rushed over John. He
scrambled to the bathroom to empty the contents of his already empty
stomach. He sat on the ground contemplating when the next wave of nausea
would hit. He sat back against the wall and sighed. For a few moments,
he felt normal again. He was laughing with Kerry and he felt so carefree.
Another wave of nausea attacked his body forcing him to expel stomach
acid and bile into the toilet. Once again, he sat back against the
wall to regain his strength.
“John, are you okay?” Kerry asked as
she slowly opened the door.
“Yes, just nauseous. Could you help
John was leaning against the wall shaking,
when Kerry braced herself to help him to his feet. He was coated from
head to toe in sweat and reeked of vomit. Once John was standing, she
helped him into a chair next to the bed. She wanted to change the sheets
before John went to sleep. The linens had an overpowering smell of
sweat and were damp to the touch.
“John, why don’t you go try to shower
and change into drier clothes?” Kerry suggested after John had appeared
to regain his bearings.
“I don’t know if I can. I still get
dizzy and tired when I stand up. I don’t need to fall over in the shower
and crack my head open.”
“Well, let me run you a bath or a sink
full of water. You need to get some of that sweat off your skin."
“Run a bath. I can sit in there while
you finish making the soup.”
Kerry trudged off into the bathroom.
It was just as dank and dirty as the kitchen, but that did not seem
to bother her now that she was picturing John naked and surrounding
by steaming hot water. She mentally chastised herself for thinking
about John like that. She was his boss, she was his friend . . . not
a potential lover. Anyway, she was far too old for him . . . she wasn’t
a radiant blonde with a perfect figure . . . she wasn’t moneyed . .
. she was a cripple . . . a cripple that would never have a chance with
John could here the water running in
the bathroom. He desperately tried to come up with reasons for him
needing her help while he was bathing. Maybe he could coax her into
washing his back . . . or maybe his front. A small smile spread across
his lips as he pictured Kerry’s naked breasts and flat stomach. He
could picture her wet, auburn hair clinging to her cheeks. Her face
was amazing. The high cheekbones were the perfect contrast to her thin,
peach colored lips. Her high forehead always had a few stray hairs
that brushed up against her eyebrows when she was moving in the trauma
John wondered why he never noticed her
before. He always felt a slight attraction to her while they lived
together, but he never could muster up the courage to act on it. She
was his superior, she was too proud, and she was far too sophisticated
to date a serial bachelor that lived in a dirty, dank apartment.
He wished he were more like Dave. Dave
never seemed to be intimidated by a woman. He boldly, often times too
boldly, approached women and began conversations that lead to what John
assumed were many one-night-stands. Dave always had the right words,
even if they were fake or trite; how could always make a woman’s eyes
light up in a way that John had not been able to do since . . .
“Oh, God,” John whispered as pictures
of a bloody Curtain 3 flashed through his eyes. He could see that reporter
talking about Lucy . . . about him. A wave of nausea consumed his body
and he rushed to the bathroom.
Once he was done emptying the contents
of his stomach, the he leaned back against the wall of the bathroom.
John could feel Kerry pressing a damp washcloth against his forehead
to remove the sweat and tears that had been running down his face.
She looked at him with such concern and maybe with a little pity, which
she knew he did not want. Kerry ran her long fingers through his hair
gently massaging his scalp with each stroke of her fingers.
“John,” Kerry said softly as she slowly
brought herself to a spot on the floor next to him. The white tile
was damp because of the humidity in the bathroom, and the lights were
dim. She couldn’t make out the statement on his face. He was ill
. . . she knew that, but she could not figure out if the illness was
physiological, psychological or both.
Kerry found herself reaching for his
hand. She wanted to comfort him, but she wasn’t sure how. Dealing
with patients was so easy because she had scripted her emotions. Kerry
never let herself become emotionally involved . . . she knew better.
She wrapped her hand around his sweaty fist, and they just sat. Neither
of them knew what to say.
“Kerry, what have I done to deserve this
. . . to deserve everything that I have received?” John said as he
placed his head on her shoulder.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Kerry lightly kissed the crown of his
head. She knew that she had let her emotions goes to far. Kerry for
once in her lifetime was not sure if she was breaking the rules or if
she should break the rules and let herself fall in love with John.
“I was fine until I saw a reporter doing
a story on hospital violence. Before that, the nausea was only caused
by the flu, but now I can see Curtain Three. I can see the pool of
blood that Lucy was laying in. The blood matted her hair and seeped
into her new lab coat. She was so proud of that damn lab coat. Being
a doctor meant the world to her. It was all taken away much too fast.
When I saw Lucy, I wanted to die so I would never have to relive those
moments. I never wanted to have the nightmares and flashbacks that
I knew I would have if I lived,” John said, “I wish you would have let
“I couldn’t let you go. Hell, I couldn’t
even help you. John, when I saw you lying in that pool of blood, I
couldn’t scream, let alone remember any of my medical training. I had
to let Kovac work on you because every time I saw your blood, I wanted
to start crying. All I could think about was how I was about to lose
the only person in the ER who knew me and could see past all the fronts
I put up. I couldn’t lose you.”
Sobs racked John’s body. Kerry drew
him into her arms and held him tightly to her chest. His head was blazing,
and Kerry immediately began to worry about dehydration. She tried to
tell herself that he needed to cry . . . he needed to grieve and resolve
some of the guilt that he had been carrying around. Kerry knew that
right now he needed to know that people cared about him and would be
there to support him no matter what happened.
“John, when you walked out of the intervention,
I felt the same way I did when I found you and Lucy. I was so afraid
that I had lost you. I was so scared that I couldn’t cry . . . I knew
that we had pushed you away. It was my fault in the first place that
I didn’t see the signs. I have to live with that guilt everyday.”
“Kerry, it was my fault. I was too stubborn
to let you know that I was having a hard time at work. I felt trapped.
Everyone wanted me to be okay . . . act like I was back to my old self,
but I couldn’t do that. I was too weak.”
Kerry fidgeted nervously, as John continued
to talk about his pain. She was left with the uncomfortable memories
of the pain that she had to endure all those months after the stabbing.
She should have been on that night, but she was at home recovering from
what ended up being the 24-hour flu, which had been gone for over day.
If she would have been there, the party wouldn’t have gotten out of
hand and no one would have died. She would have personally dragged
DeRaad’s ass down to the ER for that consult. Malik would have sat
with Paul until DeRaad could get down there. If only . . .
“Kerry, can you help me back to bed?”
John asked meekly once he had stopped crying. He needed to be alone
for a little while. He had too many things to sort out in his head
before he could eat or deal with any people.
Kerry gingerly rose to her feet and braced
herself, so John could use her hand to pull himself to his feet. She
placed her hand on the small of his back and followed him into the bedroom.
She helped him get under the covers and into a position he thought he
could sleep in. She kissed his forehead and returned to the bathroom
to clean up the mess.
“Yes, John,” She replied as she began
to drain the tepid water from the bathtub.
“Do you believe that everyone on earth
has one person that can really understand them?”
“You mean a soul mate?”
“Maybe, but not in the traditional, childish
sense. I mean someone who understands you because they are just like
“Maybe . . . let me know if you run into
“No, I’m not kidding.”
Kerry emerged from the bathroom and sat
on the edge of his bed. John could smell the strong lemon scent of
the bathroom fixture cleaner. He stifled a laugh . . . knowing that
she had chosen to clean his apartment and take care of him on her afternoon
off. She always managed to do the little things for him . . . make
sure Romano had no clue about the intervention . . . make sure that
the staff kept quiet about his addiction.
“John, take a nap. I’ll go finish navigating
my way through your kitchen. I will set the soup on your nightstand,
so you can eat whenever you wake up. I’ll lock the door on my way out.”
“Kerry, don’t go. Stay with me for a
little while. I really don’t want to be alone.”
John knew his request sounded so childish,
but he didn’t want to wake up alone with his guilt and memories. He
needed her to listen to him talk about the stabbing, the intervention,
and the treatment center. He needed he to listen as a friend, not as
someone who would judge him.
“John . . . I’m sure that cleaning your
kitchen and living room will take long enough that you can take a nap.
I promise I will be here. Now close your eyes,” Kerry said as she leaned
over to kiss his forehead.
“Thank you, but you really don’t have
to cook and clean. I just want to talk to you.”
“Well, if I don’t clean we don’t have
dishes . . . and if we don’t have dishes we don’t eat. Please, try
to talk a nap . . . your body needs to rest.”
“Okay, but you don’t need to go overboard
cleaning, Mother Kerry,” John said. He was half-sincere and half-poking
fun at the way she mothered him.
He smiled as he watched her stand up
and walk out of his bedroom. He could hear Kerry’s footfalls accompanied
by the dull thudding of her cane head towards the kitchen. John snuggled
deeper into the comforter. The clean, crisp sheets felt cool against
his body. The distant sound of water running and the occasional muffled
curse words reminded him of how much he missed living with Kerry. Sure,
he was able to live without Grace Jones waking him up in the morning
and the high-protein shakes that resembled grainy, dark green slime,
but he missed the companionship and the safety he felt. It was so much
Kerry stood in front the kitchen sink
humming as she washed well over a week’s worth of John’s dirty dishes.
It felt natural being in the kitchen while John napped or sat in his
room paging through medical journal or charts. She loved living with
John. Kerry always knew what he was thinking . . . she knew about Roxanne
. . . she knew about his parents. Kerry learned to read what bothered
him and what made him happy. She learned it was easy to make him happy.
She frequently offered to make supper while he took nap or to let him
hold the remote control. She learned the importance of second servings
of tomato penne and cherry cheesecake. Know she wondered if it was
still that easy to make him happy.
Kerry neatly stacked the dishes in the
drying rack and cleaned the counters and appliances. She threw away
all the rotten food in the refrigerator and recycled the newspapers
from weeks ago. Kerry opened the blinds and cleaned windows. She struggled
to her knees to wash the floor. Once she finished, she took a step
back and admired her work. The navy Formica counters shined and the
linoleum floor possessed a dull gleam.
Exhausted from cleaning, Kerry laid across
the couch to rest. She admired the pictures on John's end tables.
There was a picture of him dancing with Carol and Susan. He looked
so carefree and happy. There was another picture of Anna, Chase, and
him out on the lakefront. He looked so different . . . exuberant .
. . in love with life. One other picture struck Kerry. It was of him
and her dancing at the dreadful ER banquet Mark had organized. She
hadn’t wanted to go, but John told her that they would all have fun
. . . if not a good laugh. She did have fun. The food was horrible,
the music was worse, but everyone was happy just to be together. For
one night, she wasn’t labeled the bitch of the ER. Anna, Carol, and
her had talked about things other than work or scheduling. Doug had
even been civil. It was a special night for her, although John had
been interested in Anna not herself.
“Kerry, wake up,” John said softly as
he gently rubbed her shoulder. She slowly opened her eyes and attempted
to stand up. She felt horrible. She was freezing and her head pounded.
Her stomach churned and her throat felt dry.
“John, could you help me to the bathroom.
I think I’m going to die,” Kerry said softly. John lifted her off the
couch and carried her to the bathroom were she proceeded to empty her
stomach. Kerry leaned heavily against the porcelain structure. Her
hands shook and her legs felt wobbly.
“John, I better get home. I think I
need to rest,” Kerry said meekly as she tried to stand. John scooped
her off the floor and carried her to his bed without saying a word.
Her pulled the covers over her and tossed a T-shirt and boxers in front
“I’m not letting you drive home, Kerry.
You probably won’t even be able to leave for a few days. Believe me,
how you feel now is only the tip of the iceberg,” John said as he pushed
a few sweaty strands of hair off her forehead.
“John, I’m okay. You’re the one who
spent all afternoon vomiting. You should be the one in bed. I can
call a cab and pick up my car tomorrow,” Kerry mumbled. Her throat
was so dry that she could barely speak.
“Kerry, you can’t stand up. You are
not okay,” John scolded as he retrieved a basin from the bathroom,
“I’m feeling a little better. I’m sure I can manage sleeping on the
couch for a little while.”
“John, I cannot stay here. I am on tomorrow.
I do not have any clothes here. I have to go,” Kerry said slightly
annoyed that he felt better than she did. It was obvious his fever
had broken and that his photophobia was gone.
“No, get some sleep. Do you need any
help changing into the shirt and boxers?”
“No,” Kerry said as she struggled to
sit up. Her efforts were futile, and she fell backwards against the
pillows “Maybe a little.”
Kerry could feel herself blush bright
red. She knew that during the benzene he had seen her naked, but that
was different. It was not personal; it was his job. Now that she was
attracted to him, it seemed too personal. What would he think about
the scars or the small breasts she had always been ashamed of?
John put his arm around her back and
lifted her just slightly off the pillow. He slipped her shirt over
her head and unhooked the clasp of her bra. He laid her back down and
tossed the clothes to the side. Kerry instinctively covered her bare
chest with the comforter. John lifted her up again and put the T-shirt
on her. His fingers lingered near her breasts and he pulled the shirt
over her torso. Kerry felt her heart rate speed up. Her heart pounded
so hard that she could feel the pounding in her feet. John pulled the
comforter off her legs and opened the zipper on her pants. He carefully
lifted her hips and pulled the pants down to her knees. His hands glided
across her silky panties as he pulled the T-shirt down further. His
fingers grazed the skin on her calves as her pulled her pants completely
off. John pulled the boxers up to her knees and lifted her hips to
pull them up the rest of the way. He replaced the comforter and placed
the clothes in his laundry basket.
Kerry’s heart kept pounding in her chest.
From looking at John’s face, she could not gather what he thought.
He never looked away from her scars, so she predicted that he was not
all that appalled or he was good at ignoring it. The nervousness caused
the stomach acid to rise in her throat. She quickly grabbed the basin
and emptied her stomach.
“See you aren’t okay,” John said with
a smile as he took the basin to the bathroom.
“It’s not funny.”
“I know it isn’t. I’ve felt like that
for four days.”
“John, could you call Mark and tell him
I probably will not be in tomorrow?”
“Sure. I’m sure he’ll be surprised that
instead of you taking care of me, I’m taking care of you.”
“I should have sent him over to check
“I’m glad you didn’t. Mark would have
never cleaned my kitchen.”
“I clean you kitchen and you give me
the Asian flu. It really sounds like a fair trade, Carter.”
“You know I’m feeling a lot better now
that I’m up moving about.”
“If you are saying that I should get
up and walk it off, I’m going beat you over the head.”
“No, I’m saying that I can make some
broth and tea. Interested?”
“It depends is the tea going to contain
low dose painkillers?”
“I don’t keep those in the house anymore.”
“I’m sorry, John. I didn’t mean to .
Kerry stopped mid-sentence horrified that she said that to John. She could feel the sweat dripping down her back. The periphery of her vision became fuzzy and the edges turned into blackness. She tried to lie back, but movement caused her to completely black out.