The room smelled like decay. It was white-washed, with large armchairs that looked as though they would sooner swallow you whole than allow you to become at ease in their embrace. It was a wasteland of broken dreams and shattered hopes, the place where people came to die.
Somehow, that’s all I could see in this room of people who were smiling, laughing, calling out to each other and asking how family was. I was drowning, and they’d long since learned how to swim against the current of a hurricane.
I didn’t know I’d be walking into this when the doctor called with the diagnosis. In my mind, everyone should start out as lost and frightened as I was and they should stay that way until the very end. They should feel the agony I felt. Should live with the confusion I lived with.
They should look up at that ugly bag looming over them like a death sentence and want to scream in rage, not ignore it in favor of recounting past loves and adventures to make the time pass faster.
Maybe it was the age; every other patient there was at least thirty years my senior. Maybe they’d been living with disappointment long enough to not even notice when the next road block arose, but all I could see was Mount Everest where they saw another hill to climb.
The nurse came over with another bag of poison and a popsicle. Though I had no way of knowing, this process would make me so nauseous after six months of repeating it that I wouldn’t even be able to think of the frozen treat anymore without feeling imagined nausea like one might feel pain in a phantom limb.
The nurse sat beside me and asked how my day had been. How I felt. The old woman next to me asked me about my schooling, my friends, my life outside of this sterile cage. They pulled me in, and before I knew it we were onto the next bag of poison, and the popsicle was gone.
And suddenly, I understood.