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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short sattire on the things which people are willing to do for attention, and on how people's attitudes towards others are changed for the sake of avoiding causing offense.

Submitted: December 23, 2009

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Submitted: December 23, 2009



He wasn't sick, I told him. I was sick. He was just fucking sick- He had to be sick to pretend to be sick, I told him.

I held my breath as my words echoed from the stony faces of the people in the coffee bar around me. I prayed that my words had had enough conviction- that my outburst had sounded desperately offended and not offensively desperate.

I looked him up and down. The poor sonofabitch- he hadn't lost any weight. He'd obviously been in remission for long enough that his hair had begun to grow back to the point where it could just have been a short haircut.

Sure; he looked weak as hell and his skin was pale to the point where it was almost transluscent. But opposite me- opposite refugee camp me, with my skin drawn tight across my cheek bones like when you push your thumb through a plastic bag and my eye sockets huge around my bloodshot eyes and the napkin I was dabbing against my chin to hide the fact that my shaving cut had stopped bleeding already... If I wasn't the one with leukemia, then I'd been fasting intensely for the last month.

The way I commit to a role, I should be winning fucking oscars.

I allowed a lone tear to sag from the lip of my bottom eyelid. If he'd had AM leukemia for real, it was more likely to be treated with a combination of drugs, I told him; sniffing as the tear cannonballed down my beige, paper thin cheek before bungee jumping from my chin. If he was really in remission; he'd most likely be on antibiotics, I told him. At this point, I had the attention of everyone in the diner. I buried my head in my arms on the table and wept incoherently.

It's funny- the things we're willing to do to make the people around us love us.

The proprietor of the coffee bar threw him out as everyone abandoned their grilled cheeses and their newspapers and their decafs to comfort me.

To love me.

Arms threw themselves around my fragile form, hands jarred my protruding spine and shoulder blades as they patted me on the back. Suddenly I was wiping my snot on somebody's Armani jacket and wheezing and spluttering into their chest as they told people to give me some air.

That was the worst thing I ever did- convince a diner full of people that a man with leukemia was an insensitive sonofabitch.

And they loved me for it.

It had been a close one, though. Thank God I'd done my research- A month on the internet well spent. Turns out; dying is more work than you'd think. Still- had to remember that if I had HC leukemia; I had a low B-cell count. Not high.

The amount I know about leukemia, I should be a fucking oncologist.

All of this started the time I almost almost died.

When I was a kid, I was one of those sonofabitches that thought they were hot shit because they had a beat-up leather jacket and blasted their ears with Ozzy and Iron Maiden and rode around aimlessly on a motorcycle.

It's funny- the things we're willing to do to make the people around us love us.

Anyways. One night, I spilled and wound up in hospital. I gradually came to, wondering how I got my splitting headache. I'd been in an accident, the doctor told me. I'd fractured my tibia. They'd had to take out my spleen. I'd had a blood transfusion, they told me, as my mom and sister both thanked God that I was okay.

If I was smarter, I might have realised it then.

A few years later; the hospital called me. It was nothing serious, but they urgently needed to run some tests on me, they told me.

It wasn't serious, but it was urgent.

The next morning, I woke up in my shit hole apartment. I called in sick for my shit hole job. I made myself some eggs in the microwave greasy with the ambiguous smears of a thousand meals before. Bleary-eyed and oily-skinned, I staggered into the bathroom. I stared into the dusty mirror at my eyebrows that were a darker shade of brown than the rest of my hair. The mark of a man who can't be trusted. I stared into my repulsive, bloodshot eyes, at white encompassing shallow green encompassing shallow grey encompassing a less-shallow pupil. The eyes of a man who thinks that people who say there's nothing on TV aren't looking hard enough. A narrow nose studded here and there with blackheads led to thin lips that didn't care enough to ask questions and failed to conceal themselves in a week's worth of neglected five o' clock shadow that scurried upwards to burrow beneath my static, wooden sideburns.

I brushed my teeth, dressed, and left the house.

I was in safe hands at the hospital- my doctor was Japanese. He took some blood as he explained things to me.

Seven years ago, I'd had a blood transfusion, he told me. Had I had any chest pains lately, he asked me? The donor of that blood was from Brazil. Whilst there, he had contracted Chagas Disease, probably from an insect bite. Had I had any stomach pains or abnormalities in my bowel movements, he asked me? The acute stage of this man's illness had been asymptomatic, he told me. He had gone on to move to America, unaware that the disease was reproducing inside his body, and when he donated blood here in a land where Chagas Disease is not seen, nobody had thought to check for it. This man was now in the chronic stage of the illness. Had I had any migraines, any aches or pains, any stiffness or numbness lately, he asked me? Now myself and the other person who had received the man's blood may be at risk, he told me.

The doctor told me all about how Chagas Disease is caused by trypomastigotes in the bloodstream. They then invade the cells, where they differentiate to form intracellular amastigotes, he told me. They do this by binary fission. They then re-enter the blood as more trypomastigotes, he told me, checking my heart beat.

He told me all about how it can take ten years for these trypomastigotes to accumulate enough in the blood for the disease to enter the chronic stage. Once in the chronic stage, around eighty-five percent of patients die within ten years, he told me, testing my reflexes. Once in the chronic stage, the disease begins to attack any combination of the heart, digestive tract and nervous system. If my tests came back positive, I would need to be treated with benznidazole, in which case I could expect a rash, nausea and diarrhoea among other things, he told me.

They'd be in touch soon to let me know, he told me.

As silent as I was that whole day, I should be a fucking mime.

At work the next day, my middle management, middle aged, middle distance boss conducted his daily ritual of tearing me a new one.

I'd taken twelve days off in the last month, he told me. I had a quarterly report due. All of my numbers were past deadline. I was taking my position here for granted, he told me. What did I have to say for myself, he asked me?

After a pause, I responded with a voiceless face and a faceless voice, looking him in the bulging, bile marked eyes.

I had Chagas Disease; I told him.

His face fell. Or at least stumbled. Suddenly he was all sweetness and light. He didn't realise, he told me. He was sorry. He'd re-delegate some of my workload, he told me. He hoped everything was okay. If there was ever anything he could do, he told me.

Even though I'd taken twelve days off in the last month. Even though I had a quarterly report due. Even though all of my numbers were past deadline. Even though I was taking my position there for granted.

It's funny- the things we're willing to do to make the people around us love us.

And that was when I finally realised- People like you better if you're dying.

People don't have to know a thing about the disease you don't have- as long as it has an exotic enough name to sound serious.

No one wants to be the sonofabitch who upsets the dying guy. Even less so the dead guy- Think about it. When was the last time you went to a funeral and heard the guy giving the eulogy talk about how the deceased stole thirty bucks from him that one time?

I figured death would have been a step too far, though- I'm not insecure or anything.

But now, anytime I was trying to pick up a girl, I got a melancholy look and let my eyes well up and told her I had Chagas Disease. When my landlord wanted rent, I wondered how much time I had left. Whenever a waiter asked whether sir would be paying by cash or credit card, I dropped in the fact that I was celebrating the last week I'd been given to live. When they asked what I was doing back a month later, I asked why they looked so disappointed.

I haven't had to pay for a meal in two years.

It's funny- the things we're willing to do to make the people around us love us.

Whenever I get bored, I drop everything. I pack up and move to a new town and let people assume that I've finally succumbed to the ailment I've been battling so bravely against. Then I surf the web and browse medical journals for a new disease like I'm picking a destination for my next vacation. So far I've had Chagas Disease, Lyme Disease and Hairy Cell Leukemia.

The number of different cities I've died in, I should be a fucking Hindu.

As long as you know the details of the disease- the cause, the vectors, the symptomns, the prognosis, the treatment, the side-effects- as long as you know these things, you can have anything you want.

As long as you look the part.

The hospital called me back a couple of days later. My tests had come back negative for Chagas, they told me.

I thanked them and hung up, and that was it for the time I almost almost died.

But people like you better if you're dying, I told myself.

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