Chapter 12: Friends
Mike heard the door to the bathroom open up. He didn't know who it was, but he really didn't care. He simply continued to stare down into the sink. There was nowhere for him to go anyway. They would come, and they would go. Go to enjoy their life, maybe to have to a future, have a life, have kids, but not him. He would forever be here, staring into this sink, and the second he attempts to break his gaze free, he will meet something far worse. The mirror that hang in front of him, he will be forced to look at himself. The last person in this world he wants to see.
"Mike, it's me, Abbey." Abbey said as he walked up to the front of the only closed stall.
"… What?" Mike asked with a heavy sigh and an exhausted voice.
"Well, everyone is worried about you. We all want to know what's wrong." Abbey asked him.
"Just… Just don't worry about it. It's not your problem. There is nothing wrong." Mike said somewhat contradicting himself.
"Mike, we both know there is a problem, and even if I decide to walk away and leave you here to suffer alone, the second you walk out of this bathroom you're going to be pestered by everyone waiting outside. So don't you think it might be better if we just talk about it?" Abbey reasoned.
That was exactly what Mike had feared, constant questioning and everyone provoking him to talk. All he wanted was to be left alone. Was that really so much to ask for?
"… No." Mike had many suitable responses running through his head, but he just didn't have the energy to voice them. He didn't have the motivation anymore.
"Why won't you talk to me? I'm trying to help." Abbey said through the door. Mike sighed loudly.
"I don't want to fucking talk!" Mike snapped back.
"… Why?" Abbey asked after a short lapse in the conversation.
"Why does it matter? Why should I have to tell you, or any of you people, anything?" Mike asked him.
"Because we're you're friends! We don't care if your problem is embarrassing, tragic, or-" Abbey started.
"Damn it!" Mike said punching the side of the stall, causing a long banging noise to ring out. "What do you want from me? What do you fucking want…?" Mike started angry, and felt his voice slowly recede into an almost pitiful whisper.
"… All I want to know is why you're acting like this. You can't possibly live carrying this burden alone. I promise you things will get better if you talk to us. We can-" Abbey started again.
"Just stop." Mike interrupted Abbey. "Don't patronize me, alright? I don't want to hear it." Mike responded more annoyed than angry.
"'You can't possibly live carrying this burden alone.' 'You can't possibly live.'" Mike thought to himself.
"Then what do you want to hear, Mike?" Abbey asked.
"Silence would be nice." Mike responded back, feeling that same sense of humor he had felt several days ago when he had told his mother he was dying. He couldn't help but wonder if that same sense of regret was going to hit him like it had before.
"Well too bad, I'm not going anywhere until you talk to me." Abbey said adamantly.
"… Why?" Mike asked exasperated. "Why do you care so much?"
"Because I'm your friend and I'm not going to leave you in here."
Mike couldn't help but wonder if he had the same kind of dedication Abbey had. One of the few things Mike had left to cling on too and give his life meaning was all the time he had dedicated to helping his friends, but what if that had been some kind of sick delusion this whole time? What if in reality he hadn't been there for his friends as much as he thought? Then what exactly had he done? What was the difference between him and the two girls he had heard talking in line?
"If you really want to help me, just leave me alone." Mike said almost too quiet for Abbey to hear.
"No," Abbey said realizing that it might Mike angry, but he was going to talk sooner or later, whether he wanted to or not.
Mike could feel so many emotions well up in him so quickly he didn't know how to process them. One part of him wanted to sink into the ground and cry. Another part of him wanted to close his eyes and go to sleep, and hopefully never wake up. All the while another part of him wanted to open the door and punch Abbey in the face, to physically force him to leave. It was all too much for Mike to handle.
He gripped the sides of the sink with as much force as he could muster. Mike could feel tears slowly building up in his eyes as he felt the anger slowly building up in his chest. He didn't know what to do. He was trapped. If he left, he would be bombarded by more people, more drama, more stares, but if he stayed he would be stuck here with Abbey.
"Well, ready to talk, Mike?" Abbey waited for a response, but Mike didn't say anything. "Alright then." Abbey said standing outside of the stall. Mike tried to think of a way out, but even if he got out of this position, soon enough he would be in another later. There was nothing he could do to escape the cancer. He was trapped with it, just like he was trapped with his own mind. After about a minute of silence, Mike finally spoke up.
"If I tell you, will you leave me alone?" Mike asked him, his voice soft and tired.
"… Yes, I will." Abbey responded after a moment's thought.
"And will you tell everyone to leave me alone?" Mike continued, ashamed it had really come to this.
"Yes." Abbey responded.
"Alright… I'm… sick, alright?" Mike said to Abbey hoping that was enough, but knowing things could never be that simple.
"Mike… I need to know more than that… I mean, are you physically sick, mentally sick? Have you seen a doctor?" Abbey pressured him.
"Abbey, you said you were going to leave me alone." Mike responded, his voice tinted with annoyance.
"Well Mike, I was expecting you say more than 'I'm sick'." Abbey responded, a bit annoyed himself.
"That's all you need to know, Abbey." Mike said standing straight up and looking at himself in the mirror of the bathroom.
"Mike, I'm not asking much here. All I want to do is help you."
"You don't ever stop, do you?" Mike asked walking over to the door. "Why can't you just leave me alone?" Mike asked opening up the stall door and looking at Abbey.
"Because you'll never get any better if I leave you alone!" Abbey snapped back at him. Mike was slightly caught off guard, but only for an instant.
"Why do you care if I get any better? What difference does it make to you?" Mike said leaving the stall and walking past Abbey, not really sure of where he was going.
"Well maybe I'll feel a little safer knowing you actually have control of yourself!" Abbey responded, instantly regretting what he had said. Not only was it an incredibly harsh thing to say, he realized coming from him, it was painfully ironic as well.
"I…" Mike tried to think of something to say. He could have pointed out the irony in Abbey, of all people, saying that, but he remembered what had happened with Paulo. Irony was definitely not his friend. Mike stood for a minute looking in Abbey's eyes. Mike didn't feel anymore anger, nor did his face convey otherwise. He could feel his heart sink as the situation truly began to dawn on him. His chest tightened and Mike could feel his eyes watering. What had he done? He had verbally attacked Paulo, he had made a complete ass out of himself, and he had been mean to all the people trying to help him.
All traces of anger seemed to leave Abbey when he saw Mike's expression change. He knew he had struck a chord when he had said that, and he felt slightly bad about it, but he also knew that this may be his only opportunity to get Mike to talk to him.
"Mike, please, tell me what's wrong." Abbey almost begged.
Mike simply stared in Abbey's eyes. His mind was working so quickly he could barely process his thoughts. He couldn't help but wonder if Abbey had really cared at all, if maybe what he said was true. Maybe he was simply out of control. Of course, Mike couldn't really blame Abbey if he didn't care about him since he was beginning to question whether or not he had been that great of a friend. All he seemed to do was snap at people, and make people feel bad. Had Mike really ever even done anything that would prompt Abbey, or anyone for that matter, to care about him?
"I…" Mike mumbled.
"Mike, trust me. You'll feel better after you say it." Abbey said taking a step towards Mike.
"I… I'm sick." Mike said with a very low voice, staring at the ground.
"Is it mental?" Abbey asked him.
"… No, it's not." Mike responded. Abbey wasn't really sure if that was a good thing or not, it simply was.
"Then what's wrong?" Abbey asked him. Mike wanted to answer, to say 'It's cancer', and for this all this to be over with, but he couldn't. He didn't have the energy, the motivation, or the courage, to say it.
"Is it an STD?" Abbey asked him.
"…No." Mike responded, his voice still low.
"Is it contagious?" Abbey asked him.
"No, it isn't." Mike responded.
The next question that came to Abbey's mind he didn't want to ask because he was truly afraid of the answer. He wanted to ask him if it was fatal, but he couldn't do it.
"Just tell me what it is, Mike." Abbey asked placing his hand on Mike's shoulder. Mike couldn't help but feel a little uncomfortable with how personal Abbey was getting, but he had to admit that it did make him feel slightly more at ease. He felt more willing to talk, as if Abbey really, genuinely cared. Finally, Mike decided there was no way he could drag it out any longer, he had to say it. Although he was afraid of how Abbey would respond, he had to say it. If anything, just so he could end this conversation and move on.
"It's…" Mike started. Abbey simply looked at Mike, feeling an odd mixture of curiosity and worry.
"… Cancer," Mike finished. He felt Abbey's grip tighten on his shoulders. He slowly looked up and their eyes locked. The look in Abbey's eyes seemed like a mixture of astonishment, underestimation, and fear. Mike simply looked at him; he wasn't really sure what to do next.
"Oh… my god." Abbey said slowly taking his hand off Mike's shoulder. "I'm so… sorry."
"I know." Mike responded. There was a small moment of silence between them both. They simply stood there, rather uncomfortable.
"Is it… terminal?" Abbey asked him, almost whispering the last word.
"Probably… They don't really know yet." Mike replied looking back at the ground.
"Oh god…" Abbey said to himself. "Do you… want me to keep this a secret?" Abbey asked Mike.
"Yeah," Mike answered.
"You know you can't keep it a secret forever, right?" Abbey reasoned, a sad expression strew across his face.
"I can't live forever either, can I?" Mike responded, not sure of what he meant by the cryptic statement.
"I, uh, guess not." Abbey responded scratching the back of his head. At that moment they heard the warning bell ring. It was time to go to class.
"We should get going…" Abbey said to Mike.
"We should." Mike responded with little emotion in his voice.
Mike began to head for the door of bathroom when he was stopped by Abbey.
"You know, if you ever want to talk, you can call me." Abbey said concerned.
"Okay." Mike responded, still with little to no emotion in his voice.
"Alright then…" Abbey responded following Mike out of the bathroom.
When Mike opened the door he had been expecting a mass of people to be waiting for him, since Abbey had painted a picture in his mind of such, but there was only one person there waiting for him, Lucy. Mike was a touch relived he didn't have to deal with anyone else since he was far too tired to put up with it.
"Hey." Lucy said to him softly.
"Hey." Mike responded.
"Do you… want to walk to class?" Lucy asked, not sure of what else to say.
"Okay." Mike replied, this time the depression in his voice slightly more audible.
There was a lot Lucy wanted to ask him, but she knew it wasn't appropriate. The best thing she could do right now was be quiet. She could see it in his eyes, Mike was exhausted.